College Football Playoff 2020 - The committee remains disappointingly predictable

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  john-russell  •  4 weeks ago  •  21 comments

By:   Andrea AdelsonESPN Senior Writer (ESPN. com)

College Football Playoff 2020 - The committee remains disappointingly predictable
We have seen this four-team playoff in action for seven years now, and it has never been more predictable. Here's why that's such a shame.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



Welcome once again to the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff invitational, where it hardly seems to matter who earned the "right" to take on the two clear favorites to make the national championship game.

This year, it happens to be No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Notre Dame. The Irish made it in over Texas A&M with what the committee called a better body of work. Ohio State only played six games, but the committee deemed that enough because it won its conference championship and had two ranked wins.

We can quibble over resumes and who was most worthy of facing the No. 1 Crimson Tide as a double-digit underdog, but there is no surprise in what the committee did. In fact, the decisions on the top four were so predictable, it made the entire process stale and boring and so filled with an utter lack of meaningful debate that there is no reason for outrage because we all saw the way this was going to unfold.

This speaks to a system that was set up to favor teams in the Power 5 conferences (and Notre Dame, of course) to keep power and money for themselves. From the beginning, the same teams in Power 5 conferences have dominated the top four. That, in turn, has watered down who actually is capable of making a playoff run. Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma have combined to take 20 out of 28 possible spots since the playoff began in 2014.

If Clemson and Alabama end up meeting in the national championship, it would be their fifth playoff meeting in the past six years.

Talk about a lack of competitive balance across a sport with 130 FBS teams.

And, although Oklahoma is not in the playoff this year, the two-loss Sooners still proved their Power 5 stature Sunday when the committee jumped them four spots all the way to No. 6 in the final rankings because they just won their sixth straight Big 12 title. In the process, Oklahoma moved ahead of undefeated Cincinnati, a team that should have merited consideration but instead was deemed to have an insufficient resume -- like every other undefeated Group of 5 team in BCS/playoff history.

That the committee actually says it "respects" the undefeated Group of 5 teams it is charged with evaluating smacks of so much hypocrisy you can only laugh (or cry if you are Cincinnati or Coastal Carolina or even San Jose State).

There is no respect and never has been. Look at how the committee treated undefeated UCF in 2017. The Knights, the only undefeated team that year, finished 12th overall in the final rankings behind five two-loss teams and one three-loss team. It's no wonder they declared themselves national champions. There was no way the power structure would let them prove it legitimately. The following year, after another undefeated regular-season run, UCF was ranked eighth -- but only behind two two-loss teams that time!

Former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier saw the same system rewarding only Power 5 programs during the BCS era. He once told me, "Had we beaten Nevada in [2010], we would have had a chance, and that was under the BCS system and this was after we had gone to Congress and put a little pressure on it. Now, there's no chance, in my opinion, for a Group of 5. They can go undefeated all they want, but that committee is not going to let them in the top four. I don't see that happening, and I think that's a shame."

Even in a year in which a pandemic significantly altered resumes, with only two tepid options between Notre Dame and Texas A&M for the No. 4 spot, the committee refused to consider Cincinnati on its merits. Instead, Cincinnati finished No. 8 and gets to play Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl -- a no-win situation because, even if the Bearcats win, their critics will claim Georgia simply did not care enough. Then there is undefeated Coastal Carolina, which finished No. 12 and was bypassed for an at-large New Year's Six spot in favor of teams with multiple losses: Iowa State, Georgia and Florida.

Although this particular year looks especially egregious, we have become immune to this lack of consideration now, and it cannot be good for the long-term health of the sport if half the teams playing it are simply going to be disqualified from the playoff every year before the season begins.

The playoff has also had a negative effect on the competitive balance across conferences. Teams like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State only grow stronger the more often they make the playoff, because it boosts their national profile and ability to recruit, making them perennial national title contenders. (Those three finished in the top five in the recruiting rankings on National Signing Day last week.) It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that these are the predictable heavyweights when a new season rolls around.

Because so much emphasis has been placed on making the playoff, the entire bowl system around the playoff feels as if it is a consolation prize and not a reward for a season's worth of hard work and effort. Players are now skipping bowl games, a trend that won't end soon.

While it is true the playoff was set up to try to create more opportunities for teams to compete for a championship, expanding from two to four teams, the same old rules have been reinforced and strengthened. That has made the playoff selection process feel as if it is designed to prop up the same teams and conferences. Weekly explanations to justify rankings only fuel the rancor that accompanies the work the committee does when it gathers.

