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The 1st Annual College Football Playoff

Updated on December 17, 2014

The New Playoff System: Better, But Still Not Good Enough

When the NCAA first announced the creation of the College Football Playoff a few years back, I was one of many who vehemently voiced my approval after years of begging for something better. The BCS system was far too complicated, filled with bias and confusion, and never allowed for the traditional head to head matchups to determine a true champion on the field. Like so many others who live in the South and all across this great nation, college football is my passion. But it absolutely blows my mind to see that one of the most popular sports in America by far can still have one of the most befuddling systems of determining a champion. I never wished for a 64-team bracket like collegiate basketball boasts, but a healthy playoff system seemed like the logical solution to deciding who earned the right to play in the National Championship game. Then a few years back, I heard that the new playoff bracket would only include the top 4 teams. My first instinct was, "Whatever. At least it's a playoff and that's a step in the right direction!" And even now, I still feel like it's a step in the right direction. But after having lived through a season under the new College Football Playoff Committee and examining the results of their final polls, I feel like that step needed to be a lot bigger. And we still have one or two more steps to go to get it right.

The Iron Fist of Major College Football...
The Iron Fist of Major College Football...

The Flaws with the New System

Before I get too far into slamming the work of this Playoff Committee, let me say that I think they got the four teams in the playoff right this time. You can argue all day about the order and seeding and I will give you my two cents on that a little further down, but I think the four teams that deserved to be in the discussion made it to the dance. So to that end, I say congratulations on a job well done. You came together as a group week after week, toiling over countless hours of footage and games. You debated wins, losses, body of work, quality of opponents, injuries, and countless other measurables on a weekly basis. And finally, after all that hard work, dedication, and devotion to your committee's mission....you picked four conference champions from the Power Five. Great work, because that's probably who deserved to get in anyway. But did we really need a committee of 13 to determine that???

In case you were holding your breath there, the answer is no. One of my biggest beefs against the old BCS system was the human bias that contributed to who made it to the National Championship game each year. First, you had the AP Poll, which is absolute garbage to start with, contributing to the final determination of rankings each week. You cannot realistically post a pre-season poll and use it as a measuring stick for suceeding weeks of gameplay before the first snap even occurs! Not if you want my respect anyway. Then there was the Coaches Poll, which I did have a little more respect for since those guys actually participate in the sport and know a talented football team when they see one. But if you're gonna stand there and argue with me that there wasn't any bias present from a group of guys who are actively coaching collegiate football and making decisions based on the best interest of their teams and conferences, you're out of your mind. And finally, there was the "computer" poll. Everyone seemed so content that the computer was 100% bias free because a machine popped out those results each week. NEWS FLASH: COMPUTERS ARE MAN-MADE! And those same geniuses who programmed the analytics and measurable into those computers can reprogram them to alter outputs if need be for financial or political gain. I'm not saying that's what happened. I'm just not saying it isn't....

So we finally threw that dumpster fire into...well...a dumpster and created a four team playoff. The word "playoff" alone and the formation of a bracket quiets the rebellious chants against the BCS and the NCAA and settles everyone down so the big shots can keep their jobs another few years and celebrate their progress. We are making progress after all. But the current system is still highly flawed. As soon as I heard the word "committee", I knew we were in for more of the same bias-filled rationale as before. And while the final four teams have the opportunity to decide their fate on the field (which is as it should be), the road to the final four was a bit rocky this year to say the least. The TCU and Baylor debacle was bad enough when the committee made the decision to move TCU ahead of Baylor even though they lost the head to head meeting. Then, the committee jumps Ohio State and Baylor around TCU at the end of the season following a 50+ point victory by the Horned Frogs. Granted, it was a victory against a fledgling Iowa State team that you should win if you're TCU. But the real issue is that the Frogs shouldn't have been in that position in the first place. It took a committee of 13 to screw that one up and we can look forward to more injustices in the future as long as this format continues. But never fear, faithful readers. For there is a light at the end of this tunnel and I hope it gets a lot brighter in the near future.

