In its Auburn preview, CFN drops a line I’ve been expecting, but hadn’t really seen until now:
The season will be a success if … the Tigers get into College Football Playoff. Of course they want to win the SEC title again, but that doesn’t really matter so much in the new world – it’s all about being ranked in the top four.
Before you sneer and accuse me of overreacting to a throwaway media line, keep in mind that the College Football Playoff is officially on record as saying that conference championships are nothing more than a tiebreaker in the grand scheme of things now.
On the occasion of the two-year anniversary of its birth Friday, the College Football Playoff released a document to USA TODAY Sports and other outlets that reveals its vision for how teams should be selected. The document, drafted June 20, 2012, also details the order of criteria its founders envision for the selection committee to break ties when setting the four-team playoff field.
“Strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and championships won must be specifically applied as tie-breakers between teams that look similar,” the document reads. Those were proposed to differentiate between “teams with similar records and similar pedigree.”
Don’t be so surprised. It’s the natural consequence of using a subjective formula to name the participants in the national playoffs. And it’s the first step that makes people like me nervous about what kind of effect postseason expansion will have on college football’s regular season.
The problem with such a formula is that it’s inherently unstable. Picking a top four based on the feelings of a selection committee is going to invite the inevitable second guessing that comes with the territory. And that’s likely to intensify the first time a non-conference winner gets the nod ahead of a school that holds a power conference championship trophy. There’s too much money and too much media attention involved to expect otherwise.
And there’s one obvious way to fix that problem.