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Opinion: The Problem With The College Football Playoff

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Why college football has the worst post-season of any major sport.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff-Selection Sunday Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

A Love-Hate Relationship

I love college football. I love the atmosphere, the drama, the action...I love it all. Well, almost all of it. College football has a problem that is rapidly draining my love for the sport. That problem resides in the bogus “Playoff” format that is the spiritual successor to the hated BCS format. With the college football bowl season and subsequent “Playoff” approaching, I felt compelled to speak my mind. So today, I will be going over the problems that I have with the current College Football postseason format, and what I think needs to happen to make the system fair and equitable.


Where do I even begin with my issues with the “Playoff” system? There’s a lot, but I will start with the most well-known:

The Four Best or The Four Most Deserving?

This is the biggest argument I hear when media pundits talk about who should get into the playoff. There are those who want the four best teams and there are others who want the four most deserving. It is essentially an argument between an aristocracy and a meritocracy. What I hate about this argument is that both sides are wrong.

Why do I say that? Well, because there is no objective right or wrong answer. And when you are talking about a playoff slot that can award the winner of that slot millions of dollars, there should be an objective system in place to award that slot. The four best/deserving teams isn’t an argument that has an objective answer, and thus should be avoided in the selection process.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The “four best teams” argument involves the dreaded “eye test” which is completely biased and has no standard on which to judge a team. One team can win by 50 and thus pass the “eye test” for one person, but another can ridicule the competition and thus fail that team based on the “eye test”. So already we have contrarian positions even though the game was the same for each viewer. The “four most deserving” argument fails to be objective too because these teams don’t play the same schedules. For example, Oregon State played a harder schedule than Oregon in non-conference, as the Beavers season opener against Ohio State was a much harder game than any game UO played this season. However, these games are scheduled years in advance and what may appear to be a strong strength of schedule can quickly turn into a cupcake train... just ask Alabama from last year.

So how can you punish a team for attempting to schedule tougher games and failing while rewarding teams who don’t even try? How do you judge those teams from level ground? It invites controversy and injustices, which I believe college football fans have seen enough of.


Open to All?

It is no secret that UCF got snubbed again. This is the source of my anger involving the College Football Playoff. Now, get ready because I’m about to spoil the entire plot of “The Sixth Sense.” You ready?

...

...

There is no college football playoff.

No seriously, the “College Football Playoff” is nothing but a mirage. The NFL has a playoff, MLB has a playoff, MLS, NHL, college basketball, all of them have a playoff. College football has an invitational. There is a distinct difference. A playoff requires every team in the league to have an equal shot at qualifying at the start of the season. If the Jets go undefeated, they go to the playoffs, even if that means the Patriots stay home. I challenge anyone to find me a team sports league that excludes members from the playoffs regardless of their performance other than college football. I will wait. There is no excuse for division one college football to create a system that excludes a team that has won 25 straight games from the playoffs. You cannot say that every team has a path to the playoffs if you are actively excluding teams that haven’t lost a single game in two straight seasons.

This problem is only located in FBS. The NFL features 12 teams in their playoffs. The FCS has a playoff that features 24 teams. Division two features 28 teams, Division 3 features 32 and most high school leagues only require a .500 record for a playoff spot. Yet D1 only features four teams and (from the look of it) requires a team to not only belong to a P5 conference, but to also pass the “eye test” of a biased committee? The argument of player safety and the amount of games played becomes disingenuous when every other football league in the country voluntarily uses a playoff format with more teams.

The committee is a farce as well. The committee is visibly biased towards the P5 conferences as many of the members are current/former AD’s or coaches at P5 schools, such as current chairman and Oregon AD Rob Mullens.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff-Selection Sunday Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There is some bias against members of the P5 as well. For example, I think Alabama should not have been allowed into the 2017 CFP, regardless of the fact that they won the national championship. They failed to win their conference (something the committee had previously touted as a requirement), didn’t play in a conference title game (which kept out TCU and Baylor in 2014), and had a strength of schedule ranking that ranked behind both Ohio State and Penn State (neither of which were selected, as Alabama jumped both of them). By every metric touted by the “objective” committee, Alabama had fallen short in every category, yet made it in anyways. Why? Presumably because of Alabama’s brand. The tide bring in ratings and money.

