Over the years, college football has evolved in quite a way. In the past decade, we have seen a ridiculous amount of conference switching and television and media rights packages go through the roof in profits. Yet, with the national championship locked in between Alabama and Georgia, we find ourselves in a familiar situation in which a title game between two conference foes is being used to ignite a call for change.
In 2011, the college football season ended with a rematch between the top two teams in the country in the BCS National Championship Game. No. 2 Alabama, who had been beaten at home earlier in the season by No. 1 LSU, avenged their only loss of the season with a dominating performance against the Tigers in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans. It was the first and only time in the BCS Era when two teams from the same conference played for the national championship under the format.
The only conference to have two teams face off in the National Championship Game?
Looks like we're making history again. ?
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 2, 2018
At a time when college football was being reshaped through conference realignment changes and paving the way to new television contracts, the creation of the College Football Playoff led to an evolution of how the national championship of college football amid so many seismic changes would be crowned.
Sold as an effort to improve the BCS model that had long been defended by the very people who created the playoff, the College Football Playoff was always more about making more money for the powers that be than anything else. We all can see through that, but it was an improvement over the old system that relied on a mathematical formula based on a mix of hard numbers and opinionated human rankings. Now, the decision was left entirely up to a selection committee, and through four years of the process, it seems the committee has gotten it right every single time. There have been a few debates worth having the past couple of seasons, but the four-team playoff has worked out well so far and may continue to serve the sport well in the years to come.
As you enjoy these eight hours of college football bliss, recall that the "braintrust" that runs the sport claimed for years this would ruin everything.
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) January 1, 2018
The College Football Playoff was introduced three seasons after the Alabama-LSU BCS national championship. Could this year’s matchup between Alabama and Georgia lead to an expedited amendment to the College Football Playoff structure?
Now that we have our first College Football Playoff national championship game with two teams from the same conference, we are back to where we were in 2011. Critics of the playoff are coming out in full force because the national championship game this year will be decided by a team that won the SEC championship by beating a team that beat the team that finished second in the other division.
Soon enough, Dan Wetzel may publish a book titled “Death to the College Football Playoff.” I’m half-surprised that book isn’t already moving up the Amazon charts, although Wetzel did reveal his idea for an eight-team playoff format in early December that is worth checking out (I have had my own eight-team model outlined in the past as well). How can this possibly be fair or good for the sport, say some?
This is so bad for college football. Fans are really gonna see thru the farce we call “playoffs” and realize it’s a rigged system designed to benefit the elites.
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) January 2, 2018
So the SEC Champ is going to have to play the third place finisher in their own league, after beating the team that beat said team, in order to win the National Championship……..got it….#RoseBowl was a classic while this game is painfully one sided #GoodNight
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) January 2, 2018
From the very dawn of the College Football Playoff era, we knew this was not a perfect system. The truth is there is no perfect system that will crown a college football champion at this level and there never will be. So we have to deal with the consequences if we get a matchup we don’t like. To many, having Alabama in the playoff was a sham to begin with due to Alabama lacking the signature top 25 wins that Ohio State had.
Those who believe Ohio State should have been in had a case to be heard and entertained, but a blowout loss on the road against Iowa was the sticking point that Ohio State could not escape. Quickly, they pointed to Alabama playing Mercer as if that game carried any significance one way or the other in the end. It didn’t, other than to serve as a convienent bullet point for those who believed Alabama should not be in the playoff.
Those who feel the playoff should be expanded based on the developments of this postseason will likely refer to the Big Ten’s record. Up until Michigan choked away a 16-point lead against South Carolina, the Big Ten had been perfect in the bowl season. The final 7-1 mark was highlighted by a 3-0 mark in New Years Six games with Ohio State dominating Pac-12 champion USC in the Cotton Bowl, Penn State holding off Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, and Wisconsin taking control of Miami in the Orange Bowl. It was the best postseason the Big Ten has had in years, and not having a team in the playoff helped the conference slot their bowl teams in a healthier lineup than in years past.
The bowl season can tend to lead to some strong opinions regarding conference strength, and those who favor the Big Ten will suggest this season proved how deep the Big Ten is. There is some merit to that, but the SEC will counter by overlooking a losing bowl record and focusing on having two teams in the national championship game. Where exactly do we draw the line?
Is there a line to even be drawn?
It is entirely possible that the two best teams in the country could hail from the same conference in any given year. It is also possible the best overall conference will nitpick itself apart in any given year. The Big Ten may have done that this season with Ohio State and Penn State each having two losses (Ohio State had one loss to Oklahoma in non-conference play) and the only undefeated team in the regular season getting wiped out by the two-loss Buckeyes.
This is the risk you run when you agree to endorse a four-team playoff system that has no guarantees for any conference in the end. An eight-team playoff format, when it eventually comes to fruition, will very likely come with automatic spots for the five conference champions. No power conference should agree to anything less, especially the Big 12 and Pac-12 who have been left out of the most playoffs since its inception. Change will eventually come to the College Football Playoff, but the question is when.
I cannot WAIT for the all-SEC national title game. It will greatly decrease the timetable for the move to an 8-team playoff
— Patrick Netherton (@PTNetherton) January 2, 2018
For the longest time, my stance has been the College Football Playoff will not expand until one of two things happens. The first would be the current 12-year contract expires and is up for renewal. The second was pure chaos. Having two teams from the same conference is a bit chaotic, especially when that conference had a relatively down year overall. It may not be quite as chaotic as a scenario in which two teams from the same conference and independent Notre Dame gets an invite, but this could potentially be a pebble disrupting the calm of the playoff.
For those who want change, Alabama vs. Georgia may be just what you want to see even if you don’t want to watch it.