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College Football Playoffs: Never Enough

November 25th, 2017 · No Comments · College football, Football

You would think the NCAA knew better. That the sturm und drang that accompanies the 68-team college basketball playoffs would have prompted them to leave football alone — ending the season with bowl games and letting collections of journalists and/or coaches and/or cranks with a trophy to figure out who ranked where.

But then some sharp guy down in accounting did the math and decided a college football playoffs meant more money for the organization and one “champinship game”.

But did anyone really think that pitting Nos. 1 and 2 at the end of the regular season would solve, forever, the “who deserves to be called champion” question?

Or that going from one extra game to three, via the College Football Playoff committee, would definitely, finally, end all hint of unhappiness from the rest of the nation’s major college football teams.

Someone is always going to be on the bubble.

For 16 seasons, beginning in 1998, the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, fed numbers into a machine and the two teams ranked at the top played each other for the national championship.

Remember that?

Instead of mollifying fans and teams and schools and coaches, somebody always felt (as the Brits would say, hard done by. Constant sniping at “the machine” undermined the system. While BCS people would inevitably insist their method was best, having matched the Nos 1 and 2 teams, as ranked by the Associated Press, 13 times in 16 years, somebody (and often more than one somebody) was ticked off pretty much every year because they didn’t think the AP poll (or the algorithm) had it right.

So, in 2014, we got this “improved” College Football Playoff system, made up of a panel of 13 who select the four school in the playoffs, as well as seeding them in the little four-team bracket — and an extra game created for the semifinal winners.

And guess what? People are still not happy. Even with a four-team playoff as the latest “improvement” on a system that earlier just let organizations choose the national champion, which tended to be produce a final No. 1 that was probably the best team, but who could ever be sure?

The problem this year:

At least two of the following are going to be ticked off they are not in the final four: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. All but Alabama have a conference championship to play and if the other five all win, as expected, at least two someones will be ticked off.

So two teams wasn’t good enough. Leading to four, which is proving to be not good enough.

Do I hear eight? Sixteen, anyone? If we get enough teams into the bracket, that will give us a winner everyone is OK with, right?

Uh, no. Each expansion will always leave someone on the edge of participating — but left out. (Maybe they could stage their own tournament, and call it the Football NIT.)

But, seriously, college football could easily go to eight teams, while still using the existing bowls. The first four games would be staged at January 1-2 major bowls; the semis would go to a week later and the title game one week a week after the semis, around January 17, thereabouts.

And 16? Same as before, except the first round of eight games would be played at some of the lesser bowls, in December. Once down to eight, it goes back to the system, above.

The point being, this system, like the one before it, does not satisfy. It is impossible to satisfy everyone.

May as well go back to the old system — The Associated Press writers poll and the coaches poll (or other polls issued by any other group that popped up and had a trophy) issuing rankings after New Year’s Day, and if that leads to two or more “national champions … well, so be it.”

Like in 1921, when six teams claim national championships. Like in 1993, when Auburn, Florida State, Nebraska and Notre Dame each claimed a piece of championship.

We can argue into eternity, but one thing is for sure: The old system would generate more national champions than the current one, and doesn’t that have to be a good thing?

If only the players were robots instead of injury-prone humans we could make it a 64-team bracket, just like March Madness, and play into February with some teams playing, oh, 18 games!

It is pointless to search for the perfect method. None exists.



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