A Better System

I'm actually glad the first year of the College Football Playoff was filled with chaos and questionable decisions. It highlighted two obvious issues: the playoff bracket has to be larger and the committee's input must be limited. There are currently 128 teams in Division 1 Football. To think that any committee can legitimately pick 4 clear cut teams out of 128 as the only worthy contenders for the crown without any doubts or issues raised otherwise is preposterous (and I don't get to use that word very often either.) There are going to be more than four undefeated or 1-loss teams every year and all of them will think they deserve a shot at the playoff. Should they all get in automatically simply because they have the best records? No, I don't think anyone would make that argument. That would simply be preposterous! (Got it in twice!) But we definitely need to widen the field of the playoff format and put certain parameters regarding team qualification. This will provide for a better tournament result and far less input and potential blunder by a committee.

Do You Think The Current Playoff Format Needs to Be Changed?

See results

My Solution

If anyone reading this knows someone that's a high ranking official at the NCAA, particularly in the College Football division, please forward this hub to them ASAP. We're gonna need to get this thing done in the next year or so. The solution we are all waiting for is a 12-team playoff which rewards conference champions, undefeated seasons, allows for stronger conferences to get in multiple participants, makes room for the little guys to have a shot, and limits the power of the CFP committee to narrow the field down to whom THEY deem to be the best of the best. In short, it's damn brilliant.

The larger field of 12 will eliminate nearly all of the griping and grumbling from teams that feel they should have a shot at the playoffs. As it currently stands, it's easy to see how a team could slip up 1 week of the season, lose a close one, and wind up on the outside looking in (How's the weather out there, TCU?), especially when there are only 4 positions available. However, if you can't fight and claw your way over the course of an entire season to be considered one of the 12 best programs in the country and are still on the bubble at number 13 or 14, you realistically don't have much of an argument for being crowned champion anyway. Isn't that what the National Championship is all about? Putting the 2 best teams in one game to duke it out for the title?

Team Selections: The Conference Champs

It amazes me that almost every other sport in the history of mankind bases its rankings on how many wins and losses you accumulate throughout the season. Only college football says, "Well I know they won the most games and were undefeated, but they just didn't look good doing it. Their schedule was a little weaker than another team with more losses, and that team won by an extra touchdown on that day, so I think the team with more losses will be ranked higher." WHAT?!?! Imagine if the NFL or Major League Baseball decided to start basing the playoffs on style points and the fact that the NFC South has a much weaker conference this year than the AFC North, so we should take that into consideration when selecting our playoff teams. The uproar alone would cause the league to be looking for a new Commissioner almost seasonally. It doesn't matter how flashy your star player was during the game, whether you blew an opponent out by 30 points or 3, or whether your starting QB went down in Week 10 and changed the direction of the team from that point forward. All that matters at the end of the season is wins and losses. You Play To Win The Game! Period! (Thanks Herm.) Throw all that other garbage out the window and look at W's, at least initially. Some of those other measurables may be used in tiebreaker situations, but there is no excuse for a Power 5 defending National Champion who went undefeated to be ranked 4th in the final polls. The system is clearly broken before it even gets started good.

The ultimate goal for every team each year in the long term is likely the same (or at least it should be): Win a National Title. But in the more immediate future, the primary goal for most is to win your Conference Championship. A conference championship is a big deal, no matter what part of the country you play in. It signifies that you are the best of the best in that conference and schools that achieve this milestone deserve to be rewarded for their hard work.

Having said that, the first 5 seeds in the new playoff format will be automatically given to the conference champions from each of the Power 5 Conferences. This means that the Big 12 better hurry up and get back to 12 and hold a Conference Championship Game to determine a champ or figure out another way of determining a singular champion. There will be no dual conference co-champions in this playoff. If your conference can't determine a clear winner, you just lose that automatic bid. The seeding of these conference champions will be determined by, you guessed it, wins and losses. We'll start with the team with the most overall wins. Then, we further separate them by conference wins and losses if need be. That puts an undefeated Florida State team as a 1 seed and an Ohio State team with a perfect conference record as a 2 seed.

For sake of the Big 12 argument, take Baylor and TCU, who shared the crown this year (that whole situation is a sad joke, by the way). They both have 8-1 conference records as well as 11-1 overall records. But Baylor won the head to head meeting, so in my mind and anyone else who has half a brain, Baylor should be your conference champ and will be for purposes of this playoff bracket.

