By Jeffrey Swindoll
The College Football Playoff discussion is utter chaos. Never have I seen a season where there is as much dispute over who is better than the other within conferences than this season. Six teams – Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, TCU, Baylor and Florida State – are jockeying for just four spots in the first-ever College Football Playoff.
The conversation about which teams deserve a spot is the farthest thing from unanimous. College football has an evident problem. There are too many teams that are virtually equal on paper for it to come down to just four spots. Who can really say Alabama is a team better than Oregon, or that Ohio State is better than TCU or Baylor? Those are tough questions to answer. The most logical response is to expand the playoff to eight teams.
The words “Power Five Conference” have been tossed around quite a bit this season. For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically means that the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, ACC and Pac-12 are, by far, the elite conferences of the NCAA, and therefore are the only conferences that should be in the national championship discussion.
The College Football Playoff selection committee has stated that it will give priority to conference champion teams. I agree with giving priority to teams that win their respective conference, but it’s counterintuitive to have just four playoff spots, considering the “Power Five Conference” ideology. At least one “Power Five Conference” is destined to be left out of the playoff.
Head-to-head wins will also be emphasized. This rule functions as a tiebreaker and is applied when teams have the same record in NCAA football and basketball, as well as professional leagues, including the NFL when deciding wild card spots or divisional champions. Baylor fans have been claiming this rule ever since the initial College Football Playoff rankings were released, placing TCU higher than Baylor, in spite of the Bears’ 61-58 win at McLane Stadium earlier this season.
Justifying a higher ranking for TCU requires too much work. Comparing out-of-conference schedule and point-differential of the other games in the season is absolute nonsense when the two teams you’re comparing have already played each other.
TCU is a great team. So are Baylor, Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Alabama. Unfortunately, even with the head-to-head tiebreaker and the conference champion emphasis, there will be teams left out of the chance to play for a national championship. All of those teams have a valid argument for a spot, but there just aren’t enough spots. The format is too small.
From the moment the four-team playoff system was announced, I’ve said it’s not enough and that it should be eight teams.
The reason for the switch from the BCS system to the playoff system was to ensure that the national championship game really does feature the two best teams. After Alabama embarrassed Notre Dame 42-14 in the 2013 BCS National Championship game, it was hard to deny that the system was broken.
With the playoff system we now have in place, we have the opportunity to really see a champion earn a national title in a tournament format. That’s the way all the best leagues in America do it, and college football should be no different. The NCAA has the right idea with a playoff system, but the means to the end are inadequate.
If we really are switching the format to crown the real, undisputed champion of college football, then just add one more round to the playoff system.
Leave it for the eight best teams in the country to decide it on the field, and not for members of a committee to arbitrarily narrow it down to an insufficient, unfair number.
Jeffrey Swindoll is a junior journalism and film and digital media double major from Miami. He is a sports writer and regular columnist for the Lariat.