Because there is so much emphasis placed on strength of schedule, body of work, ranked wins and (to a much lesser extent) championships, it becomes unattainable for a large number of teams to even think about the top four. The only way any possible expansion fixes the issues is if there are guaranteed spots for each Power 5 champion plus the highest-ranked Group of 5 team. But in years such as this, where unranked Oregon upsets previously undefeated USC, that format would also get blasted.

We have seen this four-team playoff in action for seven years now, and it has never been more predictable. That is a shame not only for the teams that deserve more consideration or inclusion, but for the sport itself.


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JohnRussell
1  seeder  JohnRussell    4 weeks ago

Too much Alabama and Clemson. They need to expand the playoffs starting next season. 

 
 
 
Ronin2
1.1  Ronin2  replied to  JohnRussell @1    4 weeks ago

What about the wear and tear on college athletes by expanding the season?

How many teams do you want to add? 

Do you want it to be like the NFL and give the top two teams a bye week; while the lower 4 battle it out? That would give you 6 teams.

Or do you want an 8 team playoff tournament? With every team forced to play an extra game?

I am sure teams will feel left out if they expand to 6 or 8 teams. The next logical set would then be 10 or 12. I am sure there will be more teams that would demand to be let in even with that many.

Football isn't like basketball and baseball- it is a much physically harder sport on the body to play. Adding games to the season puts the players at risk.

 
 
 
Texan1211
1.1.1  Texan1211  replied to  Ronin2 @1.1    4 weeks ago

I always thought of taking the top 16 teams and having them play each other in bowl games. You could use the bowl games that occur before Christmas, and move some up that happen after. Save the big bowls (Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar) for the final 4.

Wouldn't really need to make the season longer that way.

Yes, the top 16 teams will play a game or two or three longer--only if they keep winning.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
1.1.2  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Ronin2 @1.1    4 weeks ago

College football teams used to play 10 games and then maybe a bowl game if they were good enough.  Then the season was expanded and then expanded again to where some teams play 13 games plus a bowl , or one more game if they make it all the way to the championship game.  They can shorten the season now or add another game to the playoffs. Their choice. 

If only 4 teams make the playoff and two of them are Alabama and Clemson every year is this really that interesting? 

Years ago college football reduced the number of scholarships and that was supposed to foster parity and a better chance for the lesser schools to attract good players. That worked to an extent, as there are more good teams now, but it didnt work at the elite level. The five star high school players flock to Alabama and Clemson and Ohio State because they see those teams in the playoff all the time and they dont see many of the others even given a chance. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that detracts from the overall college game.  . 

 
 
 
dennis smith
1.1.3  dennis smith  replied to  Ronin2 @1.1    4 weeks ago

Its all about the money and not about the student athletes.

 
 
 
Transyferous Rex
2  Transyferous Rex    4 weeks ago
The Irish made it in over Texas A&M with what the committee called a better body of work. Ohio State only played six games, but the committee deemed that enough because it won its conference championship and had two ranked wins.

Consider this justification, and you have all you need to know to inform yourself that this is, and has been, a charade. 

1. ND's Body of work? They beat Clemson, who was playing without Lawrence. We saw the difference he makes this weekend. Boston College (6-5) almost beat Clemson without Lawrence. Apart from that, ND beat only 3 other opponents with a winning record. 5 of 10 opponents won less than 33% of their games. Duke, SFU and Sysracuse had a combined record of 4-27. They played 2 ranked teams. Clemson and NC. Got their hats handed to them when they played the real Clemson. Body of work? I don't know how you can say that with a straight face. As an aside, during the ACC championship game, they ran a banner suggesting that ND's strength of schedule was 42nd, but their strength of victory was 3rd. What? So, you beat a good team without their engine, and everyone else on the schedule was shit...we'll call that 3rd best. I noticed yesterday that someone apparently decided the discrepancy between SOS and SOV was too much, so they changed their minds, and are now claiming SFU, Duke, Syracuse, G-Tech, FSU... is a real juggernaut of a schedule. All I can say is wow. (for all you Jerk fans)

2. Conference championships matter? Didn't I just see Notre Dame get their asses kicked in the ACC championship? If winning the conference championship matters, shouldn't being forced to clean up afterward, because of the beating you took, also matter? Not to knock the buckeyes too much, because I think they probably are a good football team, but they beat 3 ranked opponents. One of those was PSU, who was ranked in the top 25 without having played any damn games, mid-way into the season. Turns out, the experts were wrong with that one. Someone please justify Northwestern's ranking. The only thing I can see keeping them in the top 25 is so that O-State has a ranked opponent. 