Now we look at the one loss teams. Sorry Big 12 fans, but your conference will be punished for not playing that extra game. You need a conference championship like the other Power 5 conferences. Since Oregon and Alabama have 12 overall wins and Baylor only has 11, Baylor is slotted at the 5 seed. The Pac-12 also provides the benefit of playing 9 conference games versus 8 in the SEC. Conference games are definitely preferential in this system because it eliminates selective scheduling by the universities and forces teams to play additional head to head games against conference foes that can be used to help determine a champion. Because of this, Oregon gets the nod at the 3 seed and Alabama will fall to the 4 spot.

The 6 seed will automatically go to the top ranked conference champion from the Group of 5 conferences. This addition will ensure that the smaller conferences still have a chance to get into the mix and vie for a title year in and year out. I hear the argument from Power 5 fans every year that the Group of 5 schools play lesser competition and couldn't hang with the Power 5 schools. If this is the case, let them in and enjoy what should be an easy win for your team, right? In this scenario, we have Marshall from Conference USA with a 12-1 overall record getting the nod at the 6 seed ahead of an 11-2 Boise State team from the Mountain West. And that's the top half of the playoff bracket.

1. Florida State
2. Ohio State
3. Oregon
4. Alabama
5. Baylor
6. Marshall

Isn't it amazing how this system automatically placed the same 4 teams in this year's playoff without the need of weeks of fanfare and buildup and multiple ranking adjustments from a committee? But hey, we're only halfway done!

Not Those Other Guys...
Not Those Other Guys...

Team Selections: The Other Guys

The last six positions will ideally go to the 6 most deserving teams that aren't already in by virtue of being a conference champion. In most cases, an undefeated season in this system would place you in a top 6 seed. However, schools like BYU or Notre Dame that do not technically belong to a conference have no way of making this previous cut. Additionally, If there were multiple Group of 5 schools that had perfect seasons, one of these also may be left on the outside looking in. Any team that can win every single game they play over the course of a season deserves a shot at championship gold, so any of these schools that may have been left out to this point will be added in next. The committee will be allowed to determine seeding order, beginning at 7, if multiple undefeated teams are involved. The necessity of this addendum may fluctuate from season to season and may include 1 or even 2 schools some years, but in many cases, no additional teams will qualify. In this particular season, there are no undefeated schools in Division 1 aside from Florida State who is already the 1 seed, so there are still six positions left to fill.

These back positions will also be determined based on wins and losses. In college football, it is nearly impossible to chart a course through an entire season and not have at least 1 bad week. Any 1-loss Power 5 teams will be implanted into the tournament next, using conference wins as a secondary tiebreaker. If teams are still tied, the committee will deliberate and determine seeding based on which team they feel is the strongest. Since TCU is the only other Division 1 football team with only 1 loss at 11-1, they will assume the 7 seed.

If any positions are still available after implanting the 1-loss teams, these spots will be filled by the top teams remaining in the CFP committee's final Top 25 list. This means that the committee essentially will get to choose the final 5 entrants in this year's scenario. Here's how the back 6 entrants shake out:

7. TCU
8. Mississippi State
9. Michigan State
10. Ole Miss
11. Arizona
12. Kansas State

And that's the playoff field! It encompasses a well rounded grouping of the best teams across the collegiate landscape and ensures that a championship run will be decided on the field and not in a board room. Unfortunately for yours truly, this year's playoff field would make me a victim of my own system. As a Georgia native and avid Georgia and Georgia Tech fan (in that order, mind you), my two teams are both on the outside of the bubble looking in at numbers 13 and 14. But hey, fair is fair. The bottom line is that both teams had 3 losses this season; if you want to make the playoffs, find a way to win a couple more of those games. In addition to the Georgia folks, this format also leaves a 2-loss Boise State team out of the mix. We can forgive the Ole Miss loss in the opener, but you also fell to an Air Force team you should have beaten. Sorry Boise fans, it's just not good enough.

Okay, so you've seen the 12 teams and you understand the concept of a single elimination playoff, but wonder how is this whole thing going to work out with the current bowl format? I thought you'd never ask!


Round 1: Kickin' Off the New Year

As with most standard tournaments, the playoff teams will be placed in games based on seeding. The 1 seed will play the 12 seed, 2 seed vs. 11 seed, 3 vs. 10, and so on. All 12 teams will participate in Round 1 in a total of six bowls that will occur both on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. December 31st will host the first 3 of these bowl games scheduled at staggered start times with the final 3 games slated for January 1st, creating two full days of college football heaven. This way, we end the year with great football and begin the new year with great football. The bowl sponsors and bowl games involved may change from year to year in this round based on sponsorship levels and partner participation, but you get the general idea.

