Austin, Texas–As we lead up to the New Year’s Day matchups, I find myself picking apart the reasoning behind the new playoff era.
The first thing that comes to mind is the pursuit of a “true champion”, a term that has been thrown around a lot this year by the sports media and fans of college football. I feel it discounts all of the previous champions, which I do not think is fair.
For our sake, I will call it the pursuit of fairness. That is what we expect the new playoff system to give us. It’s an equal chance for all the teams in the FBS to compete, where no one gets left out.
If this is the goal of the committee, which many believe and expect that it is, then I think that this year’s playoff has failed.
Just over a week ago, the college football playoff committee made their selections on ESPN. One seed Alabama will play four seed Ohio State and two seed Oregon will play three seed Florida State.
This left Baylor and TCU, both 11-1 on the season and co-champions of the Big 12, on the outside looking in.
I think that that the committee was forced to make the “right choice” by selecting the Buckeyes. The problem with this selection is how they went about it.
Many were shocked and angry, at least in the state of Texas, at the selection of Ohio State. TCU and Baylor were firmly outside of the top four for most of the season.
Only when Mississippi State lost did the Horned Frogs climb into the top four, passing Florida State to sit at number three.
Then only a few weeks later, after beating Texas 48-10 in Austin and finishing the regular season with a 55-3 thrashing of Iowa State, they were rewarded with sixth place in the final CFP standings.
Baylor passed TCU to move to fifth, gaining momentum after beating a top 10 Kansas State at home in their final game, but was also left out of the equation.
In my defense of the committee’s selections I will use a very simple example. Take note of the following records:
On paper, the 12-1 team is the best. Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big 10 championship. Baylor and TCU sat at home and watched.
This was the committee’s justification for the leap. They set the precedent that conference championships will be important in the future and the Big 12 was left holding the bag.
Make no mistake; there will be more programs added to the formerly formidable conference, but as of now it will continue with a 9 game round-robin schedule.
It’s an injustice that TCU and Baylor were left out of the process. After all, the purpose of the playoff is to determine the best team in the country. In order to determine the best team, the best teams in the country have to play each other.
Without TCU and Baylor in the playoff, no one can say that this year’s playoff fulfilled that purpose.
A lot of it has to do with the nature of people. We are never satisfied. We always have to have more. More money, more possessions, and in this case more playoff teams.
I am no different, and neither is anyone that I know. I sat around watching the playoff committee make their selections in a room full of college guys. Upon seeing the selection of Ohio State some cursed the committee and yelled at the TV.
This is when I realized that the four-team playoff simply wouldn’t satisfy for long. It’s a nice change and a step in the right direction, but it is not a permanent solution.
In order to make the process fair we have to broaden our definition of the “best teams” to include eight contestants, maybe even eventually sixteen, sometime in the future.
March Madness, the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament is just about as fair as you can get. The tournament boasts 64 contestants in a single elimination playoff.
The real truth is, until the college football expands its playoff, it will still be stuck with disappointment and controversy, a madness all its own.