Thursday, April 19, 2018
Colleges

College football playoff? Let the arguments begin

From now on, why, everything is going to be wonderful.

Peace has come to college football. In the future, no arguing will be allowed. The best team will always win, and the best player will take the Heisman, and the band won't miss a note as it plays the fight song. Logic and cool heads will prevail.

Or not, depending on which nitwit you happen to be listening to at the time.

Are you kidding? Of course there is going to be controversy. Loud voices are the soundtrack to college football. For crying out loud, this isn't math.

Yes, the argument has been changed. This year college football goes to a playoff system, finally. Those of us who have spent years shouting that the BCS should be buried and forgotten have gotten our way. Instead of the consensus No. 3 team shouting that it was robbed, it will be the No. 5 team. We have reduced the number of victims, so yes, that's better.

But no, it isn't going to be perfect.

Still.

Let's be honest. A playoff system is about a million times better than gathering around a computer and seeing what it spits out. Who knows if the guys feeding the data had any idea that a team got four downs? No one is going to care if there are a few more computers for sale in the classified ads.

But who is on this new 13-member committee that will make the playoff selections? Does Condoleezza Rice have any idea who the Four Horsemen are? Does Mike Gould know about "Punt, Bama, Punt"? And why Tyrone Willingham? Was Skip Holtz busy?

Trust me, the college football fans of America will wonder about the committee members. If you're going to debate the rankings, after all, you're going to debate the rankers.

The fans will wonder if the committee is aware that going 12-1 is tougher in Tuscaloosa than it is in Boise. They'll wonder if enough attention is being paid to strength of schedule. They'll wonder if too much is being paid to margin of victory. They'll wonder if too much focus, or not enough, is being paid to the power conferences.

Look, this isn't as simple as looking over past rankings and imaging who the top four in a playoff would have been. We can all do that. We can all imagine FSU in the playoffs for 14 straight years. We can discuss what a nice run Oregon would be on right now.

But how is the committee going to feel about rematches? How will it feel about a team making the playoffs without winning its division (Alabama was second in the SEC West going into the bowl season last year). With five power conferences and four open playoff slots, will there be temptation to spread the wealth? How much attention will be paid to the other polls?

And how long, exactly, will it be before the outcry for an eight-team playoff begins?

For starters, four teams seems about right. Fair or not, an eight-team playoff was never going to be approved. This is a place to start.

Four teams doesn't take much away from the regular season. Most years, no one would blush if the fourth-ranked team got hot at the right time and won the title. But a four-team playoff does allow a team a bit of breathing room. It means a team's season isn't necessarily over with an early season loss. It means a quarterback's injury doesn't have to wreck a team full of dreams. It means turnaround seasons don't have to be ranked first or second to be remembered.

So do we all go out and buy foam fingers with four digits extended?

Do we shout "We're No. 4, hey!''

If nothing else, a four-team playoff in the past would have settled what have become some of the loudest arguments in college football history. In the 2004 season, an undefeated Auburn team was left out of the national championship game for Southern Cal and Oklahoma. Under this system, that wouldn't have happened.

How about 2000? That season Oklahoma beat FSU for the title. Miami was outraged because it was higher ranked than FSU, had the same record (10-1) and had beaten FSU head-to-head. But Miami had lost to Washington, which had the same record, too. Under the new playoff system, all four teams might have gotten in.

Go back as far as 1966, if you wish, long before the BCS. Alabama was the defending national champion and went undefeated. That was when Notre Dame and Michigan State, ranked Nos. 1 and 2, played to a regular-season tie and ended up co-champions … and Alabama finished third. That wouldn't happen under this system.

Now. Find me a good argument for a championship by a team that finished fifth.

Can't, can you?

Look, it's going to get loud. Chances are, there will be a lot of one-loss teams hanging around that final playoff spot. Maybe even some smaller teams with no losses. There will be a two-loss team that believes it should get mentioned. There will be those who argue that winning a conference title should matter.

In other words, the noise isn't going away. It has been only refocused.

Somehow, there is something comforting about that.

Comments
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