College Football Playoff Needs to Change
December 19, 2019
As the college football season comes to an end, the talk of the sport will be what four teams 13 human beings select as the best four teams in college football. The College Football Playoff is certainly the best way this sport has determined its champion in its long history. But, even in its in 150th year, teams will feel snubbed, regular season games feel irrelevant, and invitation to compete for the sports ultimate prize is only open to half of the FBS. The College Football Playoff has been a success compared to the BCS, but it still could be improved.
It is often said that college football is sport with the most important regular season, every game means everything, one slip up, and its over. That is usually still the case, unless it is the Southeastern Conference, who the selection committee has a clear bias for, even though it is clearly not the best conference in college football. There needs to be criteria for selection, besides just the “best teams.” There needs to be some objectivity. Joel Klatt of FOX Sports had a very intriguing idea. He said keep the playoff at four teams but make the pool of teams the committee can choose from limited. The only eligible teams to be selected would be the five power conference champions, Notre Dame, if it is 11-1 or better, or an undefeated group of five conference champion, should one exist. This makes too much sense for college football, and would solve a ton of issues with the current format.
When LSU beat Alabama 46-41, the postgame discussion after the game was not about a great win by LSU, but instead was about if Alabama could still make the playoff. And the answer was probably yes, because the committee has a gross love affair with the SEC. In the system that Klatt thought of, that game would have been an elimination game, the winner stays alive, the looser is out. A big season-defining game, in the regular season, is something that makes this sport the greatest on earth. Games like this would also happen every week, because every team would know what they had to do to be in the conversation. For example, if we look at the last seven weeks of this season, six would include games like this, across the power conferences. 10/19 saw Oregon at Washington and Michigan at Penn State. 10/26 saw Auburn at LSU, 11/2 saw Georgia vs Florida, 11/9 saw LSU at Alabama and Iowa at Wisconsin. The November 16 slate was pretty week, but 11/23 had Penn State at Ohio State, and the final week of the regular season had Wisconsin at Minnesota. Then, the following week is conference championship weekend. Each of those eight games, were games that both teams entered with a shot a winning the conference, and the looser of each game, had their title hopes gone. That makes the regular season more important than it is now.
Another problem that college football has, is it is not inclusive to those not in the power conferences. In the proposed system, if a group of five team goes unbeaten, then that team would be one of either six or seven teams eligible to make the college football playoff. The last group of five school to go unbeaten was Central Florida in 2017. Notre Dame went 9-3, so they would not be eligible for consideration. The Power Five Champions were 12-1 Clemson, 12-1 Georgia, 11-2 Ohio State, 12-1 Oklahoma, and 11-2 USC. Could an argument have been made for UCF? Certainly. Alabama, who made the playoff that year, certainly would not have, because they did not win games, when they were given the opportunity. That season, Alabama lost to Auburn, Auburn went to the SEC title game, Alabama did not. That game would have meant in lot more in the proposed system, than the current one.
Another reason that this would be better than the current system, is just the simple fact of objectivity. Every other major sport more or less has it. Human opinion does not sway the outcome. While humans are better than just computer rankings, some objectivity is a must. This would still give humans a say in
the final matter, while also having schools know exactly what they must do in order to be in consideration. Teams would play themselves in, and everything would be mostly decided on the field.
If college football were to move in this direction, people would argue that this would destroy scheduling tough non-conference opponents. That is simply not the case, because there is still on four teams, and if one program has a weak schedule, such as the ones Alabama has consistently played, it would be held against them, when compared against the non-conference schedules of Oregon or Michigan.
It is impossible to truly distinguish the best team out of 130 when they all only play 12 or 13 games, but it is important that a champion is chosen in the best way possible. If the playoff went to eight teams, the regular season would just simply not be as important. A six-team playoff would work, but that seems rather unlikely. Four teams is not awful, its how the teams are selected that needs to be changed.