Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to pull out the Christmas decorations, untangling the untangable string lights, and spend too much money on electronics that will just break down in a couple of months. It’s also that time when the click-baiters and whiners talk about expanding the College Football Playoffs.
First off it should be noted that in the young life of the College Football Playoff, it has worked out pretty darn well. When the main objective with no agendas is getting the best four teams into the playoff, the CFP Committee nailed it all four years. They tune out the outside opinions (see above) and put aside personal emotions to do what is right.
The conversation should end right there. But you know it won’t, right? It’s all about that naughty word that Nick Saban detests: entitlement. I want what he’s got, but I don’t want to work for it.
Let’s start with entitlement central: UCF. The history of Central Florida football can be traced WAAAAY back to 1979 when they stole the mascot, logos, and team colors from Army. They moved up to the FBS 20 years later and reached their first bowl in 2005. In 2015, the Knights went 0-12 including blowout losses to Stanford and South Carolina. The next season they improved to 6-7 falling to Michigan and Maryland. Finally, they wised up dumping the Stanfords and the Michigans for the UNCs and the Pitts (pun intended).
Last season and this season, UCF went 11-0 during the regular season and made little effort to move or reschedule games against Georgia Tech and UNC in those two years that were cancelled due to weather. Do you think NOT playing those games may have helped them stay healthy and undefeated? Of the 11 mighty teams the Knights defeated this season, none of them are currently ranked in any poll. They beat Pitt but that game was in Orlando and the Panthers are 7-5, soon to be 7-6. UCF’s best win was at Memphis who they defeated by a single point. Can you imagine how the critics would howl if an SEC team beat Memphis by one point?
But, yeah, let’s just look at the 11-0 record and put them in the playoff.
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Think of it like boxing (or for you young-uns, UFC). If a fighter beats a bunch of out-of-shape chumps in the the lower fight leagues and goes 11-0, should he get a shot at the champion over someone who may have a loss or two but has been fighting real A-list contenders?
I hate to break it to the fans of UCF and other like-minded non-Power 5 teams but the Knights were eliminated the moment they finalized their schedule. How many Power-5 teams do you think could have had similar results with this schedule?
@ UConn (1-11)
vs South Carolina State (FCS 5-6)
@ North Carolina (2-9)(cancelled)
vs Florida Atlantic (5-7)
vs Pitt (7-5)
vs SMU (5-7)
@ Memphis (8-4)
@ East Carolina (3-8)
vs Temple (8-4)
vs Navy (3-9)
vs Cincinnati (10-2)
@ South Florida (7-5)
I can honestly say, I believe Ole Miss or Indiana could’ve run this table. Middle Tennessee State is a different story. They scheduled Vandy, UGA, and Kentucky. They lost all three and went 8-4 but had they gone undefeated, they probably would deserve consideration for a spot in the final four.
EXPANDING THE SEASONS
The latest attack on the CFP is aimed at Conference Championship Games. Many opponents of an expanded playoffs are not in favor of extending the season to extra games. One argument is the academic pressure it puts on student-athletes. Some may scoff, but the days of Dexter Manley skating by with tutors doing all the homework and professors looking the other way are gone and replaced with APR that actually gets checked and the harsh punishments that come with it. If you have been to college, you know it takes up a lot of time. Try getting a degree while squeezing 16+ football games, workouts, meetings, practices, and travel that stretches to the end of January. The other argument is the wear on teams. Try going through a brutal SEC schedule followed by a 3 or 4 game playoff against the best teams in the country. Meanwhile, certain other teams who skated through their weak non-Power-5 schedule is fresher. That also defeats the “well, they do it in FCS” argument as well. Playing in the toughest FCS conference cannot even come close to comparing to playing in the Sun Belt Conference, much less a P5 conference.
Dan Wetzel thinks he has the answer to shortening the season: get rid of the conference championship games altogether. The Yahoo sports columnist wrote an article this week in which he calls these games a “relic”, “old and unimaginative“ and something to the effect that they don’t mean anything. He continues on some whiny weird rant about how the old people in charge of the conferences are to blame and need to be ousted in favor of younger blah blah blah. I won’t link it because he sounds like a petulant little brat who gives millennials their bad reputation and doesn’t deserve the clicks. The unfortunate effect will be that there are plenty of fans of un-playoff worthy schools who are going to believe that rhetoric because it caresses their agenda.
The problems with Wetzel’s genius plan are many. First off, these championship games make money. Lotsa money. The retort to this is of course will be “Well, a quarterfinal playoff game is gonna make a lotta money too.” In that case, let’s go to the tiebreaker: Would you rather buy a t-shirt that says “SEC Champs” after beating a regional rival even if you don’t play them every year or a t-shirt that says “Quarterfinals Playoff Winner” after beating a UCF or a Washington State who you could care less about? What about the football players? Are they going to wear a ring that says “SEC Champs”? Hell yeah, they will and DO! Would they wear a ring that says “Quarterfinals Playoff Winner” or even “Semifinals Playoff Winner”? I don’t think I need to answer that.
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES DON’T MATTER
Really? Why don’t you ask Alabama and Georgia about that. This time last year, Wisconsin was 12-0 heading into the Big Ten Championship Game. If Ohio State had not been there to expose them, the Badgers probably would have gotten in the playoff over Alabama. Auburn would have taken Georgia’s place had the Bulldogs not gotten their revenge in the 2017 SECCG. Wrap your brain around that for a minute! Imagine that: no historic Rose Bowl win for UGA and no 2nd and 26 for the Tide. But we get Wisky and Auburn in the playoff. Yay.
An additional downside to eliminating the conference championship games are the controversies that will come with who actually claims the crown and the playoff birth
Suppose both Alabama and Georgia both went 12-0 this season. They didn’t play each other or lose. Thus there would be some bizarre tie-breakers like who got the most first downs against conference foes, etc. In 1989, three SEC teams finished 6-1 in the conference. Tennessee’s one loss was to Alabama who lost to Auburn who lost to Tennessee. The Vols won the tiebreaker because Auburn lost at FSU that season as well. Do we really want to go back to those days? The idea of the SECCG was birthed out of the drama of that season.
Only one team can win a National Championship. But five Power-5 teams and ten total FBS teams will be able to claim a Conference Championship earned on the field.
FOOTBALL IS NOT A DEMOCRACY
There is always the yappy little chihuahua in the corner squealing that each conference should be represented the playoff. Football isn’t a democracy. This isn’t the Olympics Opening Ceremonies where Papua New Guinea gets to walk shoulder to shoulder with the USA and Russia just because they are the best in their own country. It’s four Americans vs four Russians vs three Brits vs three Germans vs three Chinese and Papua New Guinea is just glad to be there.
For you young whipper-snappers who don’t remember how the champions of college football were crowned before the BCS, count your blessings. It was all based on who the CFB writers liked and voted for in a poll. It was a terribly flawed system that went on way too long. The BCS vastly improved the process but was still not perfect. There was often one team that didn’t get a shot to prove themselves against #1. The 4-team CFP fixed all of that. To repeat, the goal of the CFP Committee is to put the best four teams together to play. It is not a toddlers’ soccer game where everybody gets to play and everybody gets a trophy. If two or even three teams get in from one conference and they are clearly the best, then so be it. If those three were from the Big Ten, I would hate it but forced to respect it. And so should everyone else.
CUT TO THE CHASE
The way I see it, there are only three worthy playoff teams, maybe two: Alabama, Clemson and just barely Notre Dame. Ohio State has a glaring blowout loss to Purdue and Oklahoma has a godawful horrific defense. And there are folks out there who want to expand? Pass.