CFN EXCLUSIVE: CFP Mixup In 2017 Final Rankings
The College Football Playoff allegedly mixed up the final rankings – Penn State was supposed to be in over Ohio State.
CFN has obtained exclusive interviews with two anonymous College Football Playoff committee sources who claim that Penn State, not Ohio State, was supposed to be in last season’s four-team playoff.
Allegedly, there was a mixup in the communication to ESPN and the unveiling show producers, with the word Penn mistakenly being replaced by the word Ohio in the wrong spot. It wasn’t caught until it was way too late.
After the final rankings were sent to the rest of the media, wheels were in motion to set up Penn State in the Rose Bowl and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl. There wasn’t a change back because the margin between the two – in the eyes of the committee – was so close, that it could’ve gone either way.
The sources claim that the debate over whether or not it should’ve been Ohio State or Penn State in the four-team tournament was so vigorous and so heated, it took up most of the final rankings meeting.
Both sides were allegedly so dug in, there was a stalemate that couldn’t be broken into the wee hours of the morning.
“One side was adamant that Ohio State deserved to be in because of its wins over Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin,” said one source. “While the other side demanded that the Big Ten champion had to be in. It was certainly interesting.”
It was clear that Alabama was going to get the No. 1 spot and Clemson was going to be No. 2, and the committee was going to put in 12-1 Pac-12 champion Washington no matter what – although there was some question about whether or not the Huskies would be third or fourth.
Eventually, the stalemate was broken when it came down to the head-to-head argument.
“Ohio State’s resumé was stronger overall, and the 11-1 record was better, but Penn State actually won the conference that was, arguably, the strongest in college football,” said a source. “But Penn State beat Ohio State. Combine that with the win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, and the committee felt that it was the right move. It took a lot of compromise, though. A lot.”
Penn State was supposed to be in the No. 3 spot because of the Big Ten conference championship and the relatively weak Washington strength-of-schedule, putting the Huskies fourth, and Ohio State fifth ahead of Michigan and Oklahoma – two teams the Buckeyes beat.
However, the committee doesn’t prerelease the final rankings to anyone until they’re first unveiled on ESPN’s show. The bowls don’t know, the teams and conferences don’t know, and not even ESPN knows which four teams are in until the final moments.
“The leaks you’re seeing in Washington right now are nothing compared to what would happen if we gave away the rankings to anyone before the official announcement,” the first source deadpanned.
And that turned out to be a big part of the problem.
To maintain the secrecy up until the last second, a CFP representative tells ESPN the rankings over the phone, rather than in person or by e-mail or text. When the ESPN producer and graphics department has the rankings, the rest of the world knows who the four teams are a few seconds later.
Which is why show host Rece Davis always comments that you’ll know when they know.
One source claims that the ranking order of Ohio State, Washington, Penn State, Clemson, Alabama – unveiled in reverse order – was read correctly over the phone, and the person on the other side wrote it down wrong – again, mixing up the words Ohio and Penn.
It’s also possible that in the haste to get the teams announced, the graphics person typed it incorrectly and they weren’t checked or verified.
However, another source claims that the CFP representative read it wrong to ESPN.
“(ESPN) reads it back just to make sure it’s right,” claimed Source No. 2. “They make sure, so if it was Ohio State at the three instead of Penn State, that’s the way it was told to them.”
In the end, Penn State lost to USC in a classic Rose Bowl, and Ohio State got destroyed by eventual national champion Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl – the mixup didn’t really matter. But results aside, it’s the process that now comes into question.
But there’s a plan about to be unveiled to assure that a mistake like this will never happen again.
This week the CFP will announce that the final rankings will only be read by Warren Beatty off of cards kept under tight security by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
President Donald Trump – upon being briefed on the situation – called it “fake news,” and ordered former President Barack Obama to “wiretapp” the CFP committee room to ensure that there’s a record of what happened.
President Trump will later will send out another tweet asking, “How’s Joe Paterno? We’re gonna bring that back? Right? How about that whole deal?”
And, from now on, the rankings will be released every year on April Fools’ Day.
Past CFN April Fools’ Day
– 2009 – Tim Tebow to lead Republican Party