Articles like this, where it’s suggested that the selection committee should ditch its quest to determine college football’s four best teams and favor an approach that excludes teams that don’t win their conference, won’t have an effect in the short run, but I expect they’ll leave a mark down the road.
Note that what really drives the argument there is frustration about the SEC landing two teams in the CFP semi-finals. It’s clothed in a complaint about the subjective nature of picking the field.
Of course, a committee of some sort is necessary when you have four slots and more than four major conferences. But the committee is handed four criteria to consider — championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and comparative outcomes against common opponents — only when “teams are comparable.”
That’s too much wiggle room.
But don’t expect a change. Not even Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby endorsed limiting the field to conference champions.
“The original arguments in the early stages of this were, do we bring forward the four best conference champions or do we bring forward the four best teams? To some extent that discussion is continuing,” Bowlsby said.
Of course, that’s part of the problem. The idea that the committee can identify the four best teams. It’s a god complex. The idea that the committee’s intellect can supersede a championship process. Just go back to Penn State-Ohio State if you don’t believe it.
“We had some discussions at the CFP meetings in April about how … to value conference championships,” Bowlsby said. “What weight should that carry in the portfolio of each of the teams under consideration? We invited 13 honest people to go in a room and pick the best four teams and take into account a lot of criteria that may be weighted differently depending on who’s vantage point you have.
“I don’t think that we are in a situation where we want to get too prescriptive on that.”
Why the heck not? The committee is a necessary evil. Picking four teams to fill out the tournament is not a good idea, it’s just the best idea available. College football is too big, too unwieldy, to produce a non-subjective process. The NFL can do that. The NBA can do that. The college scene cannot, at least not in the current landscape.
But college football can at least lay more parameters for the decision-makers.
The problem with that, of course, is there are five power conferences and only four spots in the tourney. In other words, even if you go to a conference-champ only field, a choice still has to be made about which team to exclude. Even Tramel recognizes it.
The four-team playoff always was going to leave at least one conference on the outside. Five leagues, four spots.
But allowing non-champions creates the possibility of two leagues on the outside, and that’s what happened in 2017.
Alabama is a great program and had a great team. But Bama in 2017 played nine Power-5 Conference opponents before the playoff and wasn’t a conference champ. Southern Cal played 12 Power-5 foes before the playoff and was a conference champ. Alabama made the playoff. USC didn’t get a sniff.
Yeah, yeah. The problem with arguments like there, which attempt to de-legitimize Alabama’s presence in last year’s CFP field, is that the Tide won the damned championship. In other words, when you elevate most deserving over best, you may very well wind up with a different debate about the team crowned in the end.
That being said, we all know what the playoff is really about — spreading the wealth. That’s why I think Tramel’s argument will eventually win out in the form of an eight-team playoff which will further dilute the strength of the participants by combining the objectivity of automatic berths for all P5 champs with the subjectivity of a guaranteed slot for a mid-major along with a couple of wild cards. That, in turn, is going to lead to a slippery slope argument about the ninth team being better than at least one, if not more, of the chosen squads. And that, in turn, will lead to moar expansion. Boy, I can’t wait to fill out those brackets!