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Editor’s Column: Why Rice deserves a College Football Playoff spot

Photo courtesy of Naria Lysander

By Michael Byrnes     11/28/18 1:33am

Yesterday, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released their new set of rankings. For those unfamiliar with the system, the top four teams at the season’s end will enter a playoff, culminating with one of the four winning the championship. And, like many of you readers, I was shocked to see that Rice football was not among the four teams included. I can only assume that this is yet another example of the heavily SEC-biased committee neglecting any non-Power-Five football program’s laudable achievements. Whatever the reason may be, this is an unforgivable oversight and I will not stand for it. Here’s why Rice deserves a spot over Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and especially Georgia.

  1. Our defense is more disciplined.

Rice ranks No. 6 in the country with just 39.46 penalty yards per game. This is, by far, better than any of the so-called “disciplined” teams in the CFP’s top four: Georgia is No. 48 in the country, blundering their way to 49.58 penalty yards per game, and Alabama, many “experts’” No. 1 pick, is even worse. Rice also ranks No. 14 in the country with 11 fumbles recovered, again better than all top-four teams: Alabama (No. 74) brings up the rear yet again. To reiterate, this Alabama team is somehow the consensus No. 1 in the country. I’m just as confused as you are. Thirdly, Rice’s kickoff return defense is also tops among these five teams at No. 6 in the country: the Owls allow just 16.12 yards per kickoff return. No other team is in the top 50, and Georgia’s defense (No. 128, 31.30 yards per return) is practically an anthropomorphic turnstile. With all these high-powered offenses, limiting initial field position is at an all-time premium, and Rice is head-and-shoulders above its competition here. 

2. We have only one SEC loss

Since the CFP committee worships the SEC with such fervor, it’s suprising how little they take Rice’s SEC record into account. Both the Owls and No. 4 Georgia have just one SEC loss on the season: an impressive accomplishment, to say the least. Not to mention that both losses were to the same team -- LSU -- and that Rice beat the spread handily while Georgia floundered their way into a dismal stupor, underperforming the betting line by 27.5 points. Rice clearly has the upper hand. 

3. Our punter’s better

As proven in point No. 1, Rice’s defense is superior to all alternatives. But I can’t deny that the offense has struggled at times this season. Any playoff game featuring Rice is therefore likely to become a defensive battle. In defensive battles, what position becomes paramount? That’s right. The punter. Senior Jack Fox has been lights-out for the Owls this year, ranking No. 8 in the country with 45.5 yards per punt. In fact, he’s tops in the nation and No. 22 all-time in total single-season punting yards. This one isn’t even close.

4. We’re just mathematically better

What, you’re still not convinced? Well, you’re in for a treat, because I’ve saved the best for last. Since Rice hasn’t played Georgia in a head-to-head matchup, we must rely on the Transitive Property of College Football to determine the superior program. Look it up. It’s a real thing that I didn’t just make up three seconds ago. Here goes. 

Rice beat Old Dominion. Old Dominion beat Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech beat Florida State. Florida State beat Boston College. Boston College beat Temple. Temple beat Maryland. Maryland beat Texas. Texas beat Oklahoma. Oklahoma beat West Virginia. West Virginia beat Tennessee. Tennessee beat Kentucky. Kentucky beat Missouri. Missouri beat Florida. Florida beat LSU. And LSU beat Georgia. Therefore, Rice is better than Georgia. Case closed. Class dismissed. I’ll see y’all at the Orange Bowl. 

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