Now some folks will ask, "Why not start the playoff games immediately following the conference championships?" Good question. As fans, we get caught up in the week to week drama and excitement that is college football. Once the season kicks off, we want action every Saturday until our eyeballs bleed. But it's important to remember the 'Student' part of student-athlete. Mid-December is Finals week for just about every university in the country. This break gives the students a few weeks to study and take finals and then allows them an opportunity to spend some time with their families and friends around the holidays before getting back to football. It also allows teams a chance to rest up and get healthy so that we can see as many starters healthy and ready to play as possible, which makes the games that much more interesting. It also allows some of the other bowls to begin playing their matchups ahead of the playoffs as in previous years to help build up to the event.

Round 1 Slate of Games

Bowl Sponsor
Start Time
Visitor
Home
Belk Bowl
Dec. 31st - 12:00PM
7TCU
6Marshall
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
Dec. 31st - 3:30PM
8Miss. State
5Baylor
Outback Bowl
Dec. 31st - 7:00PM
9Michigan State
4Alabama
Valero Alamo Bowl
Jan. 1st - 12:00PM
11Arizona
2Ohio State
BWW Citrus Bowl
Jan. 1st - 3:30PM
12Kansas State
1Florida State
Goodyear Cotton Bowl
Jan. 1st - 7:00PM
10Ole Miss
3Oregon
A scenario of Round 1 of the New Playoffs. And the late game is over by 10:30 for you East Coasters who have to work the next morning. You're welcome!

Who's In? Round 1

Just for a little fun, I'm gonna pick who I think would win these matchups were they actually played this year. There is lots of intrigue in Saban playing his old team and Ole Miss and Oregon would be great. These aren't easy, but here goes:

TCU vs. Marshall:

Winner - TCU

Miss. State vs. Baylor:

Winner - MSST

Michigan State vs. Alabama:

Winner - Alabama

Ole Miss vs. Oregon:

Winner - Oregon

Arizona vs. Ohio State:

Winner - Ohio State

Kansas State vs. Florida State:

Winner - FSU

Round 2: Champions Choice

In any playoff format, there will inevitably be naysayers. No matter how much you perfect the system, someone is gonna have a complaint. It's human nature and totally expected. I'm not saying this format is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's damn close. I have pitched this playoff format to a few friends over the past couple of weeks to get some constructive feedback during the developmental stages of this baby and there were some good questions posed. One of the initial arguments I heard involved the lack of motivation teams would have to strive for a 1 seed position. One person suggested that a team is actually better off aiming for the 7 seed spot so that they could face the 6 seed competition from a Group of 5 school rather than a top 10 ranked Power 5 school with only 1 or 2 losses. This argument is legitimate on the surface, but becomes null and void during Round 2. Curious? Yeah, I thought so.

Following the completion of the New Years Eve and New Year's Day first round playoff bowls, the field of 12 teams will be narrowed to 6. The top 2 seeded teams remaining in the playoff at this point will be given the option of taking Round 2 as a bye week or passing it downward to the next highest seeded team. If the 1 seed opts to play in Round 2, the bye option goes to the next highest seed and so on until someone either takes the bye week or the last seed left in the tournament is forced to take it. The 2 seed is given the same courtesy as the 1 seed. This 2nd Round bye format would be unique to college football and allows the two best teams the option to take a week off, rest, and study the competition in the middle of the tournament! After the bye teams are determined, the remaining 4 teams will square off in head to head competition with the highest seed facing the lowest seed and the two middle seeds competing. These 2 games will be played the Saturday following New Year's week and will eliminate two more teams from contention, bringing the playoff picture down to the final 4 schools.

Round 2 Slate of Games

Bowl Sponsor
Start Time
Visitor
Home
Vizio Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 10th - 4:00PM
8Miss. State
3Oregon
Capital One Orange Bowl
Jan. 10th - 8:00PM
7TCU
4Alabama
1Florida State and 2Ohio State took the 2nd Round Bye in this scenario. Or in pretty much any scenario...

