College football fans across the country are already getting excited for the start of the 2014 season. 2014 is already set to be an historic year for top-level college football for one simple reason: fans and teams alike will finally get the playoff system we have wanted for years.
Seeing as we are just a bit less than 10 months away from getting our first ever set of college football playoff teams, now is as good a time as any to start speculating about how the system will work. It will certainly be a huge step up from the old BCS system, and the playoff will do wonders to cement the reality of the national title. A four-team playoff will be much more definitive than a single championship game, making the eventual champion much more secure in their victory.
That being said, though, it’s worthwhile to consider what kind of team will likely be rewarded with a trip to the playoff. Now that the selection committee has been selected1 and information is starting to gather about the criteria that will be used to judge potential playoff teams, we can start to get a picture of what next December will look like.
By all accounts, strength of schedule will be a dominant factor in picking playoff teams. Talking to SI.com in October, Condolezza Rice said that “…strength of schedule among conferences will be a very important element,” in her playoff vote.
This kind of language points specifically to power conferences. In the past, the “Strength of schedule” argument has usually been brought up as justification for keeping an undefeated non-power conference school in the middle of the top 25 instead of including them in the BCS conversation. It seems fair to say that we should all prepare ourselves to see power conference matchups in the playoff, turning the whole affair into a sort of Americanized Champions League.
Now I’m not saying this won’t be fun. It’ll be loads of fun. With any luck, fans who’s team misses the playoff will show support for their conference championship, and these three games will be a chance to work out a more definitive conference pecking order. This playoff is going to be fun to watch, it’s just… well… it’s not exactly what I had been hoping for.
Let me explain.
I remember pretty clearly the first time I wanted a college football playoff. It was 2006, and Boise State had just completed the first undefeated (and untied) season in the school’s history. They won their conference outright and the AP rewarded them with a national ranking of… 9th. The team would earn a birth in the Fiesta Bowl, but there was no serious conversation about sending the Broncos to the national title game. This didn’t seem fair to my 15 year old sensibilities. I mean, what else did Boise State have to do to earn a title shot? They had won all their games behind one of the best offenses in the country, shouldn’t that be enough? If a national title is meant to show who was the best team during this season, then any team should be able to earn the title during this one season. Boise State could not have done any better on the field and they still weren’t rewarded.
I had hoped that a college football playoff would solve this problem. But with the size of the playoff and the clear emphasis on strength of schedule2, it seems like power conferences will dominate the playoff spots, at least at first. One way to solve all this would be to expand the field to eight teams. That way each of the five power conferences would be able to claim at least one spot, with three still open to possibly be filled by upstart schools from outside the mainstream.
But it’s unlikely that the powers that be will expand the playoff any time soon. I mean, once you expand the field to eight, where does it stop? Soon we’d have to include 16 teams, then 32 and maybe even 64. Before you know it, we’d have two months of college football playoffs, with every team competing all across the country for our entertainment. And that would be… terrible. Just terrible.
- You know, I hadn’t thought of this before but someone must selected the selection committee, right? So that means that at some point in time the NCAA formed a selection committee selection committee. But how did they choose the members of the SCSC? There must first have been a selection committee selection committee selection committee. But who decided who would be on the SCSCSC? The Illuminati? Probably.
- Not to mention the selection committee itself. Every member of the selection committee except one has either a degree, a job, or both from a power conference school. The one who doesn’t is Lt. General Michael Gould, former superintendent of the US Air Force Academy.