Now that we have the third edition of the CFB Playoff this year, it’s time to admit that the system is doing more harm to college football than good.
At the start of the 2014 season, college football fans were promised something that was going to “revolutionize” the sport. The introduction of the four team CFB Playoff system was going to, in the minds of those behind it, finally settle a “true champion” on the field…something it had done for the last seven decades, but that’s not the point.
One of the things that the playoff system claimed it was going to do was decide a champion while protecting the integrity of the game – while making the sport “great” again in making sure that teams who won their conference, or at the very least division, got extra credit for doing so…using the examples of Nebraska in 2001 and Alabama in 2011 as something that wouldn’t happen now.
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On New Year’s Eve, the Ohio State Buckeyes will take part in the Fiesta Bowl – one of the playoff semifinals this year – without having even won their division in the Big Ten. That’s just the latest reason why the CFB Playoff is ruining the sport we love.
Want more? Here’s three main reasons why the system is toxic to college football.
Oct 22, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Grant Haley (15) reacts against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Ohio State 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1 – The CFB Playoff committee lied when it said winning your title was more important
Through the first two seasons of the system, we had teams flirt with making the cut without winning their conference or, at the very least their division – but in the end, things would work themselves out and right would be restored.
In 2016, teams like Penn State and Oklahoma – who did their job and won their conference – will be watching from the Rose and Sugar Bowls, respectively, while the Buckeyes are playing for a chance to raise a national title banner without even a Big Ten East banner.
Yes, Ohio State is a very good team and might very well beat Penn State nine times out of 10 if they played again – but they didn’t do so when it counted. The Nittany Lions are the champs of the Big Ten and should be in the system over Ohio State.
Using the words of Buckeyes head coach (and college football’s biggest hypocrite) Urban Meyer during the 2006 season:
“If you don’t win your conference, you shouldn’t be playing for a national championship”
If we are going to start putting teams in without a conference title, why even have conferences? Why not just have a 128 team free for all and just allow teams to play whoever they want and then we’ll select teams from there? I think the playoff committee would actually love that idea.
Jan 1, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles react following the win over the Northern Illinois Huskies at the 2013 Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. The Seminoles defeated the Huskies 31-10. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
No. 2 – The CFB Playoff system has devalued many bowl games, which has been one of the sports’ best things
For decades – nearly centuries in some cases – one of the joys of the sport has been postseason bowl games. From the Rose to the Sugar and the Orange to the Cotton, fans and players of a school cared as much about their bowl game as they did about winning a national title.
This season, you have a Rose Bowl featuring Penn State and USC, an Orange Bowl showcasing Florida State and Michigan and a Sugar bowl with Auburn and Oklahoma – six of the top programs all time in the sport – being viewed by some fans as afterthoughts.
Even at the lower level, games like LSU/Louisville in the Citrus Bowl or Nebraska/Tennessee in the Music City Bowl or Oklahoma State/Colorado in the Alamo Bowl should be praised as great contests instead of mocked because they are not part of the “Final Four”.
Dec 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks coach mark Helfrich (C) celebrates with right guard Cameron Hunt (78) and left guard Doug Brenner (57) after their Pac-12 Championship against the Arizona Wildcats at Levi
No. 3 – Coaches are on the hot seat if they don’t get to the playoff right away
In Oregon, the Ducks are without a coach after firing Mark Helfrich following a 4-8 season – just two years after they played for the national title for just the second time in program history. In Tallahassee, you had some fans who were calling for Jimbo Fisher’s head after a third loss – three years after WINNING a national title.
The CFB Playoff system has created unrealistic expectations for schools, some that have no business even being in the national title conversation. Not every school can be in the four team system or play for a title – but the mindset is that a 9-3 season and New Year’s Bowl is a “disappointment”
This system is perfect certain categories of people: those who went to or root for schools that either didn’t have football, didn’t have a good football team or it wasn’t the main sport. It has been around for just three seasons and you already have people who think it should be expanded to eight or even 16 teams.
You want a better idea? Go back to the plus one game you had with the second half of the BCS system. I’m sorry if it hurts everyone’s feelings that just two teams will be in the championship running, but tough.
Sep 19, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) is hit by Mississippi Rebels defensive back Tony Conner (12)at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
No. 4 – Losses are actually seen as a good thing by some of the people voting
For as long as I can remember both playing and covering the sport of football, the object has been to win the game and losing has been a bad thing. Well, the playoff committee has changed all that by adding a new term to the conversation.
Dating back to the 2014 season when Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon all made the playoff with a loss (while Florida State did their job and went undefeated), the CFB Playoff committee actually used the term “quality loss”. Even with the Buckeyes this season, they were given a bump considering the fact their loss was to No. 6 and Big Ten champion Penn State.
That’s where we are with the playoff system: actually giving credit to a loss. You can go out and lose the game – but as long as who you played is good, it will be given a pass.