The College Football Playoff committee is tasked with a daunting decision every December. A decision weighing strength of schedule and overall resume to determine the so-called four best teams in the FBS.
What are the parameters for a “deserving” top-4 team in the nation? Well, that line is blurred by an abundance of factors. You’ve heard them all, “bad losses, conference prestige, complete body of work”, and numerous statistical categories representing and dividing the good from the great.
Cover Image Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
What defines a team that plays on the first Monday in January?
A question that we attempt to answer all year long, before and after every single game, from your SEC stalwarts to your AAC underdogs. A question that we evaluate based on coaching, player performance, opponent performance, and even inclement weather performance.
Should Alabama play for the National Championship every year because they’re deserving or because they’re truly the best team? That’s a tough question to answer, but Saturday’s matchup against SEC-foe Georgia raised plenty more questions.
An undefeated team that has dominated every matchup of their season, all while facing an SEC schedule, struggles mightily against last year’s runner-up. Fitting for an SEC title game, but is a rematch in the cards? The answer to that question is simple but quickly complicated by the rigorous determinants of the playoff committee. Is Georgia one of the four best teams in college football? That’s for you to decide.
A wrench was just thrown into your vote, what about these other “deserving” teams? Ohio State staked their claim in the playoff by ousting Northwestern in the Big 10 championship, but does an 11-1 season topped off by a Power-5 conference championship reserve the right to play for their second title in five years? Even with multiple close games against “subpar competition”, and a blowout loss (49-20) against a 6-6 Purdue team?
Another wrench incoming – Oklahoma. Perennial Heisman candidate Kyler Murray led the Sooners’ to the Big-12 Championship, with their lone loss of this season being avenged against the Longhorns Saturday in Arlington. Oklahoma’s Big-12 conference schedule featured two ranked matchups, one resulting in a 48-45 loss to Texas earlier in the season, the other being a 59-56 victory against West Virginia. With opposing teams scoring over 32-points a game against the Sooners’ defense, how bad could teams like Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame, or Georgia expose them? Is their resume polished enough to be a top-4 team, especially one equipped to face #1 seed Alabama in the Orange Bowl?
Does a 25 win-streak spanning over two seasons against a so-called, “weak” schedule dwindle the chances to play for a national championship banner? UCF, a member of the American Athletic Conference, has faced one nationally ranked team this season (38-13 victory of #24 Cincinnati) and is nowhere to be found in the top-4 conversation. With blatant disrespect being dually noted, does this provide evidence that a G-5 program will never be one of the four “best” teams in college football? It seems that way, and the solution seems incredibly elementary.
The NFL has 32 teams, with 12 making the playoffs each season. The NBA has 30 teams, with 16 of those having a chance to hang a banner. While this isn’t professional sports, these events draw plenty of eyes, sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in tickets and revenue, give people like me something to write about, and people like you something to read. These conference championships and bowl games are revenue drivers, so why not expand?
There are 130 teams in the FBS, and only 4 of those reserve the right to achieve their ultimate goals.
We deserve more. “We”, referring to those attentive viewers, the dedicated fans, and most of all, the players and coaches of the 126 teams that fail to make the cut every season.
Now, this isn’t to say that we should compare this to March Madness and implement a 64-team playoff bracket. That is worlds from what is necessary. A simple expansion to 8 teams will do wonders for the College Football Playoff and will change the landscape of FBS moving forwards. Leaving room for your highly coveted P-5 conference champions, a couple of at-large teams, and your “underdog” G-5 program.
Revenue is the main goal for any company, and the NCAA would feast on the added income with more teams in the playoff. The “first two out” is a highly evaluated feature, and while this would continue with the first teams out being the 9 and 10 seeds, the blurred line that was previously referred too becomes increasingly more visible.
To put this in perspective, your 2018 playoff matchups would be as followed. With the higher seeded teams hosting these first-round matchups.
#8 UCF vs. #1 Alabama
#7 Michigan vs. #2 Clemson
#6 Ohio State vs. #3 Notre Dame
#5 Georgia vs. #4 Oklahoma
Now, this format change provokes added thoughts of “
“Why should Alabama have to play UCF? ‘Bama has done everything required to play for their sixth title in ten years.”
Now, their resume is undoubtedly flawless, but if they’re truly the best team in the nation they will handle the eighth best team with ease, right?
Guess what, this playoff format makes this a reality. We as fans get to see if UCF is a true contender as they would match up with SEC powerhouse Alabama. A showdown that we would’ve loved to see last season with a healthy McKenzie Milton, also matchup that would quickly sell out.
An 8-team bracket would set up the possibility of an Alabama vs. Georgia rematch. A rematch that many people would relish the opportunity to witness.
The playoff format must change, and the NCAA will reap the monetary benefits that follow. The most exciting part? We reap the benefits too, but the money isn’t the motive. We love football, and the players and coaches that spend countless hours perfecting their craft love the game to levels unimaginable to those who haven’t experienced it. Excluding teams because of flaws in their resume (especially resumes bearing 0 losses), is a discredit to the entire collegiate football frame.
Doubling the playoff field still leaves out 122 teams, and with that said obviously this format change isn’t full-proof, but it is a step in the right direction from where we stand today.
Increased revenue, increased field exposure for players and coaches, and increased enjoyment for the fans that fill the stands.
This is a win-win for everyone involved.