I know I’m in the minority when I say I actually didn’t mind the BCS, but I understand why people wanted a college football playoff system. The playoff is here; it’s just a shame that we wound up with the mess we have now. Granted, no poll matters until the final poll, but when you consider who is (un)ranked and where all of these teams are placed, it really makes you scratch your head and question whether or not this is really a superior alternative.
Let’s start with the top of the poll. It has featured several different combinations in the top four already in the first few incarnations of the poll (for those who don’t know, the top four teams will be a part of the playoff games and subsequent national title game). Right now, the top four teams are Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State, in that order, with TCU slipping out this week after barely escaping with a win against Kansas. One thing of note: three of those teams in the top four have a loss, one team is undefeated. That undefeated team, Florida State, is currently ranked third. Yes, a team that has not lost a single game this season and is a member of a Power 5 conference is ranked behind two teams that have a loss. You can make the argument that both Alabama and Oregon are better teams than the Florida State Seminoles, but as far as I’m concerned, putting an undefeated team from a major conference as the third ranked team behind multiple other teams that aren’t also undefeated is absolutely ridiculous. The selection committee for the playoff can argue as much as they want about the teams’ “body of work,” but the fact of the matter is that every team from a major conference has lost at least once this season except Florida State and thus they should be on top of the rest. Hell, maybe the team they take on in the playoff will smoke them, but to not have them at the top is utter nonsense.
It seems that nearly everyone in the media or in a position of power within college football has an SEC bias. ESPN and Chris Fowler can claim that they don’t as much as they want, but it’s the truth that they have one. It’s a great conference, no doubt about that, but there’s a point when things just become too extreme. Usually a media entity like ESPN wouldn’t directly affect college football rankings and standings, but they do in this case considering they’ve been in bed with the College Football Playoff since the beginning. This bias is going to keep Florida State down and it’s really a shame. Oregon, a Pac-12 team was able to jump them and Alabama jumped all the way from 5 to 1 after defeating Mississippi State, the previous #1.
Don’t believe that there is an SEC bias? To each his own, but it seems pretty blatant to me. You can look at the first version of the poll, when three SEC teams were in the top four despite the fact that at least one of them was completely undeserving of their spot (hello, Ole Miss). I’d really like to know the reasoning behind what Jeff Long, Arkansas Athletic Director and chair of the selection committee, said to Scott Van Pelt on ESPN on Tuesday night, when he declared that Alabama had a “decisive win” over Mississippi State, yet the Bulldogs still “were never out of that game.” So which is it, Jeff? Because had you watched the game, you probably would have noticed it was a garbage time, desperation touchdown that kept the game to a five point margin at the end. So which is it, a decisive win for the Crimson Tide, or a game that the Bulldogs were never out of and they kept close? The committee has also harped about how no team actually moves in the rankings, rather they start from scratch every week, which calls into question Long’s statement Alabama having hovered around the top for a while now. There’s an SEC bias for sure, it’s pretty obvious, but don’t worry, that’s not the only one, and any member of the selection committee who tells you that they can ignore a bias when they’re ranking teams is lying to you, and their “body of work” bullshit reasoning continues to discredit them as an entity. TCU and Ohio State have better resumes at this point than Mississippi State, but the good ol’ quality loss is keeping them in the playoff picture. I’m not buying it.
It’s interesting to me how not a single team from a non-P5 conference (aka the G5 conferences) is ranked in the Top 25. What a coincidence that no teams from a G5 conference are ranked in a poll that’s completely decided by representatives from P5 schools (as well as other dignitaries not directly affiliated to CFB otherwise). It’s interesting how last week, Minnesota was the #25 ranked team, then lost, yet remain in the Top 25 despite the fact that Colorado State is 9-1 and has looked damn good this year, and Marshall is undefeated. Yes, an undefeated team in NCAA Division I FBS is unranked. It doesn’t matter that they are a G5 school from a weak conference, they do not have a single loss this season. Only one other team can claim that honor: the Florida State Seminoles. They have an easy schedule but it’s insane that they aren’t getting recognition for their efforts right now. It’s probably not helping the Thundering Herd that Oliver Luck, West Virginia’s Athletic Director who has made his negative opinion of Marshall well known over the years, is part of the selection committee. Fun fact: Marshall is ranked #18 in the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll and 109 computer polls averaged out has Marshall ranked #18 as well (thanks to redditor /u/BallSoHerd for the link). Something a little fishy about that, don’t you think? No bias my ass. You don’t want to rank Marshall? Well, why not Colorado State? A one-loss team whose lone loss was on the road at Boise State. Oh wait, they’re a G5 team. Sorry, Rams, there’s no place for you in the College Football Playoff rankings (congrats on the #22 ranking in the AP Poll and #23 ranking in the Coaches Poll, though!).
Remember when people were campaigning for a playoff because it would give smaller programs a shot at the National Championship? Granted, there a no teams this year that are as good as Boise State or TCU were in the late-2000’s, but the fact that a mid-major school can’t even crack the rankings is absurd. Again, Minnesota lost as the #25 ranked team, yet still maintained their spot. Hell, Minnesota lost to Illinois, which is a bad team. I find it hard to believe that a loss to Illinois is a higher quality loss than the one Colorado State suffered to Boise State on the Smurf Turf. A system that was desired because it would give a more fair chance to more teams has led to a system which rewards teams for their conference despite their resume. Strength of schedule is one thing; bias and a meaningless phrase like “body of work” is another thing entirely and it makes these rankings a Hell of a lot worse.
Remind me again, what was so bad about the BCS? When, exactly, did the BCS system get the National Championship game matchup wrong? You could make the argument that it did in the 2003-04 season it did, when LSU faced Oklahoma in the title game but Southern Cal won the AP national title. Oklahoma was the lowest ranked of the three in both major human polls (AP and Coaches), yet were awarded the #1 spot because of the computer polls, which gave the Sooners a boost because of their strength of schedule. Not a preexisting bias, not based on a theoretical “body of work,” but on strength of schedule, something much less subjective than the rubbish we’re being told by the selection committee for the College Football Playoff. Nobody is going to admit to it, but the fact of the matter is the BCS got it right. Funny how things work out, seeing as now we have a Hell of a lot more controversy than we did when the computers were doing work instead of people so deeply rooted in their own beliefs that their credibility has to come into question.
There are plenty of things to touch on while talking about the mess that is the current playoff system. I could talk more about how Notre Dame essentially got a free pass and is included amongst P5 conference teams, despite the fact that they aren’t even in a conference. Doesn’t seem quite right that they get special treatment instead of having to nut-up and join a conference like every other major, competitive program. I could talk more about how Jeff Long’s biggest skill is dodging questions more than the agent for a prima donna NFL player and how he hasn’t given a decent answer yet about why the rankings are the way they are. That can be saved for a couple years down the road when we officially declare the College Football Playoff a failure though. It’s a real tragedy that the system has been butchered so far. People craved a playoff system, and what they got is bureaucracy, bias and less respect for the mid-majors than there had been previously. It’s much too early to call the College Football Playoff system a failure, but I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t wishing the BCS was still around. Who would have ever expected that someone would think that just a few short years ago?