Congrats to the four teams, but if we are going to call it before the season starts, why play the games? I've seen ND get their asses kicked by the full octane Tigers. If we are going to have to watch someone get their teeth kicked in by Bama or Clemson, at the very least, Cincinnati deserves a shot.  I don't know how the Bearcats are on the outside looking in on this deal. You'd have a helluva time convincing me that the ACC is a tougher conference than the AAC. Here's to hoping Bama beats ND so badly, they don't even play next season from the embarrassment. Roll tide.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
2.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Transyferous Rex @2    4 weeks ago

Does anyone know if Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney can actually coach football ? 

They are recruiters, and their biographical information readily admits it.  I could probably coach Alabama to a national championship if I kept Saban as a recruiter and kept the position coaches. 

I dont think having a few programs dominate college football on the basis of recruiting is good for the game in the long run. 

 
 
 
Transyferous Rex
2.1.1  Transyferous Rex  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1    4 weeks ago
Does anyone know if Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney can actually coach football ? 

I think you have to say yes. I know what you are saying, but there are damn good players every where. Top QB in the NFL, IMO, wore a Red Raider uni a few years ago. Getting the men is one thing. Getting them in position, and using their talents is another. I don't think you can argue that Dabo and Saban have issues there. I do laugh every time I hear what a great DC Venables is. Hell, in 2011, his name was mud in the national media. 

Herbstreit verbalized it Saturday morning. With all of its flaws, the BCS made for more of an exciting football season, because there was the belief that one game could make or break the season. Late losses devastated. Now? See ND. Missing teeth after Saturday, and they still get the nod. Cincinnati doesn't get in under either...apparently. I'm sure it's akin to finding out there is no Santa. "Guys, we expanded it to 4, but that was only to give 3 more teams from the power 5 a shot." 

COVID has wrecked a lot this year. The CFPs got exposed this year thanks to it. If it wasn't quite clear the past few...you now have your answer. Half a season? You're in. Terrible schedule, teeth kicked in in the conference championship? You're in. Why? 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
3  Sean Treacy    4 weeks ago

That it's  predictable is a good thing.  The four most deserving teams made it and it's hard to to make a case otherwise.  They've done a good job of selecting the best four teams, and it's light years better than the old system  of reporters just voting a champion. 

Alabama and Clemson are miles ahead of any other programs country and adding more teams to the playoffs isn't going to change that.  

 
 
 
JohnRussell
3.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    4 weeks ago
Alabama and Clemson are miles ahead of any other programs country

So what? 

Other colleges cant offer recruits more money like professional sports can do. So this becomes a closed system and a self fulfilling prophecy and Alabama and Clemson and Ohio State could perpetuate this forever. 

Its only "fun" if you are a fan of one of these teams. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
3.1.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1    4 weeks ago

So what? 

It's reality. The best teams should win. Should lesser programs be spotted points to make it "fair?"  Having more teams play each other for the privilege of losing to Clemson probably isn't going to change the ultimate outcome. 

d a self fulfilling prophecy and Alabama and Clemson and Ohio State could perpetuate this forever. 

But they won't though.  Clemson was a mediocre program before Dabo.  It will go back to being one in the future. Nebraska, FSU and Miami dominated for a while and are now crap. Some whiz kid will take some other mediocre program and turn it into a juggernaut and Alabama will fade again. Programs rise, programs fall. 

ts only "fun" if you are a fan of one of these teams.

Nah. It's still fun.  Seasons ride on one game, and games often turn on random events. And if upsets don't happen, watching the two most talented teams play in a winner take all game is always fun to watch. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
3.1.2  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    4 weeks ago

If they expanded the playoff field to 8 and a Michigan State or a North Carolina won it one year it would change things around as far as recruiting goes, even if for a while. 

I looked at the rankings for incoming 2021 classes in college football. Alabama , Ohio State and Clemson are all in the top 5, Alabama number one.  Its just a self fulfilling prophecy at this point. 

 
 
 
Transyferous Rex
3.2  Transyferous Rex  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    4 weeks ago
They've done a good job of selecting the best four teams, and it's light years better than the old system  of reporters just voting a champion. 

