Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the season with a shoulder injury, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
It’s awful news for Miller, who was considered a top Heisman Trophy contender. It’s also huge blow to Ohio State, which came into the year ranked No. 5 and was an early favourite to get into the new four-team playoff.
When you start to unpack the impact of the Miller injury on the rest of college football, you realise just how complicated it’s going to be for the selection committee to pick this playoff. Every twist and turn this season is going to have five side effects that help or hurt five other teams, and we won’t have any idea what it all means until the first committee poll comes out on Oct. 28.
Take Michigan State as an example.
The injury helps Michigan State, right? The Spartans are the second-best team in the Big 10, so a weakened Ohio State should give them a better chance to win the conference and/or go undefeated.
But maybe it’s actually bad news for Michigan State, because a weakened Ohio State deprives them an opportunity to earn a splashy win over a top-10 team. If MSU had lost to Oregon early in the year and come back to beat the Braxton Miller-led Ohio State later in the year, maybe they could have still gotten into the playoff over another one-loss team. But now, with Miller out for the year, beating Ohio State might not impress the selection committee as much as it would have.
By adding a selection committee, college football is shifting from an objective model of picking teams to a subjective model. The committee will consider some of same basic variables, but they will be totally recalibrated. Your strength of schedule matters, but not in any quantifiable way. And now things like “signature wins” — an inherently subjective metric that relies on assumptions about which teams are traditionally good — may or may not sneak into the conversation.
Ohio State has a relatively easy schedule. There’s still a possibility they could finish with one or two losses. But will they get the same benefit of the doubt from the selection committee that they would have gotten if they had one of the five best quarterbacks in the country? Should the committee reward or punish teams for having or not having a star player?
In a few years we’ll have a better idea of what the committee is looking for, and we’ll have a better understanding of the playoff picture from week to week. But this first year of the playoff selection process is going to be crazy.
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