by John Furgele (The 228)
Before the tirade begins, let me be fair. At the end of the day, I don’t have any problems with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington being the four participants in the third version of the College Football Playoff. We all know Alabama is the best team; we know that Clemson, based on talent and what they did last year can play with the Tide; we know that Ohio State at 11-1 is a quality team and we know that Washington, with 10 victories against Pac 12 teams is deserving of a slot.
All that said the CFP committee needs to be honest going forward. The reality is that the CFP admires beauty and the better the record, the more the beauty. What the CFP told us is that they really don’t value head-to-head, conference titles and strength of schedules. Washington, to their credit, played 10 Pac 12 teams and beat nine of them; Ohio State went to Oklahoma and routed the Sooners; Clemson beat both Auburn and South Carolina (usually a good team). At the end of the day, the less losses the better. The CFP wants teams to look pretty; they (and college football) want to advertise that every week matters and if you slip up more than once, you will get punished. Therefore, taking an 11-2 team like Penn State isn’t as good as taking the 11-1 Ohio State team. By beauty’s definition, Ohio State is the better looking hottie. She’s the 25-year old blond with the better curves than Penn State, the 30-year old who also is easy on the eye. If they take a two-loss team, they are, in effect, devaluing what they think is the most important regular season in all of sports, so they won’t take a two-loss conference champion with a head-to-head win over a team that has only one loss.
Washington won the Pac 12 and in doing so, went 9-1 against Pac 12 teams. They are a very good team and I won’t hold their scheduling of Rutgers against them. Rutgers, by definition, is a Power 5 school. But, Idaho? The Vandals are a struggling program, so much so, that they have been kicked out of the Sun Belt and will be dropping to FCS at the beginning of the 2018 season. The Huskies also played FCS foe Portland State, so to say the Huskies challenged themselves in their nonconference would be a falsehood. That said, Alabama plays an FCS school every year, too, so who is better here?
Power 5 schools should not be allowed to schedule FCS schools anymore. Let FCS schools play the Group of 5 schools. There is nothing wrong with Bowling Green playing North Dakota; nothing wrong with Villanova playing Temple, but why do we have to see Alabama hosting Chattanooga the week before Thanksgiving so they can tune up and rest before facing Auburn? There are too many “good games” out there for this to happen and if Alabama played Michigan rather than Charleston Southern, then it might be okay to see some two loss or even three loss teams make the CFP.
Since winning conference titles doesn’t really mean that much, let’s eliminate conference championship games. They don’t help, in fact, they can cause more damage. If Clemson and Washington would have lost to Virginia Tech and Colorado, they would have been out of the CFP. In contrast, wins by the Buffaloes and Hokies would not have gotten them in either, so what’s the point? Furthermore, had Alabama lost to Florida, the Tide would have still made the CFP cut. Again, why bother?
Not only should conference championship games be eliminated, so too, should divisions. Line everybody up one through 14, one through 12, and one through 10. The English Premier League lines them up one through 20, so lining them up one through 14 is easier than pie. Having divisions is artificial anyways. Look at the SWAC at the FCS level for example. Grambling won its division at 9-0, one game better than 8-1 Southern, yet Grambling played Alcorn State in the conference title game; an Alcorn State team that was 5-5 overall and 5-4 in its division. Had the teams been lined up, Grambling would have faced the better Southern team in the SWAC Championship Game.
The conferences could protect the classic rivalries like Ohio-State/Michigan, but lining the teams up and playing nine conference games (time for SEC and ACC to get on board) will yield a conference title clash between the two best teams. Using this formula, you wouldn’t have seen Penn State and Wisconsin, arguably the third and fourth best teams playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. Nor, would you see it in the SWAC for that matter.
Ohio State and Penn State went 8-1 in the Big Ten, while division winner Wisconsin went 7-2. Using this common sense formula, the Big Ten title game should have been a rematch between the Buckeyes and Lions and the ACC should have pitted Louisville and Clemson for the second time as both teams had 7-1 conference records. I used to be against rematches, but not anymore. If Ohio State and Penn State have the best records, then let a rematch take place. It happens all the time in college basketball and it can happen in the NFL; why should college football be immune from it?
Eliminating the divisions and the conference title games is the right thing to do. Let all the schools play 12 games and then use the eye-test to pick the four best teams. Essentially, that’s what they did this year even though they paid lip service to the overall resume of teams.
The other thing this could do is get the season over on Thanksgiving Saturday. Then, Navy could play Army on the first Saturday in December and the next day could be Selection Sunday. Had Navy routed Temple in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game, there was a possibility that the CFP committee would have waited until December 11th to release its final rankings. Nobody wants that, so let’s fix it.
Most agree that within a “few years,” the CFP will go from four to eight teams, but as Lee Corso says, “not so fast my friend.” As evidence, take the fans’ reactions to the conference championship games. There were seats to be had in Indianapolis (Big Ten), Orlando (SEC) and Santa Clara (Pac 12). Some fans stated that they just couldn’t afford it financially, and take time off from work to hit three games in December and January. In an eight-team playoff using neutral sites, you’d be asking fans to travel three times. Is that feasible? Perhaps, but the best solution would be for seeds 1 through 4 to host the quarterfinals and then use the neutral sites for the semifinals and finals. This keeps the price up as bowls/sites would continue to shower money at college football for the right to host these games.
The four team playoff has much going for it, and right now, it doesn’t need to be overhauled or radically changed, just tweaked. Eliminating divisions, conference championship games and games against FCS schools would be a simple and easy tweak. It would also reduce the amount of lying that comes from the suits that run the College Football Playoff and that too, would be nothing but a positive.