Gene Smith stepped down from the College Football Playoff committee in February to help with Ryan Day’s transition as a first-time head coach.
But that wasn’t the only reason why.
The Ohio State athletic director disagreed with a two-loss Georgia team being ranked over one-loss Big Ten Champion Ohio State this past season, he told The Lantern in an exclusive sit-down Wednesday.
“I stepped down to be here for more of Ryan Day, to support him, but I was also concerned about how the committee was applying the criteria,” Smith said. “And so I felt uncomfortable when I came back into the room after I had been recused, and Georgia was ranked ahead of us. They were a two-loss team, not a champion.”
In the final CFP rankings ahead of bowl season, Georgia was ranked No. 5, following a 35-28 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. It had already lost to LSU 36-16 earlier in the season.
Ohio State came in at No. 6, having beaten then-No. 4 Michigan 62-39 and then-No. 21 Northwestern 45-24 in the Big Ten Championship in consecutive weeks.
“We could debate whether we should have been four, five, relative to Oklahoma, but I just felt that the application of the criteria relative to Georgia and us last year was troublesome for me,” Smith said.
The Buckeyes jumped undefeated LSU for the No. 1 spot in Tuesday’s latest rankings, and Smith said the committee has taken strides in how it is evaluating teams this season.
“I think they’ve done a better job with it. The No. 1 criteria is season success — overall season success — so that’s wins and losses,” Smith said. “The No. 2 criteria is championships, and so that will come into play next week. But the way it’s aligned right now, the way they’re applying — in my view — the criteria, seems to be right.”
Smith said he agrees with the committee’s top three teams, Ohio State, LSU and Clemson, but he would debate the order of No. 4-7.
A playoff expansion is coming, Smith said, though he isn’t convinced of its potential benefits.
“I have major concerns about it. I had major concerns about going to this,” Smith said. “It was the same thing, with the BCS we always argued about who didn’t get in, three and four. Now we’re arguing about five and six. Then you’re gonna go to eight, then it’s gonna be nine and 10. So it’s never going to change. You don’t fix that. That’s just the way it’s gonna be.”
Smith said the college football season wouldn’t be expanded later into January, but instead would require no break between conference championships and playoff appearances for qualifying programs. He said the increase in games would jeopardize player safety and academic success.
“I’m worried about the timing of this. You take our championship year, I went in the locker room after we played Alabama. If you came back to that game, that was a war,” Smith said. “That was like a slugfest. That was unbelievable. Kids are jumping around excited, but then when you see them take their uniforms off, you begin to pay attention to their war wounds.”
A potential expansion would also water down college football’s regular season, Smith said. Ohio State’s ends Saturday with a noon kickoff against No. 13 Michigan.