We have our four teams – Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia…and Alabama.
The committee chose to put in 1-loss Alabama over 2-loss Ohio State, despite the Buckeyes having a conference championship win with a 27-21 victory last night over Wisconsin while Alabama sat home and watched.
Was it the right choice? I don’t even think there was a right choice.
If I was picking, I would put Alabama because I think they are the better team and a really bad loss is something that sticks with me, so that Iowa loss was enough for me to discredit Ohio State. However, if Ohio State would have made it, the other half of the country wouldn’t have been so outraged, but the south would have been.
It’s a no-win situation for the committee, and they made the choice to leave out both the Pac-12 and Big Ten, and put two SEC teams in.
There is one thing that everyone should hope for with two SEC teams playing in the four-team playoff – that soon it becomes an eight-team playoff.
When they first announced the four-team playoff, I immediately thought that wasn’t enough. There were many changes that needed to be made to football, and a four-team playoff was at least a step in the right direction, but things in college need to be streamlined way more than they are right now. That includes forcing every conference to play the same amount of conference games (I vote for eight and dropping the season down to 11 total). That also includes expanding the playoff.
Dan Wetzel published a book during the BCS era called “Death to the BCS”. It’s a good read on how the bowl system is screwing everyone out of money and that the championship system in place clearly wasn’t a fair one. He suggested a 16-team playoff where every conference champion within the FBS would get in to a playoff, then add a few at-large teams.
It should be simple – win your conference title, and you are in. Even if Ohio State had made it instead of Alabama because they were a conference champion – what about USC or even UCF, FAU, Boise State, Toledo and Troy? Every major sport at every level makes it where if you have the best record in your conference or division – you are in the playoff. The NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, etc. all have it where it’s a game of records, not a committee toying with what they care more about.
College football on every other level minus the FBS has it where if you win your conference – you are in.
College basketball? Win your conference by making your conference tournament and then winning it and you are in.
I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record. But at the FBS level of college football? Win your conference, going undefeated in the process, and even if you are in a Power 5 conference, you still aren’t guaranteed to be in. There could have legitimately been five undefeated Power 5 conference champions this year. Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Wisconsin and USC never played each other and all could have been undefeated, yet one of them would still be left out. It’s the same problem we had in 2004 when Auburn was left out after going 13-0 and winning the SEC.
The only answer is expansion.
While I like Wetzel’s 16-team dream scenario, I’ve said for years it would almost be better to just split the Power 5 conferences from the Group of 5 conferences and make there be three Division I leagues – Power 5, Group of 5, and FCS – all with their own playoff system.
It will be a cold day in hell before a Group of 5 team makes it into the playoff. Even if they are worthy, they will never be placed there. The committee would rather take a 3-loss Auburn or TCU than an undefeated UCF this year.
That’s why there needs to be two playoffs – one for Power 5 schools and one for Group of 5 schools.
Just imagine this…
The season is over as of today and we know how teams are seeded. Now, let’s break apart the two groups of conferences and see what we would have.
The Power 5 playoff would look like this with 8-teams using the actual playoff rankings:
#1 Clemson (ACC Champ) vs. #8 USC (Pac-12 Champ)
#4 Alabama (At-large) vs. #5 Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
#2 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ) vs. #7 Auburn (At-large)
#3 Georgia (SEC Champ) vs. #6 Wisconsin (At-large)
The seeding may work out a little different if they actually were seeding eight teams (to avoid an easier AU/UGA third game perhaps), but you get the picture.
All conference champs get in and three at-large teams get in. It’s SEC heavy with 3 of 8 teams being from the conference, but the same could be said for last year with the Big Ten (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin all being in the top 8). You could either A) play the games at the other NY6 bowl sites, or most likely B) play the games at the higher seeded team’s home field. Imagine if the only debate we had was whether or not Alabama or Ohio State got to host, but both got in. It may not be so heated.
The teams that are left out don’t really have much of an argument except UCF, but I’ll get to Group of 5 in a moment. Penn State lost twice and wasn’t a conference champion, the only complaint would maybe be Auburn, but Auburn’s wins are WAY better with two wins over teams in the playoff (although they would be 2-2 overall against playoff teams). Miami would be out with two bad losses to end the season on. Washington had a weak schedule and two losses. I feel like the top 8 is a slam dunk as far as choosing the 8 teams from the rest of the FBS.
Now imagine that the Group of 5 had their own playoff system:
#1 UCF (AAC Champ) vs. #8 Troy (Sun Belt Champ)
#4 South Florida (At-large) vs. #5 Toledo (MAC Champ)
#2 Memphis (At-large) vs. #7 San Diego State (At-large)
#3 Boise State (MWC Champ) vs. #6 Florida Atlantic (C-USA Champ)
I kind of made up the seeds on my own. Obviously UCF would be #1 but after that it’s up for debate. I put Troy in as Sun Belt champ since they had the better record of the two co-champs. Just imagine this as it’s own playoff. Not bad, right?
Play the first games at the higher seeded team’s home stadium, then maybe hand pick a few bowls to utilize as their own playoff sites each year.
Of course this wouldn’t be as attractive as the Power 5 playoff, so you would have to position these games to where people could actually watch and attend them. I do think these games would be more attractive than whatever bowl games all of these teams are going to play in, minus the one Group of 5 team that gets a NY6 bowl, which would be UCF who is playing Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
This would also make it where every team legitimately has a shot to make it to the playoff and win a national championship. Currently, not even every Power 5 conference champion can make the playoff, much less a Group of 5 conference champion. Most levels of sports have it where the conference/division/regional champions automatically qualify, then there is room for at-large teams. Typically those are chosen based on records as well, but at least guaranteeing a spot for every conference champion is a step in the right direction.
Will this ever happen? Probably not. Even though I feel like this makes way more money for everyone involved and legitimizes the highest level of college football once and for all, the NCAA and college football playoff will make excuses as to why this can’t happen. I imagine most of them will begin with a phrase similar to “because we are trying to protect the student-athlete” or some statement that has to do with protecting the poor kids that are playing the sport.
If you’re truly looking out for the players, fix the system.