Sunday, December 3, 2017

Drop the Pretense

"The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members' evaluation of the teams' performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head–to–head results and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable."

College Football Playoff website

Let's just stop pretending that conference championships really matter now when deciding who will play for the national championship.

Conference championships used to matter back in the days of the BCS.

But in the days of a four–team playoff field, what matters is rankings and records, not conference titles.

Just ask Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat previously undefeated Wisconsin to claim the Big Ten crown, but they lost two games this season.

I've been wondering for weeks if the committee would permit a two–loss team to participate in the college football playoffs, and now we have our answer. In the brief history of the college football playoffs, no two–loss team had been included. It will remain that way this year.

As today dawned, it was common knowledge that Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia had secured spots in college football's playoff. The drama centered on whether Ohio State, the Big Ten champ with two losses, or Alabama, a one–loss team that did not play for its conference crown, would round out the field.

That was the choice — Ohio State or Alabama. No other options.

I have also been wondering whether the committee would allow two teams from the same conference to be in the playoff field. With a field that is restricted to only four teams, I have believed that more balance was required to build national support for the playoff concept.

Again, the choice came down to Ohio State or Alabama. No other options.

Ohio State could have provided the diversity that was needed, and the Buckeyes won their conference, but they lost twice during the regular season.

With Alabama, the field leans heavily toward the South. The Crimson Tide did not win the Southeastern Conference, but Alabama did lose only once — to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

So the integrity of the record was upheld, but the integrity of conference championships and geographical balance was not.

I have been an advocate of a larger playoff field for a long time. I believe that would provide the committee with plenty of opportunities to generate geographical balance and allow other deserving teams to have a shot at winning it all.

If you take today's rankings as an example, a playoff field involving the top eight teams would produce plenty of balance this season, driving up fan interest from coast to coast. As it is, I have to wonder how high the ratings will be in the Upper Midwest or on the West Coast.

Today's selection of Alabama and exclusion of Ohio State hastens the day when the playoff field will be expanded to eight teams. I don't know when that will happen. It could be as soon as next season, or it might be a few years beyond that, but it is coming.

Of that I am sure.

No comments: