Penn State’s rousing run will test CFP committee’s credibility

James Franklin believes Penn State deserves strong consideration for the College Football Playoff, but he will appreciate whatever the committee decides. (1:19)

INDIANAPOLIS — When the top four teams won this weekend, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee won a reprieve. The 12 representatives who will bask in the glow of their computer screens on Selection Day don’t have to choose among equals.

One can argue that No. 4 Washington’s 41-10 rout of No. 8 Colorado, coupled with No. 3 Clemson’s 42-35 defeat of No. 23 Virginia Tech, means that the Huskies and Tigers should switch. But it’s hard to argue against rewarding the only four Power 5 teams that finished the season with one loss or fewer.

No. 7 Penn State can make a compelling case, given that it won the Big Ten by a score of 38-31 over No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium and defeated No. 2 Ohio State during the regular season. But the Buckeyes won’t be the first team to lose and advance beyond a team that beat them.

Florida State won the 1993 wire-service national championship over Notre Dame, a result that will send former Irish head coach Lou Holtz’s blood pressure off the chart to this day. Seven years later, the Seminoles lost to Miami yet finished ahead of the Hurricanes in the BCS standings. It didn’t help the young BCS’ credibility when Oklahoma pounded Florida State in the national championship game.

Now, in Year 3, the credibility of the College Football Playoff will be tested on Selection Day. Those of us who like sports because there are clear-cut winners and losers hoped for no upsets and hoped the committee wouldn’t have to make an impossible decision. After Penn State won Saturday night, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany refused the opportunity to pick among his constituents.

“I don’t know what it means,” Delany said. “Is the Clemson game over?”

The Tigers had won.

“All the votes are in,” Delany said. “I’ll be watching like everybody else.”

If No. 5 Michigan is mad about playing in the Capital One Orange Bowl, then the Wolverines should have done better than 2-2 on the road.

Penn State could, like No. 10 USC, make a case that it is one of the four best teams in the country on Dec. 3. Picture a world, if you will, in which the roles this weekend were reversed. Penn State would be No. 2 and Wisconsin No. 5, and No. 6…