You can hear millions of fans screaming now for the college football playoff to expand from 4 teams to 8, because their team didn’t make it in. Some will be up in arms comparing records and resumes all with valid arguments, but that still won’t change anything or stop the naysayers. Let’s face it, even with an 8 team playoff, someone will still say that the 9th team left out of the playoff is more deserving and so on and so forth. No matter how we look at it, there will always be an argument. Let’s take this year for instance, look at the way USC is playing right now, they’ve won 8 straight beating an 8th ranked Colorado and then destroying a 4th ranked Washington- the Pac 12 Champion. One could argue that according to the Eye Test team measure, USC is the hottest team in college football right now, I am not advocating for USC that’s just the facts. But, the eyebrows do rise when you have the Big 10 conference that has 3 teams at the top of the polls in Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, with 2nd ranked Ohio State loosing to Penn State that Conference’s Champion, and will somehow get into the college playoff over them. Then there is 13-0 Western Michigan thoroughly being disrespected in the rankings sitting at #17 despite being 1 of 2 undefeated teams in the country next to Alabama who is ranked #1. The scary part is that Western Michigan is not even in the discussion, so what gives?
In the “College Football Playoff” format, It’s almost as if conference champions don’t really matter even though the committee says it does, an undefeated season doesn’t either if you are outside of the Power 5 conferences (SEC, ACC, BIG 10, BIG 12, PAC 12), but it seems they matter when the voting committee wants them to. What if Alabama had lost the SEC championship, would they have truly been left out of the playoff and would Florida have gotten in, given the prestige of the conference? Nope, excuses would be made for the 1 loss being in the championship game and not held against them plus their fan base travel well. The criteria’s with the committee seems to change every week, there is no way in the world that a team that didn’t win their conference and lost to the team that did, should be allowed in, that’s if everything is according to the criteria’s laid out by the College Football Playoff committee. The system is still subjective to human error and hidden biases to the point where the committee will never get it right in my opinion. This is why the system I propose will take the guess work out of it and gives all conferences meaningful power again, you win your conference, you’re in it, period!
There is only one true way to determine a National Champion and I will get into that a little later in this article. If we put aside the bowl alliances, politics, and money, I believe the system I will propose will be one of the only true ways to determine a “National Champion” as well as the “Best Conference” in the NCAA and still keep the Bowl Games in play, aligned, still independent, and unified across the country. The past, present and future of the National Championship system has come a long way… let’s take a quick look at this format versus format of old and what led to the “Playoff 4”.
The current “College Football Playoff” format:
The 4 team playoff format is a group of 12 voters predominately Athletic Directors (5), former coaches (4), a reporter, a former Secretary of State, and a former executive of the NCAA making all the playoff decisions. They’re required to be objective in their decisions, formulate evaluation criteria’s with no biases and select the four teams at the end of the football season that they deemed to be the best 4 teams in all of college football. According to this committee, It’s been said that winning your conference matters, the head to head matters, common opponent matters, strength of schedule matters and then there’s the good ole Eye Test, but given that the top 10 has 3 Big 10 teams whom all lost to one another, the conference champion might not even make the playoffs and a team they beat within the same conference will. I’ve surmise this about the format, it too is filled with subjective biases and alliances rooted deep that may never surface. The champion will always come from the Power 5 conferences and the true underdogs will not even get the opportunity to showcase. The human element will always present a flaw and relying on these 12 voters to get it right based on a metric they’ve created that fluctuates week to week to determine who should be in or out, the fans will never get a true “National Champion”.
The “Old System” – The Bowl Championship Series aka “The BCS”:
“The BCS” was a system that relied on “data” combining voter polls, computer rankings and strength of schedule to determine consensus rankings that would narrow the collection of teams down to the two most deserving to play in its National Championship. It was designed to end the split of champions in a voter format preceding it, in which the National Champion was determined by the Associated Press (AP) Poll versus the Coaches Poll. Many felt that the coaches poll favored teams from the South and East regions while the AP poll covered the rest of the country and sometimes they failed to be lock and step with the one another in a consensus Champion. Even that format left the independents (teams that don’t belong to a conference) out of the money games. So a compromise came about when the five major conferences, six major bowls and independent Notre Dame joined forces to create the “bowl coalition” which was intended to select viable teams that would be ideal for the official “National Championship game”. However, the coalition pretty much excluded all other conferences and made it impossible for a non-bowl coalition team to be considered to play for the National Championship, similar to problem we have now, especially with what Western Michigan is doing with their undefeated season.
The system also forced the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) contractually to vote the winner of this particular game the National Champion even if they thought and or felt otherwise. The problem with the BCS is that the system was based on “data” in which lead to the system picking teams that many felt were less deserving than others. The gripe was that “data” doesn’t watch games and teams that were not worthy of the opportunity got in and those playing the best according to the Eye Test, got left out.
So where are we now, and what’s the solution to it all?
Even with the new system it appears that there are still hidden biases in regards to who’s conference is the strongest when dealing with the human element and their so-called Eye Test which is one that, underrates the Pac 12 and ACC, overrates the Big 10, respects the SEC and Big 12, and everybody else is on the outside looking in aka “window shopping” and will never get in. The Solution…