College Football Playoff is a joke that's not funny. It's strangling the sport | Estes
Oh, college football, how can we keep loving you when you're becoming so unlovable?
Yours has always been an imperfect system, but now it's kind of a joke.
Never was that more apparent – or discouraging – than on Sunday. The College Football Playoff did what everyone figured it would by rubber-stamping Ohio State and its six wins for the semifinal – while putting unbeaten Cincinnati eighth behind a three-loss Florida and relegating an unbeaten Coastal Carolina to the No. 12 spot.
How can the College Football Playoff have the non-Power 5 conference logos atop its website when it clearly doesn’t respect or represent them?
It's not right that college football at the FBS level is the only sporting competition I know of anywhere in which many teams start out each season without any chance to win the top championship.
Cincinnati or Coastal Carolina could have won every game 70-0 and still wouldn’t have been in that four-team playoff. Everyone knows that and accepts it, just because college football has always been set up to benefit the bigger programs.
But it’s getting worse in the playoff era – and it’s strangling the life out of college football, preventing growth by shrinking parity and competitive balance.
CFP's exclusive club
While college football's current four-team playoff was an improvement on what came before, it has been responsible for widening the gap between the sport's haves and have-nots by highlighting the same teams year after year.
In the seven-year existence of the playoff, 11 total schools have made it. Only five of those teams – Alabama (6), Clemson (6), Ohio State (4), Oklahoma (4) and Notre Dame (2) – have accounted for 22 of the 28 available spots.
If you cross-reference those five schools with the 2021 recruiting class rankings by 247Sports, you’ll find all five listed in the top nine, with Alabama and Ohio State at the top.
This season is the third time in five years that Ohio State and Clemson have met in the playoffs. If Alabama and Clemson square off in the final, it’d make the fourth time in the past six years.
The best recruits more and more are discovering that if they want to be able to play for a championship, they'd better pick a school on that list.
And so the cycle worsens. By now, the few teams in this exclusive club are simply playing a different game than everyone else.
For that reason, I do believe the Buckeyes are one of the best four teams in college football.
But I didn’t believe they’d earned the right to be in the playoff.
That’s not their fault, mind you. It’s the Big Ten’s fault for taking too long to decide whether it was going to play this season and then trying to shoehorn games into the schedule without the ability to reschedule when the inevitable COVID-19 cases hit.
Ohio State is a very good team. It just didn’t play enough games in this bizarre season.
So the committee based the decision on reputation, which it has done before, again showing that it ultimately makes decisions and then finds the rationale to justify them, rather than the other way around.
The lack of Big Ten games wasn’t enough to keep Ohio State out of the top four, but it was enough to relegate Indiana to the Outback Bowl against Ole Miss? And Indiana is Ohio State’s best win?
Meanwhile, the SEC impressed the committee enough to have three-loss Florida ahead of Cincinnati and two-loss Georgia ahead of Indiana and Coastal Carolina – but it wasn’t impressive enough to move Texas A&M (which beat Florida) into the top four?
The case for a 16-team playoff
Coastal Carolina was rewarded with a bid to the Cure Bowl, rescheduling a game against Liberty that was supposed to happen anyway on Dec. 5.
“Hogwash,” CCU coach Jamey Chadwell tweeted, politely and appropriately.
The Chanticleers didn’t lose. They added BYU to their schedule. They've earned the right to be able to take on a high-major team and see what happens.
My solution: Expand the playoff now.
Go to 16 teams and have a field with automatic bids for all conference champions and a small number of wildcard spots. Seeding would give top teams the easiest first-round games, similar to March Madness in basketball.
Here’s how I’ve drawn up the potential first-round matchups were that in place now: Alabama-UAB, Cincinnati-Indiana, Texas A&M-Oregon, Notre Dame-Coastal Carolina, Oklahoma-Georgia, Ohio State-Ball State, Florida-Iowa State and Clemson-San Jose State.
Not bad, right?
Would Coastal Carolina beat Notre Dame? Probably not.
But that's why they play the games. It should be decided on a field and not in the opinion of someone who already has made up his or her mind well in advance.
College football is getting sicker, and the Cure Bowl is not the cure.
Reach Gentry Estes at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.