On the day the first College Football Playoff rankings are set to come out, I wanted to give my thoughts on the mess that is the College Football Playoff. This is part 1 of 2 about my thoughts on the College Football Playoff.
Lets start with the name – is it really a playoff? Or is it a tournament? The name playoff should imply that the higher seed gets to host the lower seed on their home field. I don’t know of any other American sport where the word playoff is used yet the games are played at a neutral site. The NFL and MLS play their championship games at a neutral site, but the NBA, MLB, and NHL play home/away games throughout.
NCAA Baseball and Basketball are both called tournaments. Mens and Women’s NCAA Basketball tournaments are played exclusively at neutral sites. NCAA Baseball has home and away games before they play the College World Series at a neutral site in Omaha, NE – much more like a tournament.
The NCAA would argue that the higher seeded teams in the College Football Playoff get to play their games at the closer neutral site, therefore they have some sort of advantage. I call bullshit, and it’s obvious it is. There will never be a situation where this isn’t a problem because the committee can switch rankings however they want and justify changing rankings however they like.
For example, how would they ever justify a northern team being a higher seeded team than Alabama, Clemson, LSU. Look at the situation this year, the two semifinal games are being played at the Cotton Bowl in Texas, and the Orange Bowl in Florida. If Notre Dame remains undefeated, and lets say Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and Michigan remain with one loss – how can they justify saying Notre Dame would have some type of advantage being the 1 or 2 seed over Clemson, Georgia, or Alabama? They can’t, so they’d switch the rankings to put Michigan and Notre Dame against each other.
Would this situation every actually happen? Probably not because we’ll never get that kind of chaos to have this discussion, but it is a possibility. This is not a College Football Playoff – this is a College Football Four Team Tournament and from now on I will call it that.
Well, what should happen you ask? Easy, the 1 seed hosts the 4 seed, and the 2 seed hosts the 3 seed. Like a real playoff, like a real advantage for being the higher ranked team after completing the regular season. Currently what would that look like? Well in previous years you would have had matchups like Oklahoma @ Clemson instead of being played in Florida, Ohio State @ Alabama instead of being play in New Orleans, or last year we could have witnessed Georgia @ Oklahoma instead of at the Rose Bowl and Alabama @ Clemson instead of in New Orleans.
Wait, wait, wait. Isn’t Clemson supposed to have some sort of home field advantage over Alabama last year because they were the higher seed? Call me crazy but I think Alabama is much closer to New Orleans than South Carolina is. Weird.
What we are witnessing is a tournament, not a playoff. It pisses me off its called a playoff and I don’t know why, but it does. The other part that pisses me off is it won’t change because of money. I don’t have the details but I’d imagine the NCAA makes a ton more money having these games played at BCS bowls instead of a teams home stadium. SAD. Onto the next point
Have They Gotten it Right?
The main reason for going to this tournament format was to get rid of a potentially flawed BCS system that didn’t always put in the best teams, and have the FOUR best teams play each other for the National Championship.
The BCS systems had some questionable calls over the years, 2003 they pitted LSU v Oklahoma in the championship game while USC was ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches poll. Many thought USC deserved to be in over Oklahoma. USC went on to whip up on Michigan while Oklahoma lost to LSU. What could have been.
In 2011, 11-1 Alabama got in over 11-1 Oklahoma St. and Stanford to play LSU in the championship game. They beat LSU 21-0 but this was the first time a non-conference champion made it all the way, and you could say started the SEC bias that everyone likes to talk about. Alabama is still the only team to not win their conference and make the championship game – and deservedly so. They won in 2011 and 2017.
The biggest issue with the BCS may have been the next year in the 2012 championship game when undefeated Notre Dame played a one loss Alabama team. This isn’t about Alabama, this is about Notre Dame. Anybody in their right mind who watched Notre Dame that year knew they were not a top two team. They constantly squeaked out of games through the luck of the fucking Irish. They had no business being in that game and it showed – they got fucking manhandled.
So the goal of the tournament would be to always put the top 4 teams into the tournament – and never get it wrong. These will be the top 4 teams because of their play on the field, who they play, strength of schedule, strength of record, winning your conference, etc. Actually none of that matters, I think? I don’t know. Lets look at the first year of the tournament and look at the teams who were there.
The 2014 season Ohio State squeaked in over 11-1 Baylor and TCU – mainly because the Big 12 didn’t have a conference championship game. So in 2014, conference champions mattered. However, the issue here is not Ohio State getting. The issue here is Florida St. if your goal is to put in the best four teams, and conference champions don’t matter like they should (as proven in the years after), Florida State did not deserve to be in the top 4. Much like Notre Dame in 2012, Florida State squeaked by multiple teams they should have beat more soundly. They were clearly not a top 4 team. They escaped in wins against Oklahoma St. #22 Clemson, #5 Notre Dame, @ Miami, Boston College, Florida, and Georgia Tech on the ACC Championship game. Notice all most of those games were at home. Watching Florida State, they did not deserve to be in.
