I’m warning you in advance that this post is going to sound like sour grapes. And, in fact, some of the motivation for writing it in the first place is sour grapes. But I’m here to tell you that the College Football Playoff process that was rolled out to great fanfare only a few years ago is already broken.
Who made the college football playoffs last year? Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia. Those same four teams finished in the top five this year. It was only because Notre Dame ran the table against a weak slate of opponents — and, because ND is nominally independent, a slate that doesn’t include a conference championship game — that college football fans everywhere avoided watching the same four teams play each other again this year.
In the five years the College Football Playoff has been in existence, Alabama has made it every year. Clemson has made it four out of five times. Oklahoma has made it in three of the five years. It’s the same old, same old.
And, for Ohio State fans, what’s especially galling is that this year the playoff selection committee ranked a two-loss SEC team that didn’t win its conference — i.e., Georgia — ahead of a one-lose Big Ten team that won its conference championship. I can understand Ohio State, which got whacked by Purdue during the regular season, being ranked behind Oklahoma, even though I think the Big 12 is a pretty weak conference. But I don’t understand how a one-loss champion of a major football conference like the Big Ten can be ranked behind a two-loss non-conference champion. To me, that result says that the selection committee has quaffed the SEC Kool-Aid and lost any claim to objectivity. Every year we start with the presumption that the SEC is the best conference in college football, and every year every inference goes in the SEC’s favor.
Who did Georgia play out of conference this year? Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, and the University of Massachusetts. They aren’t exactly powerhouses, are they? The rest of the schedule is SEC teams. Georgia got pummeled by LSU and played Alabama close before losing. The latter result reflects favorably on Georgia only if you conclude that Alabama is a bunch of supermen — but we don’t know that, either, because Alabama played only SEC teams, along with an out-of-conference schedule that included Louisville, which ended the season 2-10, the Citadel, Arkansas State, and University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
The system needs to be changed. The playoff should be expanded, and every major college conference champion should be included. I happen to think that Ohio State could give Alabama, Georgia, and any other team a good game — just as it did in 2014, when the Buckeyes somehow beat mighty Alabama and went on to win the national championship, to the surprise of every pundit and talking head on ESPN.
The champion should be crowned on the field, not in backrooms based on hype.