This year’s College Football Playoff continued the long-standing tradition of semifinal games being snooze fests.
Cincinnati played Alabama closer than the 27-6 final score indicated, but the Bearcats had to fight tooth and nail to move the ball. Georgia dominated Michigan from the opening kickoff, and the 34-11 final was closer than the game actually was. Of the 16 semifinal matchups in the College Football Playoff’s eight-year history, only three have been decided by one score or less. The rest have an average margin of defeat of 24.5.
The College Football Playoff has turned into the Alabama Invitational with celebrity appearances from Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and LSU. And hey, more power to them. They’re playing the hand they’re dealt.
While the NCAA FBS continues to struggle with determining who has a chance to compete for a national championship, the FCS has a 24-team playoff system with clear-cut criteria. They’re proving they have the superior playoff setup.
The FCS Playoff Selection Process
One of the things I love most about March Madness is how simple it is to get in. Win your conference and you’re golden.
Football is a completely different story. Power five conference champions aren’t guaranteed a berth in the CFP because some conferences are deemed better than others and the best team might slip up late in the year and lose the division title. The FCS eliminates all this by guaranteeing a spot to 10 conference champions along with 14 at-large bids.
Here’s how the process works, per NCAA.com:
“The NCAA Division I Football Championship provides for a field of 24 teams to compete in a single elimination tournament. Of the 24 teams, 10 conference champions will receive automatic qualifications with the remaining best 14 teams being selected on an at-large basis by the Division I Football Championship Committee. The top eight teams in the 24-team bracket for the championship are seeded and receive First Round byes.”Advertisement
Naturally, there are multiple teams from the same conference who make it. The selection committee has a rule in place to prevent conference opponents from facing off in the first two rounds if they’ve already played that season. This way, we see fresh matchups.
“Teams from the same conference will not be paired for First Round games or for Second Round games when both teams are playing their first games of the championship (except for teams from the same conference that did not play against each other during the regular season; such teams may play each other in the first and second round).”
Simple, right? And the higher seed hosts home games until the national championship in Frisco, Texas.
How the CFP Can Change
There would be debate over who receives the at-large bids, but it would be the same thing we see for the NCAA basketball tournament. Most of the time it would be pretty obvious save the fringe teams. This is where you go out and schedule quality non-conference opponents earlier in the year.
The fans get better games, the teams improve by playing better opponents, the schools get more exposure and TV revenue. You beat a good non-conference opponent and you’re good to go. You lose, you still have the conference season to make up for it. The current CFP committee has shown quality losses are valuable.
As for other scheduling, FCS teams still play three non-conference opponents along with eight conference games. The catch is there aren’t any conference championship games. Cupcakes could remain on the menu. This format would need to be universal across the sport, and power-five champions would receive an automatic bid.
A 12-team expansion won’t change the outcome of who wins the national championship in all likelihood, but it will give the best teams additional home games and have more of a March Madness feel. Making the field would be a huge accomplishment in itself. Plus, I don’t know if the NCAA has ever thought about making a profit off this thing, but more games means more money. It would be heartbreaking to see the classic bowl games like the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl (or any of the worst bowl game names of all time) get taken from us, though.
In the meantime, it’s evident the current playoff system needs to change. We might as well skip the foreplay and head straight to the national championship with the way things have gone. (What if a computer selected who played for all the marbles? Interesting to think about.)
As the CFP eyes a reboot, it should take a look at the FCS format and make the perquisites as clear as day. Who knows what will happen from there?
Maybe a little madness.