American Athletic Conference commissioner Michael Aresco strongly criticized the College Football Playoff selection committee for dropping undefeated Cincinnati another spot in its rankings — behind three two-loss teams.
During an interview Wednesday on SEC Network’s The Paul Finebaum Show, Aresco said the CFP selection committee needs to do some “soul searching” and is “undermining its credibility with rankings that defy logic and common sense and fairness.”
“I never thought I’d say it, but if this continues, bring back the BCS and the computers because it would be a fairer system than what I’m seeing now,” Aresco said. “This is the seventh year [of the CFP], and it does appear the deck is stacked against us and against other [Group of 5 teams].”
The No. 9 Bearcats (8-0) dropped one spot in each of the past two rankings released by the committee. In the latest rankings released Tuesday, Cincinnati fell behind three two-loss teams: No. 6 Iowa State, No. 7 Florida and No. 8 Georgia.
The Bearcats haven’t played since a 36-33 victory at UCF on Nov. 21. Their road game at Temple the next week was canceled because of COVID-19 issues within both programs, and a Dec. 12 game at Tulsa was canceled because of problems in the Cincinnati program.
Cincinnati is scheduled to play No. 23 Tulsa in Saturday’s AAC championship game (8 p.m. ET/ABC).
Aresco took exception to Cincinnati’s seemingly being penalized for not playing while other teams, such as No. 4 Ohio State, haven’t been dropped in the rankings for playing fewer games than other contenders.
“[The Bearcats] have only missed two games,” Aresco said. “They played eight, and Ohio State has played five. [The Buckeyes] missed three of their eight, and it’s been essentially a glorified exhibition season and not against strong competition, and they don’t drop. I guess I could channel George Orwell [in] ‘Animal Farm’ — ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’
“You basically played actually less than half a season, and yet there’s no penalty there, no scrutiny there. It’s as though everything is fine. But with us, you miss a few weeks with COVID, and you start dropping.”
Aresco also criticized the Cyclones’ being ranked ahead of Cincinnati after beating then-No. 17 Texas and unranked West Virginia in their previous two games.
“Texas, which has a great brand and name, but if they weren’t Texas, would they be in the Top 25?” Aresco said. “They have three losses and almost had a fourth against Texas Tech but not for an onside kick. That’s considered a win that vaults a two-loss team over an undefeated Cincinnati team, which by any measure of the eye test is an elite team with NFL players all over the place. … They played a sort of depleted West Virginia team at home, and that’s another win that supposedly vaults a team over.”
Aresco wondered whether Cincinnati — which ranks No. 5 in the FBS in scoring defense, allowing only 15 points per game — would fare better against No. 1 Alabama than No. 5 Texas A&M did. The Aggies surrendered 544 yards in a 52-24 loss to the Tide on Oct. 3.
“You have to look at the eye test,” Aresco said. “The eye test has been used over the years by the committee, but they refuse to use it with a team like Cincinnati. This is a really elite team. … You’ve got some teams that have played Alabama and given up 50 points. Give an elite defense like Cincinnati a shot at them. See what they can do. I don’t know what would happen.”
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, chairman of the CFP selection committee, defended the Bearcats’ position during a teleconference with reporters Tuesday.
“Well, compared to their résumés, those teams ahead of them have had a chance to play more — when Cincinnati came out and our committee had its first evaluations, we had information to put them where we put them,” Barta said. “We haven’t had a chance to see them play since Nov. 21. Other teams around them have been playing and have been adding to their résumé.
“The decision of the committee was that those two teams, Florida and Georgia, were still better than Cincinnati, and you started off by one of the factors, so I didn’t start with it, but they haven’t — they don’t have a win against a Top 25 team, and that factored into it.”
Aresco said he isn’t sure what else Group of 5 teams such as Cincinnati can do to finish in the top four and qualify for a spot in one of two CFP semifinal games.
“If it continues to be the way it is, then you really don’t have a path,” Aresco said. “It looked like, at one point, Cincinnati might have had a path. We’re not satisfied anymore with just playing on New Year’s Day when we have teams this good.”
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