In 1998, the Bowl Championship Series was born. That was going to solve the problems of College Football and ensure that a national champion was crowned on the field. No polls, no politics, nothing. For fifteen years there were complaints about the teams that made it. Some didn’t even win their conference championship, but played for the national title. Some went undefeated but didn’t make the game. Some watched while a team they beat played for the title. The computer took too much of the human element out of the decision. Or too much was factored in on the polls. Complaint after complaint led us to where we are today. The actual solution. Finally a playoff system for College Football. Only that’s broken already and we haven’t even had a playoff yet.
After this weekend, the final four teams will be announced for the playoffs. The current four teams are: Alabama (11-1), Oregon (10-1), TCU (10-1), and defending champion Florida State (12-0). We’ll start with unbeaten Florida State, who is currently ranked fourth.
Despite the fact that they haven’t lost in two seasons, and the own a 25 game winning streak, Florida State is on shaky ground in the playoff rankings. The reason? They haven’t looked “impressive enough.” When the first rankings came out, FSU was ranked second, behind unbeaten Mississippi State. Since then, they dropped while winning all of their games. Their last three weeks included victories over Miami (4 points), Boston College (3 points), and Florida (5 points). So what happens if they struggle this weekend in the ACC Championship game against Georgia Tech? Do they get jumped? Would an unbeaten team actually not make a FOUR TEAM playoff?
Baylor is hoping that could happen, and has hired a Public Relations firm to present their case to the committee. So this is what it’s come to, swaying public opinion and begging to get a spot in the playoffs. Sadly, Baylor has a point, since they sport an excellent 10-1 record, the exact same record as the #3 team in the playoff, TCU. TCU has also had a great season, but their 1 loss? It’s to Baylor! Yet they are the ones that are going to be in the playoffs after this weekend after they demolish 2-9 Iowa State. TCU is a 34 point favorite, and as we’ve learned with Florida State’s ranking, winning big is more important than anything. So TCU is likely a lock for this tournament.
Ohio State is #5 and will be facing Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game Saturday. They will also be starting Cardale Jones, who was their third string quarterback to start the season. The committee wants to wait to see how Jones fares before considering bumping OSU up in the rankings. Could you imagine if this happened in any other sport? Tom Brady suffered a season ending injury, forcing the Patriots to go with Jimmy Garoppolo the rest of the way. Because of this, the Patriots will forfeit their playoff spot. Mainly because Garoppolo will not be as aesthetically pleasing to the viewing public during the playoffs. It doesn’t matter that the Patriots earned this playoff spot with a great regular season, they have no chance to win. So why bother sending them to the playoffs at all.
The only two teams who played the system right are Alabama and Oregon. What used to work best still does. Lose your game early enough in the season, so you can climb back up the rankings by clubbing teams in the way afterwards. Who cares that you gave up 600 yards of offense to Auburn? Who cares that you lost to an unranked team? That happened in October. That doesn’t matter now.
It only took one season, one that is not even completed, to show that the new playoff system is just like the old playoff system. What happens on the field may matter a little more, but it will never be the only thing that matters. At the end of the day, the committee’s only job is to choose the games that are as profitable as possible. I wouldn’t put it past them to decide to vacate a semi-final victory because the winning team’s qb got hurt. Have to get the best possible matchup in the title game after all.
It’ll never happen, but this is what the 2014 playoffs should be 10 teams. Each conference champion makes it, nobody else. There shouldn’t be any politics, it shouldn’t matter how big your margin of victory is, it shouldn’t matter what conference you play in. Win your conference championship game, make the playoffs. It’s simple, but the NCAA is convinced that the smaller schools have no chance. Boise State can never beat Oklahoma. Right?