The new playoff format for major college football was supposed to eliminate the subjective judgments of the previous BCS (Bowl Championship Series) to choose a true champion. But, in the first year of its existence, the new system has already proven to be fatally flawed.
Instead of relying on a variety of polls to choose the two best teams to play for a championship, we now must rely upon the opinions of 12 people…6 of them with strong ties to the Big 10 and the Pac 12. Since these two conferences have long and deep ties, going back decades it was predictable that they would support each other’s conference champions. To think that these 6 committee members could set aside their biases to select the best four college football teams, regardless of conference affiliation, is absurd.
Moreover, the Big 10 and Pac 12 represent the vast majority of television viewers in the US. Is it reasonable to assume that ESPN, Fox and the other networks would push for teams from those conferences to boost their ratings? Of course it is! There are millions, perhaps billions, of dollars at stake.
So it was no surprise when, given the opportunity, the selection committee pushed the Big 10 champion, Ohio State, into the playoff, while dropping the Big 12 co-champion, TCU, from number 3 to number 5 despite TCU’s 55-3 win in its last game. The Big 12, after all, had only one representative on the selection committee and its conference teams are mostly scattered across the central plains rather than in the TV viewing gold mines of the east and west coasts.
What makes the committee’s decision all the more questionable is the fact that the Big 12 was considered by most experts and ratings services as one of the two best conferences in the nation, along with the SEC, and the best conference from top to bottom. Indeed, a 2-10 team from the Big 12 beat 7-5 Iowa from the Big 10. Unlike Ohio State, the Big 12’s co-champions won all of their non-conference games, losing only one game each to conference teams with records of 11-1 and 7-5. On the other hand, the Big 10 champion Ohio State lost a game to a 6-6 non-conference team by 2 touchdowns. The fact that Ohio State humiliated Wisconsin says more about the weakness of the Big 10 than the strength of Ohio State.
Obviously, the new playoff format needs to change.
Instead of relying on the opinions of a “select” committee to choose the playoff participants, we should have a true playoff that includes the champions of all of the so-called Power 5 conferences. They should be joined by 3 at large teams selected from other conferences. That would result in only one more game week than the current system. The conferences would be equally represented. The TV networks and the NCAA would reap the benefits of additional revenue. More important, the championship would be settled on the field. Not in a conference room.