Predicting The CFP Committee’s Next (Probably Idiotic) Move, And How To Avoid It

Photo credit Matt Cashore

With senior year, college admissions and everything else kicking my butt right now, college football hasn’t found its way to a column yet this season.  If you follow me on Twitter, I’ve been watching the biggest games every weekend, so I’m in tune. But I just haven’t had the time to write a column yet.

Today, that changes.

There’s been a lot of parallels from this college season to the NFL season so far.  How many good teams are there?  Can you really trust anyone?

The College Football Playoff Committee’s first rankings infuriated me.  There were some atrocious decisions, like Iowa State, Notre Dame, Georgia and LSU.  But there were also some correct placements:  Wisconsin, TCU and Virginia Tech were all properly ranked coming into this past weekend.

But with all this, there’s a bigger conversation that needs to be had.  Should we really be arguing over whether Wisconsin is No.9 or No.10?  Should we need to watch and analyze Stanford-Washington State, a game that’s between two ranked teams but won’t matter at the end of the season?

Right now, there’s too few teams that matter and too many teams stuck in the middle.  Let’s run an exercise real quick:

Who’s the top four after Week 10?  Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and… Notre Dame? Oklahoma?  TCU??  It’s certainly not Ohio State or Penn State, who have serious adversity issues, and probably murdered the Big Ten’s chances of a Playoff berth.  It’s not Miami, who like Notre Dame and Oklahoma, probably have the cushion of the Playoff’s PR staff, but wouldn’t stand a chance against Alabama or Georgia.

All year, we’ve been in search of that 4th team.  Early in the season, the top looked like 1) Alabama, 2) Clemson, 3) Ohio State..  Penn State was the favorite for the 4th spot, but AP voters wouldn’t let go of Florida State (Now, they’re not ranked) and wouldn’t dare put TCU that high (Smart).

A month later and we’re still in the same spot.  Here’s my top four after Week 10:

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Clemson
  4. Oklahoma

I feel really good about the top three.  I get Georgia’s schedule is a little more impressive, and they’re more complete offensively (Still don’t trust Jalen Hurts), but ranking the Bulldogs No.1 in the first ranking last week was totally insane.  Haven’t we learned to never go against and/or piss off Bama?

Clemson’s played some really good teams, but this isn’t last year’s squad and I worry about Kelly Bryant in a big, big spot.  Also, their defense is a tad concerning.

Oklahoma’s probably the best candidate for the last playoff spot.  Unlike the NFL, college football is more about having an explosive offense rather than a good defense.  Quarterback is equally as important.  The Sooners have both of that, making them the most-qualified for the last playoff seed.

Why wasn’t there more outrage about Notre Dame being ranked No.4 last week?  It looks better now, since the Big Ten is effectively out, and there’s not a lot of options left. But at the time, it was pretty clear this was a total ratings push by the committee.  You rank a team high now so it 1) Gets the media to fall in love and 2) Makes them harder to push out down the road.  Like me, they didn’t have a better option for No.4

I don’t want to totally crap on Notre Dame.  Josh Adams is a beast, and their defense doesn’t give up big plays.  The advanced metrics love the Irish defense.  They’re 7th in FEI, which is Football Outsiders’ college football DVOA.  That looks better than 18th in the country, which is where the simple scoring defense stat has them ranked.

My problem is 1) It’s Notre Dame.  They’re a ratings darling and it’s not hard to see what the Committee is doing here.  2) Their offense is practically all Adams.  Quarterback Brandon Wimbush averages only 6.47 yards per attempt, which isn’t even top 80 in the country.  Sure, their offense is fine for now, and it’s not costing them.  But against a defense like Alabama or Georgia, it’s gonna find issues quickly.

The Notre Dame/No.4 seed in the Playoff is part of a bigger issue that’s emerging.  As I mentioned above, there are parallels to the NFL season.  There’s a lack of really good teams, so much so that we’re considering teams like TCU, Miami and Wisconsin for the last Playoff spot.  Yikes.

So how do we solve this?  Rehash this…  Remember the biggest criticism about the Playoff besides it being on New Years Eve?  It was the lack of teams.  Some said they should expand to eight, some to 16.  I wanted to give it a few years.

It’s been a few years.  We need more spots.

So what if we blew it up?  A 16 team playoff might seem odd if we can’t even find four good teams, but with this, we have to change our thinking.  The scale is different.  There’s a lot of more options.

It’s a little hard to tell on the bracket, but the seeds across the top row of teams are 1,2,4,3.  The 2nd row is 16,15,13,14.  The 3rd row is 7,8,5,6.  And the 4th: 9,10,12,11.

Say what you want about my top 16.  That’s not the point here though.  The point is that no one should feel good about Notre Dame, Oklahoma or any other team getting the 4th seed in the Playoff.  If we blow it up, it’s much easier to accept a team like Virginia Tech or USC being one of the 16 best teams than Notre Dame or Oklahoma being one of the best four.

Obviously, if the Playoff were to expand, some things would change:  A 16 team playoff means four extra games a year for the Champion.  Do 10 game regular seasons become standard for all of Division 1?  How does that affect conference matchups?

Secondly, how can we trust that the committee’s gonna do a better job and not fall for ratings darlings?  If a new Playoff were enacted this season, most of the media favorites are already taken care of.  The only tough omission for the committee would be Michigan.

It’s much more likely an expansion goes to eight teams first.  But even then, you’re still leaving out Penn State and Ohio State, who despite embarrassing losses are still probably two of the best eight teams in the country.

But think about a 16 team playoff this season…  Look at that bracket!  A defensive grudge-match between Alabama and Michigan State?  Washington and Penn State each scoring 60+ points?  A Big Ten showdown between Ohio State and Wisconsin?  Bedlam 2.0?!!?  Sign me up!

A 16 team playoff isn’t necessary.  This year is probably just an outlier.  We’ve seen some crazy things happen.  Florida State’s unavoidable meltdown really threw things in a monkey-wrench.  I can guarantee you that’s the 4th team we’re missing.  But the NCAA loves attention and money (They really love money).  If they want to make college football more like the masterpiece that March Madness is, then this is the way to go.