For the second straight year, the College Football Playoff is at an impasse for a final seed: do we take a conference champion that doesn’t really bode the best resume? Or do we take the one-loss team that slipped late but still could have a good shot at winning it all?
No one envies that group, it’s hard enough to narrow down 120+ teams to four, nearly impossible really. SOMEONE is going to be left out no matter how you slice it, whether it’s Ohio State, Alabama, or hell, even USC (go look at their resume), but there’s a major problem here to me: there’s not a fair shot for everyone.
Think about it.
We’re debating whether or not a two loss team should be in over a one-loss team, but ignoring an undefeated team because their program is, essentially, not old enough. Because UCF is a younger program than Ohio State and wasn’t able to embed itself into a “historic” conference, therefore their title and undefeated record is diminished.
Take the helmets out of it and let’s compare schedules:
This isn’t a knock to what Ohio State has done this season, they’ve had ups and downs, but when they’ve been dominant, they’ve been dominant. So has UCF, and more to a point, UCF has been dominant in pretty much every game they’ve played with the exception of a good USF team and a great Memphis team. They even went out their way to schedule TWO Power 5 programs, having one get cancelled (weather) and completely dominate the other. What else is a program like that supposed to do? If they’re being punished for an inferior conference, why not punish Oklahoma for an inferior Big 12? Or Georgia for a really bad SEC, specifically the SEC East?
No. UCF isn’t a “top 4” team so to speak. You can’t, under any circumstance, rank them higher than Clemson, Oklahoma or Georgia and you likely cannot put them over Alabama or Ohio State.
But you can make an argument for #6, therefore giving them the chance to prove themselves on the field. If this is about the players, or about the game, why not give guys who’ve earned it the chance to play? How many seasons do they have to go undefeated before they get the chance? It’s simply a class system in College Football that no one wants to directly admit exists, they just call it “playing with the big boys” even though those “big boy” programs are only deemed as such because they’re older. You could reasonably interchange the mid to weakest parts of Power 5 conferences with top Group of Five programs and you would see a moderate improvement. Put UCF or Memphis in the Big 12 or Big 10, they’d have as much of a shot as anyone.
In any professional sport, there’s a determined criteria for making the postseason. In the NFL, you win your division, you’re in, you play well enough to be one of the two best remaining teams in your conference, you’re in. NBA requires you to be in the Top 8 within your conference.
Now, as I mentioned before, that’s a little bit harder to do with 120+ teams in college football. I’ve also been a major proponent of the Group of 5 investing in themselves, taking advantage of cord-cutting and streaming options and forming their own playoff. You could bring in a host of sponsors to help pay for these options and make your games actually meaningful. If the Old Guard isn’t going to let you play with them, create your own, they’re breaking off from you anyway. There is seriously no point in continuing to live up to the farce that the Power 5 Conferences and Group of Five Conferences are considered the same entity. There’s a reason the BCS scoring system went away and was replaced by a committee. To make sure a Boise State didn’t sneak in via computer.
Every week, every season, the hypocrisy of college football gets exposed as the gap closes and every season we try harder to ignore it. Give the 5 power conferences an auto bid, and have a wildcard seed that can extend to either a deserving P5 group, or an undefeated G5 team that deserves a shot, at least give them a chance.