NCAA Football Playoff Format Needs to be Reconfigured

College football fans have seemingly never been too pleased with how the NCAA deals with deciding who is the best team in the nation, let alone the top four. Even before the four-team playoff, fans were clamoring for an eight-team playoff as often as Boise State ran trick plays under Chris Petersen.  The BCS system was thrown out in favor of the College Football Playoff, as both fans and athletic programs agreed that the decision of who should play in the national championship should not be left up to computers, but rather a core committee. This committee would choose the teams that they think should be selected to have the opportunity to compete in the College Football Playoff, similar to how Division I basketball teams are selected to play in March Madness.  Now a 13-person committee comprised primarily current and former athletic directors and football coaches selects the team.

The CFP uses a four-team bracket instead of the computerized rankings used under the BCS system and this year, the committee selected Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. While there certainly are improvements that can be made to the CFP, this new system of deciding which teams are best suited to compete for the CFP trophy is far superior to the BCS system.

The most different attribute of the CFP system and bracket is that it allows what the committee deems to be the best teams to compete for a chance to play in the national championship game.  Previously, under the BCS system, polls were subject to human bias, in addition to the fact that the BCS standings were also partially based off of how the coaches would rank the top 25 teams. This setup assumes that they would have had the time and spent the effort to see all of the relevant teams compete. Instead of determining which two teams were to compete for a national championship under the previous BCS bowl system, the CFP committee makes each team they invite to the College Football Playoff earn their birth to the College Football Playoff final and to subsequently win a national championship.  Nearly every other sport utilizes a playoff system to decide who indeed is the best team in the nation for that year, so there is no reason to doubt the decision made in regards to college football in following suit by establishing the CFP bracket and committee to decide who has a chance to play in the penultimate game of the season.

This new playoff system in effect renders bowl games other than the New Year’s Six (Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl) to be less meaningful.  This is the biggest problem with the CFP.  Now, top players such as running backs Christian McCafferey and Leonard Fournette of Stanford and Louisiana State University respectively, have begun electing to sit out of their team’s bowl games in order to avoid the risk of an injury that might have a negative effect on their draft status. Nobody saw this before the CFP, which glorifies only playing in the top six bowls available.

What needs to happen in order to prevent star players from not finishing out seasons with their teams and playing in their bowl games is to get rid of the meaningless bowl games and to turn them into the early rounds of an extended college playoff, culminating in the national championship game.  This is not to say that CFP is worse than the BCS, but its flaws are evident.

One other major flaw of the current playoff system is its lack of value given towards conference championship games.  Many college football fans will argue that Penn State deserved to be in the four-team bracket instead of a team like Ohio State because they won their conference championships. I believe that in order to improve the CFP system as a whole, conference victories and championship games must be weighed more heavily than they are in the current state of the CFP. If they do not, these games do not serve much purpose and should be scrapped.  Conference tournaments in college basketball play an integral role in the March Madness selection process and the same should go for college football.  Regardless of their loss to USC in the Rose Bowl, the exclusion of Penn State from the CFP illustrates that their comeback victory in the Big Ten Championship game was not enough to propel them into the CFP and that represents a flaw in the system.

Without a doubt, NCAA football is headed towards at least an eight-team playoff; the only question is when it will take place.  This playoff system is the perfect manner to decide which universities should play in bowl games, and adjustments certainly need to be made sooner rather than later.

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