As College Football Playoff approaches, can Washington cry East Coast bias? – Washington Post
No. 5 Louisville’s thorough loss at Houston on Thursday night has sharpened the likelihood that, in the coming weeks, an old college football goblin could loom.
That would be “East Coast bias” or maybe “Eastern and Central time zones bias,” the phenomenon in which the American West gets waved off by haughty, myopic Easterners or Central-ers who can’t see past their own fields or, in late night, their eyelids.
East-Central bias has a turgid history with national title discussions — such as the embarrassing national illogic in 1978 and 2000 — and awards, as when the first 27 Heisman trophies went to the two easternmost American time zones. Some thought it continued right up to last fall with the choice of Alabama’s Derrick Henry over Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and his 3,496 all-purpose yards (3,864 after the Rose Bowl).
Even at something as innocuous as an Insight Bowl in 2003, a California quarterback said: “I think there’s definitely an East Coast bias in football. One of the reasons is we don’t get a lot of televised games. And another reason is it’s pretty late when our games are shown on the East Coast.”
He was one Aaron Rodgers, who eventually left and joined the Central time zone.
As Washington State Coach Mike Leach has pointed out: “Naturally, bigger media bases are going to have more writers, and they’re more familiar with the teams they cover, and that’s understandable and that’s difficult to fully control. I think there’s that.”
Now there’s this: With Louisville joining the twice-beaten club just days after some of its players tweeted huffily that they had been under-ranked, only five teams with one or no defeats remain near the top of the rankings, vying for the four spots in the College Football Playoff. Those are No. 1 Alabama (10-0), No. 2 Ohio State (9-1), No. 3 Michigan (9-1), No. 4 Clemson (9-1) and No. 6 Washington (9-1), which remains on the West Coast.
In a handy device, Ohio State and Michigan will play each other Nov. 26, which might not simplify things, especially if Ohio State wins and finishes 11-1 but No. 8 Penn State (8-2) and No. 7 Wisconsin (8-2) play for the Big Ten title and the playoff selection committee opts, for the first time, to shoehorn two teams from the same conference into the playoff.
With four playoff spots and five major conferences — seriously, we are kooky people — there’s always somebody omitted and probably a need for some sort of omission parade. In 2014, the playoff’s debut year, it was the Big 12. In 2015, it was the Pacific-12 and its champion, Stanford, with a defensible case available because Stanford stood 11-2, while conference champions Clemson (13-0), Alabama (12-1), Michigan State (12-1) and Oklahoma (11-1) had better records.
Now it appears the omission of the Pac-12 could find another, blurrier justification.
While “the margin of separation was small between teams 2 and 6,” as committee chairman Kirby Hocutt put it, you can make a rational case for Washington as the one-loss caboose of the moment.
In nonconference scheduling, Ohio State visited No. 9 Oklahoma, Michigan welcomed No. 10 Colorado and Clemson dared visit the frightening din of No. 15 Auburn. As much as we believers in the existence of East-Central bias might watchdog these matters, Washington played Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State.
“I would say strength of schedule for Washington is not as strong as those teams that are currently ranked above them,” Hocutt said, “but the committee did think that Washington is deserving of that six spot ahead of number seven Wisconsin.”
The fact he fielded a question at all about that No. 6-No. 7 distinction might carry a strand of East-Central bias, even if Wisconsin (8-2) did lose by only 14-7 at Michigan and only 30-23 in overtime to Ohio State.
Yet the Pac-12 has played six nonconference games against top 25 teams and lost all six, including two to No. 20 Boise State, denting the case for its general strength. Fresh in everyone’s mind, even minds that wish to expunge it, is that on Sept. 3, Alabama turned Southern California into fertilizer, 52-6.
The committee adores big wins, and Ohio State has beaten two top-10 teams and three ranked teams; Michigan is the only team to beat three top-10 teams; and Clemson has beaten the teams at Nos. 5 (pending), 15 and 17, the last two on the road. Washington’s highest wins have come against Nos. 12 (Utah) and 24 (Stanford). If it could beat No. 22 Washington State (8-2) and then a ranked team in the conference title game, it could rekindle the subject of Eastern-Central bias.
Any such rekindling should include the national eyesores of 1978 and 2000, beginning with the latter and building to the atrocious former. In 2000, the nation argued because the Bowl Championship Series computers spit out No. 1 Oklahoma (12-0) and No. 3 Florida State (11-1) for the Orange Bowl, snubbing No. 2 Miami (10-1), which had beaten Florida State head-to-head. This Florida-centered discussion noted, from time to time, that No. 4 Washington (10-1) had beaten Miami head-to-head.
Head-to-head mattered so much except that it didn’t.
Oklahoma won anyway.
On Sept. 23, 1978, Southern Cal traveled to Birmingham, got 199 rushing yards from Charles White and manhandled Alabama, 24-14, after which Alabama Coach Bear Bryant said, “It could have been worse,” and Southern California Coach John Robinson said, “We put on a show out there, didn’t we?” Somehow, a daffy nation arrived at New Year’s Day with No. 2 Alabama behind unbeaten No. 1 Penn State yet ranked ahead of No. 3 Southern Cal, which had lost once, at Arizona State, on Oct. 14.
It was a younger nation steeped either in lunacy or bias.
The Washington Post sent a writer of surpassing magnificence to the Rose Bowl — surname: Boswell — and he wrote, “USC is steamed because ABC-TV is telling the world that the winner of the Penn State vs. Alabama Sugar Bowl game it is televising will automatically be the national champion of college football.” Southern Cal beat Michigan, 17-10, with the help of a referee’s error, and Alabama beat Penn State, 14-7, with the Rose Bowl controversy logically outweighed by the fact that the Trojans had destroyed the Crimson Tide in Alabama.
Yet when the coaches voted Southern Cal a narrow national champion — the media would follow with Alabama No. 1 for a split title — UPI, which ran the coaches’ poll, reported from Tuscaloosa: “Within minutes of the release of the poll, telephones began jangling in UPI bureaus throughout the South. Some callers were apoplectic; others seemed bewildered.”
All those callers were imbued and entitled with Eastern-Central bias. They weren’t the first or last.