Baylor, TCU, and Michigan St. Baylor and TCU were both offensive juggernauts that year and looked much better tan Florida State. Michigan St. lost two games all year: @ Oregon and v Ohio State. The two teams that made the championship game. Oh and they beat Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. TCU? Well they only lost by 1 to Baylor and they CURBED STOMPED the Ole Miss team that beat Alabama team during the year.
In 2014, the College Football Tournament Committee got it wrong.
In 2015 the big debate was putting in a Stanford team that won the Pac 12 championship with two losses. The biggest loss was the first game of the year at Northwestern, not an easy place to play (watch out Notre Dame). Based on the previous year, it looked like a conference championship would matter and Oklahoma didn’t play a championship game because the Big 12 still hadn’t adopted it.
Beforehand I don’t think you could argue that the top 4 teams didn’t belong. I do however, think there was an argument that Stanford looked like a better team than Michigan St. or Oklahoma. However, resume came into play and that Northwestern game bit them in the ass.
The Big Ten also had a 12-1 Iowa team and a 11-1 Ohio State on the outside looking in. Well come to find out Iowa was not a good team and got smoked by Stanford, Michigan St. squeaked by Iowa in the Big Ten championship and got demolished by Alabama, while Ohio State smoked Notre Dame.
So, as the dust settled on this year did they committee get it right? Did they put in the FOUR best teams? No, Michigan St. clearly was not a top four and Stanford or Ohio State deserved to be in that spot. BUT BUT BUT MICHIGAN STATE BEAT OHIO STATE DURING THE REGULAR SEASON. Well if were talking about the four best teams, Ohio State looked like the better team all year. They lost a close game – it happens. Lets not forget this was another year where Alabama lost to Ole Miss. If it wasn’t for Ole Miss blowing like a 4th and 26 against Arkansas on a crazy play, Alabama doesn’t even make the playoff. Sometimes, the better teams don’t win.
I’d also like to point out how lucky the committee got here with Ole Miss losing. You have to put in a 11-2 Ole Miss team that won the SEC championship over a one loss Alabama. Or maybe Stanford, can you image a tournament game without an SEC team?! the horror.
Again, College Football Tournament Committee: 0-2 on getting the best four teams in.
THE PAC 12 IS BACK BABY. BACK. BUT SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN.
the 2016 Season was wild for the Big Ten, Ohio State and Penn State tied for the Big Ten with 8-1 records but got to the Big Ten Championship because of winning head to head, but Ohio State was the team who got into the playoff. Michigan on the hand who smoked Penn State and lost to Ohio State in OT got left out also because the lost on the road @ Iowa. Many people would have argued this year that Michigan was better than both Ohio State and Penn State (the dominated them). So just to start here, we have two teams in Penn State and Michigan who had arguments to be put in but their resumes didn’t match up for a top 4 team.
Lets bring back in Oklahoma. A two loss Big 12 team who didn’t actually lose in the Big 12, they lost their opening game to Houston and lost at home to Ohio State, that loss is why Ohio State got in over them. Meanwhile you had a one loss Washington team that why vying to get in. So going into the playoff we had a 5 team argument for two spots: Oklahoma, Washington, Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan. I’d also like to say USC got a tiny bit of love.
So did the committee get it right this year? It’s hard to say, Washington did deserve to be in, however I think the majority of college football fans would have said Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Michigan were all better. Some might have even said that USC was playing better football than Washington at the end of the year. I say they got it wrong, 3rd year in a row they failed to get the four best teams in.
College Football Tournament Committee Record after three years: 0-3.
Last year was the first time they had two teams from the same conference in, the Pac 12 and Big 10 both got left out. The Pac 12 had down year, Ohio State got smoked by Oklahoma at home and Iowa on the road, and Penn State lost two heartbreaking games in back to back weeks against Ohio State and Michigan State. Penn State was the best team in the Big 10 last year.
So it’s hard to say there are any arguments here. This part is nice and short. I believe they got in the correct, top 4 teams for the first time. Final record: 1-3.
I would also like to make two more points on on all this before we get to part two. I believe every year they have had the two best teams playing in the National Championship Game. However, they have gotten there with no resemblance of standards or qualifications. There is no rules on how many games you must win, you must be a conference champion, must play a certain number of conference games, etc.
Secondly, this is football. This isn’t baseball, basketball, or hockey where the best team is proven over 5 or 7 games. In football, if you don’t bring your A game, you can lose. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are the inferior team. The Patriots lost to the Lions this year, do we really think the Lions are better than the Patriots? Should we punish the Patriots in Power Rankings because of that loss? Should we punish the Patriots in the playoffs because of that loss to the Lions? No, but in College Football we do.
That is what we will focus on in part II. Stay tuned.