One thing we have all learned during this college football season — whether we do our own sets of rankings or tune in weekly to see what the College Football Playoff Committee comes up with — is that the system currently in place is not good enough. As fans, we want (for me at least) to have (1) a full understanding of the criteria the committee looks at as they place the top 4 teams in the playoff and (2) it to be settled on the field. What do conference championships mean? Is the final goal to have the 4 best teams or the 4 most deserving? Or the 4 conference champions from the toughest conferences?
What I’d propose is not anything new — it’s the popular solution. It’s also the most sensible. An 8-team playoff with automatic bids to the champions of the five power conferences — no selection committee is even necessary for this part. The remaining 3 bids go to at-large teams. Yes, I know — what about the 9th team in the rankings? They’ll have an argument to get in and we’ll be wanting to expand to 12 or 16 in a few years. I don’t agree, though. The 9th ranked team in any year rarely (if ever) has any hopes of being considered the best team in the nation. In fact, on any give year, there are only 3 or 4 teams who have a legitimate shot at winning the national championship — 5 or 6 in some years, at best. My point — the first team left out of the 8-team playoff doesn’t really have much in the way of an argument to get into the field.
What the NCAA has done in an effort to fill their pockets and bring unprecedented cashflow to the university presidents is water down conferences and render conference championship games meaningless. It’s funny, really. Ironic. Check it out.
- The NCAA has to find a way to condense teams into as small a number of conferences in order to get a sensible 4-team playoff (even though their are five conferences in the Power 5).
- So each conference gets jam-packed with 12, 14, 16 teams — many of whom are garbage and serve no real competitive purpose in the conference. Heck, they really serve no purpose,competitively-speaking, in FBS football period.
- The NCAA needs conference championship games in these mega-conferences because sponsors, like Chik-Fil-A and Dr. Pepper, are salivating over spending millions of dollars to be associated with games like the Big Ten Championship and SEC Championship. Not to mention, neutral sites — like Atlanta, Orlando, Santa Clara, and Indianapolis are shelling out huge dough to host these title games. The NCAA makes millions of dollars hand over fist just this weekend alone.
- But because the conferences are overflowing, it’s impossible for teams to all have equal and identical conference opponents. And this makes it very difficult to judge teams — do you look at records? Or do you use the ol’ eye test? For example Penn State wins their division because they avoided Wisconsin in the regular season — unlike Ohio St. and Michigan — even though most in the country believe both OSU and U-M to be the two best teams in the entire conference.
- Because of these unbalanced schedules in conference play, you end up with teams that may not necessarily pass that aforementioned eye test but their record qualifies them to be in their conference’s championship game. Take Iowa last year, for instance.
- Then take it to the ultimate point that I’m trying to make: what happens when one of these “undeserving” teams actually wins the conference title game? Like this year — what if Florida had beaten Alabama? Or Virginia Tech had upset Clemson? All year long, we’ve heard about how the Big Ten is one of the top 2 conferences in the country, yet the conference champion isn’t going to get a bid into the playoff? How can the NCAA not reward their conference champions when they are the ones who put these championship games in place??? (Oh that’s right. It’s not to find out who the best team in the conference is — we all pretty much know that already. It’s to cash in.)
To tie this all together, in doing this, the NCAA has made the criteria for qualifying for the playoff so convoluted that no one knows the parameters — and, quite frankly, we don’t know if any parameters even exist.
All that said, here’s the final BGPR — based on what I view as the most important metrics:
1. Alabama — the Tide is the best team in the land and has been since week one when they annihilated USC; they started out dominant and really never lost a step in 13 games.
2. Clemson — the ACC Champs get the boost up to the #2 spot; not a huge deal because we’ll just let them battle it out with OSU in the semi-final.
3. Ohio State — no Big Ten title, but in my mind the Bucks are one of the nation’s best teams.
4. Washington — the PAC-12 Champs are a well-deserving selection and earned this spot thanks to a year of very consistent play.