I've got to agree with John here. We've gone from reporters picking their darling to a group of people trying to sell their BS argument that ND played a helluva schedule against rank opponents. Its more BS excuses and justifications. Body of work and conference championships? ND has neither. The playoff was sold as an avenue to give outliers a shot. Wrong, they are using it to justify giving their darlings a second shot. ND had a shot...in the ACC championship. They proved they can't withstand Clemson with Lawrence there. There are 4 slots. One should go to a team that hasn't already had their teeth kicked in by one of the other 3. That 4th slot would have a huge impact on a program like Cincinnati. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
3.2.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Transyferous Rex @3.2    4 weeks ago

I wouldnt necessarily use conference championships as a criteria, but I think bad losses should be. An undefeated div 1 team like Cinncinatti should probably always be in the playoff for the national championship. 

In basketball Butler made it into the National Championship game about ten years or so ago and at that time they were coming from The Horizon League.  Without a large tournament they never would have gotten that chance. 

Make football an eight team tournament and give someone else a chance. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
4  Sean Treacy    4 weeks ago

ople trying to sell their BS argument that ND played a helluva schedule against rank opponent

ND is the only possible choice for the fourth spot. It's not their fault 1 and 2 are much better than the rest of country. 

hey proved they can't withstand Clemson with Lawrence there. 

Lawrence wasn't really the difference. Uiagalelei is barely behind him. ND losing their center hurt them much more, as they weren't nearly as dominate on the line as they were when they beat them.  The liine play is the difference between ND beating them and losing to them. 

hat 4th slot would have a huge impact on a program like Cincinnati. 

Cincinnati is not better than ND. The playoff system isn't designed for feel good stories or to add variety. 

 
 
 
Thrawn 31
4.1  Thrawn 31  replied to  Sean Treacy @4    4 weeks ago
ND is the only possible choice for the fourth spot.

Please, we all know they will get wasted by any of the other 3. They beat Clemson in OT w/o Lawrence, and proceeded to get slaughtered when he was in the game. Why waste time with ND?

 
 
 
Transyferous Rex
5  Transyferous Rex    4 weeks ago
ND is the only possible choice for the fourth spot. It's not their fault 1 and 2 are much better than the rest of country. 

ND? The only possible choice? What about A&M? 

I agree on the QBs to an extent. Uiagalelei impressed me. Lawrence is a playmaker, and they are a different team with him in the game though. If Lawrence is in the 1st game, Clemson wins that one too. Granted, not NDs fault Lawrence wasn't in the 1st meeting, but that fact should, according to the alleged criteria, play a factor. 

Don't get me going on the rest of the list. I'm a Sooner/Cowboy. I don't think OU deserves to be where they are. We will see. Rattler likes to give the ball to the other team too much. I didn't think they deserved to be there last year. LSU proved that was the case. I think OU is better (potentially) than their record reflects. Problem is, you gotta play the games, and they lost a couple of ugly games. To me, that's where the Body of Work metric, and on field performance should be taking points away.

From the CFP website: Selection Committee
The selection committee ranks the teams based on the committee members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable.

The only real criteria to compare ND and A&M are those in bold above. A&M gets the nod, has to, on SOS. On field performance? The committee concedes A&M had a tougher schedule, but the Body of Work nod goes to ND? Great work fellas, beat 4 teams that would have finished without a win in the SEC. Solid work. Vanderbilt is begging for those guys to join.

Cincinnati is not better than ND.

I didn't realize they had played. Why not, especially this year, give Cincinnati a shot? If they get throttled, the committee would have all the more reason to keep anyone outside of the power 5 out. The irony here is that the Bearcat schedule looks a lot like NDs schedule. 

 
 
 
r.t..b...
6  r.t..b...    4 weeks ago

The NCAA is their own worst enemy...citing specious regulations while pimping themselves out to the most lucrative TV contracts.

It is right in front of their face...make January Madness as much an event as March Madness...a 16 team playoff... the top two teams from each power 5 conference (and drop the divisions) and the top five independents and non-top tier contenders. Drop the bowl system entirely, but leave the venues open for the playoffs, rotating the championship as is done the Super Bowl. 

 
 
 
charger 383
7  charger 383    4 weeks ago

Ohio State played only 6 games, their players faced less risk of injury than the other teams 

 
 
 
Thrawn 31
8  Thrawn 31    4 weeks ago

The entire season was bullshit. It was nothing more than contracts being honored, little else. 

 
 
 
charger 383
8.1  charger 383  replied to  Thrawn 31 @8    4 weeks ago

good observation

 
 
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