The committee views the “playoff” as a TV show, not as a tournament to crown the best team in college football. Because of that, they put in Alabama because they would provide a much bigger ratings boost than that of the Big Ten crowd. This was even seen this year, as committee members and national sports pundits openly questioned whether or not Alabama would be getting into the playoff regardless of the result of the SEC Championship game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio State had to play for their playoff lives. UCF was playing for nothing but pride, as the committee had made it clear that UCF and the G5 had zero shot at making it into the playoff.

There is no consistency and no objectivity with the CFP Committee, and it is costing programs millions of dollars in potential prize money, as well as recruiting efforts. I truly believe that the CFP would exclude an undefeated Oregon State in favor of a one loss SEC or Big Ten champion. Because why give a playoff spot to a tiny market in the Northwest when you can get more money out of putting a team like Alabama or Ohio State in? This is the sign of an invitational: a rich guys club for the wealthy “haves” that excludes the hard working Have-Not’s.


What To Do?

So, the question then becomes: How do we fix the system if it’s broken? After all, I’ve spent this long talking about the system’s inequities, I might as well try to put forward some solutions. Well, if I were the Tsar of College Football, I’d put forward two different solutions.


Solution 1:

  • Eight teams qualify for the College Football Playoff.
  • There are six guaranteed spots that do not change: The Pac-12 Champion, The Big Ten Champion, The Big 12 Champion, The ACC Champion, The SEC Champion, and the G5 Champion with the best record.
  • All conferences MUST play 9 conference games. No more SEC teams playing FCS schools in November.
  • You MUST play in a conference championship game to qualify for the playoffs.
  • The last 2 slots would go to the 2 highest ranked at-larges who played in their conference championship games.
  • 2018 CFP with this formula:

(1)Alabama vs (8)Georgia

(2)Clemson vs (7)Washington

(3)Notre Dame vs (6)UCF

(4)Oklahoma vs (5)Ohio State


Solution 2:

  • 16 teams qualify for the College Football Playoff.
  • There are 10 Guaranteed spots that do not change: The Pac-12 Champion, The Big Ten Champion, The Big 12 Champion, The ACC Champion, The SEC Champion, The Sun Belt Champion, The American Conference Champion, The Mountain West Champion, The Mid-American Conference Champion, and The Conference USA Champion.
  • No more “Independents”. Army, UMass, Notre Dame, BYU, Liberty, and New Mexico State all MUST join a conference.
  • The top ranked teams that did not win their conference championship games OR did not appear in them will round out the remaining 6 at-large slots.
  • 2018 CFP with this formula:

(1)Alabama vs (16)Penn State

(2)Clemson vs (15)LSU

(3)Notre Dame vs (14)Washington State

(4)Oklahoma vs (13)Florida

(5)Ohio State vs (12)Michigan

(6)UCF vs (11)Georgia

(7)Washington vs (10)UAB

(8)Fresno State vs (9)Appalachian State


These would be my preferred playoffs. These add meaning to the post-season and I think these formulas would create real champions in college football. Which solution do you prefer? Answer below, and duke it out in the comments! Go Beavs!

Poll

Which Playoff Solution do you prefer?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    8 Team Playoff, Less is More!
    (43 votes)
  • 48%
    16 Team Playoff, Conference Champs BABY!!
    (48 votes)
  • 4%
    Current System, I hate the Group of Five!
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    BCS, Computers should run my life for me!
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    No Championship Games, Can’t we all be winners?
    (2 votes)
98 votes total Vote Now