College Football Playoffs must expand to regain fairness

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

As long as college football refuses to embrace a true playoff system, there will be bias, speculation of favoritism, and teams that are snubbed.

The current four-team playoff system is too inconsistent in choosing the top teams.

There needs to be an unbiased effort to place the best teams into the postseason—and let said teams prove their worth.

Currently, the college football playoff committee cites the following as just criteria for selecting the top four teams (Note: the following is directly sourced from collegefootballplayoff.com):

- “Every game counts”

- The selection committee ranks teams based on members’ evaluation of teams’ performance on field.

- Using conference championships won, strength of schedule.

- Head-to-head results.

- Comparison of results against common opponents.

After the top four teams were announced on Sunday, it was clear the committee was fine with cherry picking its own crtieria to find a way to put Alabama into the final four.

Here’s all the things that Alabama DID NOT accomplish to merit a playoff bid:

- Didn’t win a division.

- Didn’t win a conference.

- Didn’t play for a conference title.

- Lost to it’s best opponent played.

Here are all the things Alabama did do, however:

- Beat it’s non-conference schedule consisting of Florida State, Fresno State, Colorado State and Mercer

- Beat No. 19 LSU

- Beat No. 16 Mississippi State

- Lose to No. 6 Auburn- it’s only top 10 matchup of the season.

Easily the most impressive resume to merit a playoff bid. Or...maybe not.

A simple glance at Ohio State’s resume reveals a team that has EARNED a postseason berth, yet was snubbed in favor of Alabama.

Despite an early season loss to Oklahoma (currently seeded No. 2 in the playoff rankings), Ohio State earned wins over No. 2 Penn State and annihilated No. 12 Michigan State (48-3) and beat No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game.

Also consider by Auburn beating Alabama, the Tigers essentially were punished for playing for a conference title because they were defeated by Georgia.

This isn’t a problem localized to Alabama, either.

Ohio State unjustly was voted its way into the college football playoffs a year ago. Like Alabama, Ohio State leapfrogged Penn State, who won the 2016 Big 10 Championship into the playoffs.

This insanity has to stop. The committee is proven to be faulty in its picks. That same 2016 Ohio State team was absolutely obliterated (31-0) and exposed by eventual national champs Clemson.

That’s not to say Alabama is guaranteed a loss, because Alabama is a very good team. But they’ve not proven as much as Ohio State has.

The biggest reason Alabama was given a spot in the playoffs was the supposed “eye test”. But if a Power 5 team, such as Alabama for example, plays a weak non-conference schedule that consists of the aforementioned teams, they’re going to look like world beaters and pass said “eye test”.

When the committee was first formed, it was said playing a tougher non-conference schedule was a must for teams that had postseason hopes. So which is it? Should teams schedule late November meetings with the Southern Conference power of Mercer? Or should Power 5 teams schedule tougher opposition?

The only logical solution is to disband the selection committee and expand the playoffs to eight teams. The expansion does multiple things to put fairness back into college football.

It gives legitimacy to conference titles again, gives every Power 5 conference a fair shot at a postseason run, plus rewards those conferences with multiple teams at the top of the rankings.

If this season held an eight-team playoff instead of four, this is what the first-round pairings would look like:

- No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 8 USC

- No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Auburn

- No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 Wisconsin

- No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 5 Ohio State

While an eight-team format would essentially do away with the New Years’ Six bowls, it would add two extra games to the playoff race and give an a more balanced addition of fairness to the landscape of college football.

But as long as the biased committee exists, be prepared for the same teams to find their way into the four-team slots.

-Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette. Email him at sports@t-g.com.