December is a great time of year. The holiday season is in full swing, the aesthetic, serene beauty of fresh fallen snow on trees is pleasing to many eyes, and football is happening. Since I play fantasy football, watching games in December is as close as possible to actual torture since fantasy playoffs are happening. However, college football is in full swing, as teams battle for berths in bowl games and post season play. Since there is no fantasy college football, and since I really don’t have alliances to any collegiate teams, I find it pretty fun to watch.
In years past, the college football rankings system was based on a series of computers which took a composite of a bunch of different rankings, before ultimately providing the world with a weekly top 25. The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was used to determine who would play in the national championship game. Since there are 200 schools eligible for this honor, but only two spots available, this system created a lot of controversy. Teams in big conferences, such as the Southeastern Conference, were graded on more of a curve than their friends in the Mountain West. Some years, an undefeated team like Boise State would miss out on an opportunity to play for a national title because their schedule wasn’t rigorous enough for the almighty BCS, while teams like a three-loss Georgia had a more realistic possibility of playing for a title. It seemed like greater weight was granted to conferences who were considered “powerful” and sometimes controversy arose amongst these conferences. The most ludicrous and hilarious instance of the BCS system utterly failing is when they allowed two teams from the same conference to play for a national title in 2012, where Alabama defeated conference rival LSU 21-0. The University of Oregon, meanwhile, had won their conference, had one fewer win than Alabama (Oregon was 11-1, Alabama was 12-1, but I’ll assume that extra win was against one of the three division 2 teams ‘bama schedules every season), and had made work of steamrolling their opponents so brutally that Amon Goeth would consider it inhumane. Despite this, Oregon was stuck watching as their shot at a national title was destroyed.
So clearly, the BCS just wasn’t working. This is when many people said “hey, let’s just have a playoff, a bracket style tournament to determine a champion, like literally every other sport does.” This reasonable request quickly became decidedly unreasonable when determining how many participants were worthy of a tournament shot. NCAA basketball allows 68 teams into their postseason tournament, a number likely considered excessive for college football players, unless they consider playing two games a weekend “safe” (they don’t). It was decided college football would experiment with a four team playoff to determine a national champion.
You may have noticed this new system fails to address the major problem a lot of people had with the BCS. Now, instead of a computer deciding the rankings, a panel of 12 people, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, hall of fame coach Barry Switzer, and Andrew Luck’s dad. This may lead to even more controversy, since any human element obviously has a degree of bias, whereas a computer doesn’t give a crap that Baylor is having a good season.
At least the old system gave appropriate weight. If a team from one of the big conferences was undefeated, that team was almost assured a spot in the national title game. Notre Dame went undefeated in 2013, making an appearance in the national title game before getting fisted by the Alabama Crimson Tide in such a fashion many proctologists were now out of a job. This year, Florida State, who I cannot stress enough is the DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPION, sits at number four in the latest rankings, despite an 11-0 record. The three teams above them, Alabama, Oregon, and Texas Christian are probably better football teams than Alabama. However, the point of the playoff is to determine who is the better team, not the selection committee.
Baylor University has hired a public relations firm to campaign for a spot in the playoff this season. Such a desperate attempt, laughable as it is, really shows the lengths some will go to just to make their case for a playoff spot. Florida State, Baylor, and Ohio State are all probably going to win at least a share of their conference titles, and yet only one of them will hold the remaining playoff spot. If Ohio State loses, but Baylor beats Kansas State, a ranked conference opponent, by 60 points, they could potentially leapfrog Florida State in the standings (provided the top 3 current teams also win). This system fixes nothing. Things are just as confusing and hectic as they were during the BCS era, if not more so.
If somehow an undefeated, conference champion who is also defending their national title from the season before misses the college football playoff, it’s proof the system might already have some problems.