Hey, Playoff selection committee: Here are 3 reasons Texas A&M deserves the No. 4 seed over Notre Dame
I’m not “Notre Dame is overrated” guy. Trust me. I’m not.
I’ve argued that in a normal year, the Irish would’ve been in conversation for the No. 1 spot, but Alabama isn’t a normal No. 1 seed. I love how in road games, Brian Kelly’s squad won them all by at least 14 points.
That’s important context here because what I’m about to say — or already said in the headline — is going to come off like some anti-Irish agenda. It’s not.
But after the Irish got pummeled by Clemson in a neutral site, I’ve come around to the belief that Texas A&M is more worthy of the No. 4 spot than Notre Dame.
Here are 3 reasons why the Aggies should earn that final Playoff spot come Sunday:
1. Yeah, recency bias matters to the selection committee
There’s a reason why we’ve never seen a team lose its conference championship game and still make the Playoff. Notre Dame didn’t just lose. It got blown out against the Irish on a neutral site. It didn’t score a touchdown until garbage time. If the question is “who are the best 4 teams,” the selection committee has to look at where each team is at. We got a prime example of where the Irish stack up against Playoff competition.
The last time we saw that with Texas A&M was 2 months ago. What happened after that? The Aggies won 7 games in a row. All but 1 of those games was decided by at least 2 scores with the exception of the win against now-No. 8 Florida. If the selection committee is actually watching these games, it can see an Aggies squad who found its identity post-Alabama.
What’s that identity? Pounding the rock and suffocating teams, which the Aggies did on the road against an SEC team for its 6th consecutive win by double digits. We’ve seen the selection committee be much more forgiving to early-season losses if teams bounce back. See 2014 Ohio State, 2014 Oregon and 2015 Alabama. That 2014 Ohio State team beat 9 consecutive Power 5 teams to reach the field while 2014 Oregon and 2015 Alabama each beat 8 to make the field.
Besides not seeing a 1-loss SEC team get left out of the field, we’ve never seen a 1-loss Power 5 team get left out with a 7-game winning streak against Power 5 foes heading into selection Sunday. What about 2017 Alabama, who still benefitted from losing in its final game? The difference was that there wasn’t a 1-loss SEC team with 7 consecutive SEC wins (6 by double digits) to compete against Alabama.
This year, there is. And it was sitting there with the No. 5 résumé heading into the weekend.
2. The résumés are actually pretty equal … but there’s a reason why that benefits A&M
Let me show you the problem with this tweet:
So, are we going resumes or last impressions? B/c resumes aren’t particularly close.
Top 25: 2-1
Above .500: 4-1
Opp win %: .478
Top 25: 1-1
Above .500: 2-1
Opp win % .443*
LSU-Ole Miss, Bama-UF results pending.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 19, 2020
You see, Notre Dame is really only 9-1 against Power 5 teams. Nobody cares about that USF win. The Irish have a 4-1 record against teams with “above .500” records. Two of those teams were Boston College and Pitt, both of whom only have “above .500 records” because they got a non-conference games against Texas State and Austin Peay (they opted out of the season before the SEC even started). Take those away and Notre Dame’s true record against teams with “above .500” is 2-1 … which is exactly the same as A&M.
Keep in mind that Notre Dame win against Clemson came without the Tigers’ best player, Trevor Lawrence. You might’ve heard of him. Life is a little different when you actually have to face Lawrence. The Irish found that out on Saturday.
I’d argue there’s really not a whole lot of difference between a win against a Lawrence-less Clemson team compared to a Kyle Trask Florida team.
My point isn’t necessarily that the Aggies have a decidedly better résumé. It’s that they’re awfully similar, despite what some are going to try to portray. One team had its worst game of the season right before the selection committee is trying to figure out who is most worthy of a shot at a national title.
And while you could knock both teams for having an awfully similar blowout loss to an elite foe, I’d make the case that the Aggies’ loss came to a historically dominant Alabama team in Tuscaloosa, and not on a neutral site. Like, the Alabama team who won each game by at least 15 points and closed a 10-0 regular season against all-SEC competition with an average margin of victory of 32.7 points.
Both were blowout losses, and the selection committee could rule them a draw. I’d argue Saturday’s ACC Championship was a much better simulation of a Playoff game than something we watched 2 months ago in Tuscaloosa.
And for what it’s worth, this is what the résumés looked like entering the day:
If someone convinces you this is some no-doubter about Notre Dame’s résumé, they’re probably also of the impression that beating Lawrence-less Clemson is the best win in college football so far.
3. What more could we have asked A&M to do after Alabama?
Before 2020, the ACC tweaked its rules so that it no longer had divisions and that it would have the top 2 teams play for a conference title game. If the SEC had done that, the Aggies would’ve played for a conference title instead of the 2-loss Florida team who they already beat. Playing for a conference title is a lousy, false prerequisite that some use to fit their narrative when convenient. Go ask 2016 Ohio State and 2017 Alabama about that.
In any other year, we’d look at a team who went 8-1 in SEC play with its lone loss coming AT Alabama and say “yep, that’s Playoff-worthy.” We’d look at a team like A&M, who was physically dominant on both sides of the ball, though not in a 2020 sense.
This is how the Aggies dominated teams:
This is what a team is supposed to do with its Playoff hopes on the line. pic.twitter.com/AQ8M1pXK56
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) December 19, 2020
Yes, I realize Tennessee isn’t anywhere near the level of Clemson. I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that the Aggies have been playing for their season these last 7 games, and with the exception of 1 (the Florida game), they showed up and won by double digits. So what if they don’t have a Lawrence or a Justin Fields at quarterback? Kellen Mond had a bad game against LSU. The guy still has as many games with 3 touchdown passes (4) as he has total sacks taken (4) in 2020. Yeah, that’s a real stat.
If A&M is going to be knocked for its style of play, that’s a silly argument. Since when is it not impressive to bully teams with a dominant offensive line with a top-10 run defense?
It’d be one thing if A&M was pulling out miracles on a weekly basis. That hasn’t happened. What instead happened was the Aggies answered test after test and did so in their own way, which was still convincing.
It’s true that the Aggies didn’t have to “prove it” against a team quite on Clemson’s level like Notre Dame did on Saturday. I get that. If the Irish make the field instead of A&M, that’s what the selection committee will say to justify it.
But if it were me in that chair, I’d give the nod to an A&M team who did everything in its power to make the field after using its 1 mulligan.