Who's In? Round 2

These are two great matchups that would constitute yet another weekend of must-see football. Here's my picks:

Miss. State vs. Oregon:

Winner - Oregon

- MSST has had a dream season, but I don't think Dak Prescott has what it takes to down the high flying Ducks this year.

TCU vs. Alabama:

Winner - Alabama

- I really don't think this one is as close in the 4th as the other matchup. Bama pulls away at the end and moves on.

Round 3: The Final Four

We've arrived back at where we are today. A four team playoff for the National Championship. The big difference is that these four teams proved they belong in this field of four by playing head-to-head against some of the best competition in the country and still found a way to win. These four teams are the most deserving in the nation at this point without question. From here, the system is very similar to the format currently in place; the highest remaining seed will play the lowest remaining seed and the middle seeds will play each other. These games will occur the Saturday after Round 2 and will feature two more great matchups with the winners punching their tickets to the National Championship game.

The best part of this whole format is the reduction in power allocated to the Playoff Committee. While this committee is very important and will still be vital in helping to select the final few participants involved in the playoff each year, they do not have absolute power in deciding which schools get to participate in the tournament or what the head to head matchups will be. This is America after all. Our government and nation was founded on a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one group or entity could have uncontested control over the direction of the country. That system has worked pretty well over the past 238 years in my opinion, so I can't see supporting a collegiate landscape where a small group of individuals can dictate one team's win being weighted heavier than another team's win in modern day America. Sorry that I'm getting a little too impassioned here, but you get my drift.

Now there are some who have also questioned the reseeding process from round to round. Their argument is essentially that by reseeding the highest seed versus the lowest seed after every round played, you are giving the top two seeds an unfair advantage in the playoff. See people, I'm not scared to bring a little criticism to the forefront and address it publicly. In regards to this argument, I feel that this is another unique element that will set the college football playoff apart from other formats. And as far as the unfair advantage goes, it's like that old saying, "To the victor go the spoils..." If you want the easiest possible road to the National Championship game, win ball games and be a 1 or 2 seed. It's really just that simple.

The Final Four and Championship Game

Bowl Sponsor
Start Time
Visitor
Home
Rose Bowl Game
Jan. 17th - 4:00PM
3Oregon
2Ohio State
AllState Sugar Bowl
Jan. 17th - 8:00PM
4Alabama
1Florida State
National Championship
Jan. 26th - 8:30PM
4Alabama
3Oregon

Who's In? Rounds 3 and 4

As you probably guessed from the table above, I'm picking Oregon over Ohio State in Round 3. OSU has just had too many QB woes to compete consistently with the cream of the crop. In the other game, I think Bama brings the pain and finally ends the streak of Famous Jameis and FSU.

In the Championship game, I think we have a showdown for the ages, but when the smoke clears and the dust settles, 4Alabama goes home with the ultimate prize and a great win over the Pac 12 champs. Roll Tide!

The Tide is still very much rolling.
The Tide is still very much rolling.

Summary

College football is by far the most popular of the collegiate athletics. There's really no comparison. Most universities use the revenue earned from college football to fund all the other major athletic programs that it participates in and then some. College football is second place in this country only to the NFL when it comes to television viewership among sports. The game has been played on a regular basis in this great nation since 1869. For those of you who have poor arithmetic skills or are just too lazy to do the math in your head (I forgive you), that's 145 YEARS! So someone please tell me how, after 145 years of playing the game, improving the game for safety and watchability and just generally making the sport better, do we have such a biased and downright unacceptable system of determining a national champion? This year marks the closest we have gotten yet to a Division 1 playoff in the modern era and it should come as no surprise that the newest format is still full of flaws. College football needs a system that includes a larger pool of participants competing in head to head matchups that are not determined strictly by a committee. Let's face it, college football is not just a sport played for fun anymore, it's a business. A very big business. Any entity that generates that much cabbage on an annual basis is definitely big business. When you have that much money at stake and multiple outside businesses and corporations greedily competing for sponsorships and media rights, it's easy to leave the door open to corruption and shady practices. While the current committee may be respectable and unbiased in every way, it's easy to see how this could become a potential hazard in the future. My proposed system will help to eliminate the human element of determining the road to the National Championship and give each of the entrants an equal shot at achieving the ultimate prize. Thanks for reading and please share this article with every sports fan that you know and don't forget to leave your comments and feedback below. Together, we WILL make this dream a reality!

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