Not So Easy College Football Playoff Changes

Yesterday was more than exciting, but that’s college football almost every week. Yesterday might have been more exciting because we’d like to see these bigger matchups in the regular season, or because we haven’t seen tight ends do double hurdles in a few weeks, or because a power conference fell from grace and another seemingly rose out of nowhere. I can’t put my finger on exactly why yesterday was great, but I can tell you one thing: my demand for a 12-team playoff was a joke. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the number or the formula or anything related. I’m still not convinced that four is the right number, but I’m leaning that way.

I do, however have a few suggestions. Right, Ohio State and Oregon haven’t played, but that won’t have any effect on what I’m about to tell you, so let’s get it out of the way before someone else does and makes me look like a copy/paster:

  1. Pick the best four teams
  2. Eliminate final rankings based on conference championship week
  3. Don’t become NASCAR. Find a formula and stick with it
  4. Play games that finish before 1am

Pick the Best Four Teams

This one seems obvious, but for whatever reason it didn’t play out this way. Coming into yesterday’s games, everyone was under the assumption that Ohio State was the team that didn’t deserve to be in the playoff. If you’ve listened or read anything I’ve said, I told you that Ohio State is the team that consistently improved over the entire season. Based on how their season ended, you could have made the argument they deserved to be ranked higher than number four. The reality is, as long as we have humans making these decisions alone there will be bias at play.

Which of the four was the least deserving based on yesterday’s performance AND their performance throughout the season: Florida State. Yes, Florida State had won 29 games in a row, had a Heisman Trophy winner, and was the defending National Champion, but simply watching them week in and week out would have told you they weren’t one of the best teams in the country.

When your Power 5 conference is the fifth of five and you’re surviving against Miami, Boston College and Florida late in the season, you aren’t one of the best four teams. The question then becomes, which of the top eight do you put in? Well, that answer is less than obvious.

Eliminate Final Rankings Based on Conference Championship Week

This one seems obvious. There are five Power 5 conferences, but only four have conference championship games. The easiest solution is to force the Big 12 to declare a conference champion. That’s also the biggest problem. The other four have conference championship games, so what do you do with the Big 12 then? Right, the easiest solution is to de-emphasize (read: eliminate) the conference championship game and go with performance in the regular season.

The commissioners will never agree to this because those conference championship games are money grabs for them and their schools, so we’ll file this under ‘Pipe Dream,’ but the reality is, crazy things happen in championship games, and right, sometimes the best teams don’t win.

What if Wisconsin beats Ohio State and Arizona beats Oregon in their conference championship games? Are we now forced to eliminate those two teams from the playoff because of a conference championship loss when their performance in the regular season clearly dictates they were two of the best all year?

Don’t become NASACR. Find a formula and stick with it

The impetus will be for change after the first playoff. I’m probably OK with that, but please don’t enact changes every year because one team or conference dominates the playoff. Feel free to find a formula that works – even if unpopular – and stick with it for four to five years. The great thing about college football is that even if people don’t agree with how the champion is selected, they will always watch. The BCS era proved that.

If powers-that-be tweak and change the formula or selection process on a yearly basis then they’ve basically become NASCAR. NASCAR is now the WWE who changes the rules on the fly and doesn’t share its rule book with the fans. The fans are significant shareholders in college football and deserve a say in how the playoffs are played, but shouldn’t be the reason the deciding formula is changed on a frequent basis.

Have the testicular fortitude to say ‘no’ to change. #NoMeansNo

Play games that end before 1 am

Last night was totally unacceptable. Slotting college football games that will have as many commercial slots as the Super Bowl into 3:15 minute windows doesn’t work. It doesn’t work when you “start” the first game at 5 and tell us the next game will “start” at 8:30. It also doesn’t work that you didn’t start the second game until after 9:15 and that I didn’t leave my viewing location until nearly 1am.

Oh, and it’s a school night.

For many people, it didn’t matter, and I understand why college football and the NFL don’t want to play these important games on the weekend, so at the very least start them at a reasonable time. I hate tradition, but I get why the Rose Bowl is before the Sugar Bowl. Is there any reason you can’t have the Rose Bowl at 4 and the Sugar Bowl at 7? The Cotton Bowl people won’t mind starting that game at 2 knowing half the viewing crowd will leave early for the Rose. Or start the Cotton at 12. I don’t care, but having these games end at 1am on a school night any night doesn’t work.

Next year, these games will be replaced with two other bowl games next year, so change the names of the bowls to fit whatever narrative you want, but the important part is that games cannot end at 1am.

There was a ton to like about the first installment of the College Football Playoff, but there’s room for improvement both on and off the field. The easiest changes are always playing the best four teams no matter their record or conference affiliation and not starting games at 9pm on the east coast. The hardest change: not penalizing teams because their conference doesn’t have a championship.

What do you think? What changes would you make to playoff after the first year? Leave a comment below or e-mail me at damien.bowman@cfbroundtable.com.