What is This New College Football Playoff(CFP) About?
The New and Improved Path to the Title
In the immortal words of former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach, Jim Mora, "Playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?!?" Yes, Jim, we will be talking about playoffs, but specifically, from the college side of the house. College fans have been asking for it, and the NCAA finally delivered it, ahead of schedule. The path to the national championship has expanded, and four teams will be selected to participate in a "Final Four" playoff format. This exciting new scenario has charged college fan bases everywhere, giving gridiron college teams a better chance to win an elusive and prestigious National Football Title for its school, fans, alumni, and donors. However, even with the new changes for the better, the challenge of going from a computer generated program to a human selection committee could lead some fans to be just as frustrated with the new system.
The Straw That Broke The BCS Camel's Back
Why did the NCAA need a new system? Because the old one was broken. The new playoff format replaces the Bowl Championship Series(BCS) which started in 1998. The BCS was a computer generated ranking system compiling data from several polls, such as the USA Today's Coaches poll. The BCS formula processed the data and assigned each college a BCS output value, producing the weekly rankings. At the end of the season, after all of the Conference Championships, the two teams with the highest BCS outputs were rewarded with the coveted trip to the National Championship game.
Even with its flaws, the BCS rankings successful placed the Top 2 teams for the championship in most cases. However, the uproar and eventual demise of the BCS occurred during the 2012 BCS title game, featuring two SEC teams, the LSU Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. During the 2011 regular season, LSU defeated Alabama, the #1 and #2 teams in the BCS respectively at the time, sending LSU to play(and defeat) the SEC East champion, the Georgia Bulldogs, in the SEC championship conference game. In the end, after a series of stunning late season upsets such as West Virginia losing to Pittsburgh, and Oklahoma State losing to Kansas State, the final BCS rankings pitted LSU against Alabama for championship game.
Not only did the BCS title game contain the two teams from the same conference, but they both were from the same division! The outrage stemmed from the fact that Alabama did not win their division, nor did they play in the conference title game, but ended up playing in the National Title game. Many felt that Oklahoma State and not Alabama should have been in that final game.
To add the proverbial salt to the proverbial wound, Alabama soundly defeated LSU, 21-0 to win the national championship. Ouch.
Enter the College Playoff System(CFP)
The new College Playoff System is the answer to the BCS haters' prayers. Four teams will be selected to compete in two semi-final games, and the winners will meet each other in the National Championship game, two weeks later. This year, the Rose and Sugar Bowls will be the venues for the semi-finals, and the final will be played in the house that Jerry Jones built, the AT&T stadium in Arlington, TX.
Here is the schedule overview:
- January 1st, 2015: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA for Semi-Final Game
- January 1st, 2015: Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA for Semi-Final Game
- January 12th, 2015: CFP Championship Game, Arlington, TX
The four teams that will be competing in the CFP will be selected by a thirteen person committee, instead of a BCS computer algorithm. And therein lies the problem, humans with all of their faults, flaws, and biases, must come together to select four teams objectively.
Title Game Location: Arlington, TX - AT&T Stadium
The Committee Who Will Play God
A thirteen member CFP committee will have the honor and difficult task to select the four worthy teams of making to the semi-finals, ranking them 1st to 4th, where the 1st seed will play the 4th seed, and the 2nd seed will play the 3rd seed. Can humans provide unbiased, collective, and objective selections better than a BCS computer program that everyone loathed?
Here are two extreme outcomes that are possible: First, the committee will be perfect, and add that human element of judgement that a computer program would miss, righting all of the wrongs of the BCS. Or, this turns out to be a political disaster where opposing coalitions form(like the dysfunctional executive and congressional branches in our nation's capitol) and "nobody is happy" compromises are made - such selecting two SEC teams for the final four.
Committee members will generally serve 3 year terms on the committee, although there may be some changes or rotations after this initial go around. Represented in this group are athletic directors from the big conferences, former NCAA coaches, former players, and a former USA Today reporter. Some of the higher profile committee members are:
- Condoleezza Rice: The former U.S. Secretary of State was also a Stanford provost.
- Archie Manning: An Ole Miss QB, a former New Orleans Saints QB, and a father to two NFL quarterbacks and TV commercial superstars named Peyton and Eli.
- Tom Osbourne: A coaching legend from Nebraska with a national championship ring.
- Tyrone Willingham: A former Michigan State Spartan player, and former coach to Stanford, Notre Dame, and Washington. Does he have a West Coast or Midwest bias?
Some of the selection criteria in choosing the elite four teams will include:
- Conference championships
- Strength of schedule
- Head-to-head competition
- Common opponents
- Key injuries(such as Ohio State quarterback and Heisman trophy candidate Braxton Miller re-injuring his shoulder and is out for the season).
This could be a daunting adventure for this committee. What if six teams have 12-1 win-loss records? Which of the four would go? What are the tie-breakers? A dream scenario would be that four teams from each of the big conferences would have 13-0 records, the committee selection meeting adjourns in 5 minutes due the ease of selections, and the members head to Ruby Tuesday's for the Happy Hour specials to kill the rest of the day.
Even with the human element of selecting the teams for the CFP which could ultimately lead to another system, this new four team playoff is exciting, and long overdue. Very much like inter-league play in Major League Baseball(why did that take so long?). Big non-conference games in early September such as Oregon vs. Michigan State, and Wisconsin versus LSU can determine what happens in January. College Football Saturdays got much better. Just ask Condoleezza Rice.