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Why Is Tennessee The Villain? Blame The College Football Playoff Committee

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Tennessee is the villain. Nope, don’t even argue that point. It’s a fact.

So is Ohio State, Southern California and any other team that thinks it needs to pile up a ton of points to be properly commended by the College Football Playoff Committee, which will announce its latest rankings on Tuesday.

The Vols are just one of the “bad guys” after hammering Missouri 66-24 thanks, in part, to a late drive that didn’t really need to happen considering the game was already in hand. Of course, Eli Drinkwitz deserved it after what he said about UT last summer, but that’s not the point.

Governing bodies have long made teams like Tennessee the villain, a team caught in the crosshairs of a system that needed an overhaul before it was even installed.

Was Tennessee also the villain when it made sure that former tailback Arian Foster had some tacos when he was supposedly starving? Sure, why not. 

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Think about some of the most basic tenets of college football that we grew up watching. First, you couldn’t pay players. Second, you couldn’t possibly EVER allow a player to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year and possibly pay his own way. That was as stupid then as it is now. The NCAA had the foresight of a bat ever since its inception. The College Football Playoff system is falling in line, lock, stock and barrel.

If you have a problem with any of the above teams tacking on an extra touchdown or three, then you should blame it on the current system, not the individual programs.

Do you think coaches want to forgo all semblance of sportsmanship just to appease a committee that will decide their fate? Absolutely not.

Sure, Tennessee coach Josh Heupel or any of his peers would prefer to take the high road, but what choice do they have? Again, Drinkwitz deserved it, but let’s be broad here.

Here is the mission statement of the College Football Playoff committee:

“The committee’s task will be to select the best teams, rank the teams for inclusion in the playoff and selected other bowl games, and then assign the teams to sites.”

Well, that’s pretty vague. 

Here are some other factors to consider that the CFP Committee has been kind enough to share with college football fans:

  • Conference championships won
  • Strength of schedule
  • Head-to-head competition
  • Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
  • Other relevant factors, such as unavailability of key players and coaches that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or will likely affect its postseason performance

How about adding a line that says, “Unneeded scoring late in a one-sided contest will not be a factor. Any victory over 20 points will be considered a substantial victory and more scoring won’t affect how the game is viewed.” That would change some things. However, that’s not going to happen. 

Dave Hooker and Amanda LaFratta discuss whether the Vols ran up the score vs Mizzou, the coaching carousel, & Tennessee’s CFB Playoff chances.

The College Football Playoff committee loves the debate. That’s why they have a weekly television show that feels much more like “Survivor” than the CBS Game of the Week.

Based on the above criteria, every team in the College Football Playoff hunt should pile up points like they’re fallen leaves in October. Michigan and Ohio State will play each other. However, the loser could also be included in the College Football Playoff without a conference championship or a head-to-head win if the loser keeps that game close and pound the vittles out of every lessor opponent they can find.

Tennessee is doubly villainous whether it intends to be or not.  What else can the Vols do other than score as many points as they can now that they’re out of the running (most likely) for the SEC Eastern Division crown. If I were Tennessee athletic director Danny White, I’d schedule some mid-week scrimmages to hammer Furman a couple of times. Maybe the College Football Committee would be affected by that. Maybe. Who knows.

The College Football Playoff will go to 12 teams in 2026 and that will eliminate much of this nonsense and debate about running up the score. Let’s hope. Actually, it probably won’t. There will be a team that want to impress the committee for a home game, a bye week or to move from 13th to 12th. Therefore, we’ll still have villains. However, we still won’t point to the committee. We’ll point to the schools. The individual programs will bear the brunt of the criticism, which is just fine with the all-powerful committee.

So are the Vols, Buckeyes, Trojans or any other team simply “villains” just because they are doing the darnedest to get into the College Football Playoff by any means they deem possible? No, but it sure makes great conversation – and that’s exactly what the College Football Playoff committee wants.

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