The road to an eight-game playoff system starts this week as the 2014 college football season gets underway, giving us all a valid excuse to stay inside, drink too much beer and become useless human beings for the rest of the year.
While everyone is excited to see their favorite team take the field this year, the controversy of the sporting world is looming on our horizon. No, I’m not talking about Notre Dame’s stupid new Shamrock Series uniforms, or even Notre Dame’s lame decision to ditch its rich football tradition by installing AstroTurf to become a faster offense. I am referring to the college football playoff system that will take shape toward the end of the season and will undoubtedly be the discussion topic for the next four months of our lives.
Instead of a postseason of college bowl games, the 2014 season will be the first season in which the top four teams in the country will play in semifinal games. The winners of those two games will then move forward to play in the national championship game. It’s not exactly an extended college football playoff system, but it is a playoff that will make the best four teams in the country prove themselves in two straight games. For the most part, it’s something most college football fans have been asking for.
As in the past, the controversy ahead for college football is how the teams will be ranked when it comes time to judging who’s in and who’s out. For the past 16 years during the Bowl Championship Series era, it was those damn computers and their mathematical logic that decided where a team was ranked. Don’t like where your team was sitting midway through the season? Take it up with the computers.
Under this year’s new four-team playoff series, it will actually be human beings – 13 to be exact – who piss us all off when we believe we were wronged, later this year. For future complaining and conspiracy theory purposes, the 13-member college playoff selection committee is made up of Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez, Arkansas A.D. Jeff Long, former Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, U.S.C. A.D. Pat Haden, former N.C.A.A. Executive V.P Tom Jernstedt, West Virginia A.D. Oliver Luck, Archie Manning, former Nebraska coach and A.D. Tom Osborne, Clemson A.D. Dan Radakovich, former U.S. Secretary of State and current Stanford professor and member of the Augusta National Golf Club Condoleezza Rice, former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, former USA Today sportswriter Steve Wieberg, and former Stanford, Washington and Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham.
Seems like a reputable and diverse group of individuals. Right? It would seem so. But you know that a few months from now, these esteemed individuals are going to be on someone’s shit-list and I wonder how many of them will be asking themselves why they got themselves into this job.
According to a great New York Times report written by Marc Tracy last weekend, the committee will meet in person on Monday’s and Tuesdays every week and will issue their first rankings on Oct. 28. The big decision comes on Dec. 7, the day following the four major conference title games, when the final rankings will be announced.
It is at that time, the committee will rank a very good football team as No. 5 in the nation, meaning that particular team didn’t make the cut to make it into the three-game playoff system. Depending on what that school is, or where that school is located in the country, all hell could break loose.
From there, according to Tracy, the top-ranked team will play the fourth-ranked team and the second-ranked team will play the third-ranked team in the two bowls selected as the semifinals this season, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, on Jan. 1. The winners of those two games will play in the national championship on the first Monday that is at least six days after the semifinals, at a site selected in advance through a bid system. This year’s national championship will be held in Dallas at Jerry World, on Jan. 12.
In their decision-making process for rankings, the committee will look at records, strength of schedule, conference championships and head-to-head results.
In a perfect world of college football, the top four-ranked teams would be made up of the top team from each of the four major conferences. That would create a playoff not only of the top four teams, but a playoff of conferences. Ideally, that’s what the N.C.A.A. is hoping will take place. Will that happen? Not in a million years. It will never be that simple.
It could very well shake out that the Southeastern Conference has two teams in the playoff. It’s a possibility, and it’s something SEC spokesman Chuck Dunlap is already thinking about.
“Food for thought: Only once in last five years has SEC not had two teams finish in final Top 4, including three each last two years,” Dunlap tweeted. Maybe the PAC 12 deserves to have two teams as well. SEC vs. PAC 12 in the final four? Or there is the possibility that the SEC is so good this year that its teams will beat each other up enough to keep any of its teams from making that final four bracket?
Now I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m not going to make any bold predictions here on what’s going to transpire in the first run of this playoff system. What I do know is that whatever happens its not going to happen without controversy. There will be some hurt feelings and it will eventually lead to an eight-team college football playoff system in the future. The road to that eight-team system starts this week.
Up with the Rams, down with Buffs!