College football is broken (and it’s sad)
BY JOSH COOK
At the time of this story being posted, we’re ten games into the 2017-2018 Bowl Game season. If you’re like most, you probably haven’t watched the games (good call). Realistically, the first 20 or so Bowl Games are trash match-ups between non-power-five conference teams.
If you’re like me, though, you probably checked the scores at some point to see what you missed. The answer is nothing. The games have been steaming piles of crap.
Through the first ten games, two of them have been decided by less than 10 points. The average score differential is 21.9 throughout these games; the selection committee has struggled to pick games that are decided by less than three possessions.
That’s absolutely putrid. College bowl games are supposed to be exciting, with teams playing for the last drops of pride to cap off a season. To have these games be so lopsided tells us one thing we already know: the selection committee has very little clue what they’re doing, or even what they want.
The committee will always be criticized; it’s an incredibly flawed system. But the problem goes beyond The Playoff and all the drama that swirls around that. Actually, I think this year’s four teams is the most accurate selections they’ve made in the “Playoff Era.”
There are always going to be blowouts, no matter how much the matchups are contemplated. But in the last few years, we’ve seen a drop-off in entertainment value.
Last year’s first-round playoff games were absolute trash. Clemson beat Ohio State 31 to 0 and Alabama beat Washington 24 to 7. Those games were decided at halftime, if not before.
That’s not a coincidence, they were bad matchups going in because the best teams weren’t in the Playoff. The root of this problem is that the selection committee doesn’t have any idea what they’re actually looking for.
When the Playoff came into existence, the committee laid out some criteria that they said would be the main factors in deciding which teams were in and out. Some points of focus were the strength of the non-conference schedule, head-to-head matchups, performances against common opponents and whether or not a team wins their conference championship.
Since the Playoff started, those really haven’t been factors. In fact, they’ve seemed to be important in the ranking all the way up to when it really matters. Teams aren’t ranked based on these criteria, so selection weekend always brings huge changes in rankings.
Because I know that all of the eyes that see this will be in the Midwest, I’ll give a relevant example: The Big Ten.
Over the last two seasons, there have been TWO weeks in which there were less than three Big Ten teams ranked in the top 10 (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan have been interchangeably ranked in the top 10 and 5 consistently).
This would give the appearance that the Big Ten is a very competitive, and strong, conference. Yet, the last two years, the Big Ten champion has been left out of the Playoff. A conference that has made up almost half of the top 10 for 30 of the last 32 weeks of college football has had their “best team” left out of title contention.
Why? Well, for starters, Alabama and Clemson aren’t winning the Big Ten (that would help a lot). Additionally, the committee hasn’t put a two-loss team in the Playoff yet, regardless of how many of the “important criteria” they fulfill.
From an outside perspective, it looks like the committee is more worried about what the matchups will look like on paper than how they will actually play out. I can’t blame them, what the matchup looks like is very determinant in how much advertising costs and, in turn, how much revenue the NCAA and respective teams bring in (do what you want with that, it’s very presumptuous).
As a fan, above all else, of competitive sporting events, college football has been incredibly disappointing over the last few years. The post-season games have been, to put it nicely, boring.
While I think the playoff will be better this year than last, I think there are some serious changes that need to take place. Here they are:
- Go to an 8-team playoff. That fixes a lot of problems and will cut down on complaints.
- Either eliminate the computer algorithm that plays a large role in ranking teams, or base rankings entirely off of it. This partially objective/subjective system where a bunch of people look at numbers from a calculation and decide whether or not to take that into account leaves room for too much inconsistency.
- Re-outline the priorities for deciding playoff teams and rankings for bowl games now that we’ve seen the current ones be thrown out the window year after year; there’s clearly scenarios where they think other criteria are more important.
- Matchup non-playoff bowl games based on record and size alone. Why an 11-3 Florida Atlantic team was matched up against a 7-7 Akron team in a bowl game escapes me entirely (the game ended 50-3 in favor of Florida Atlantic, obviously).
Overall, the transparency needs to improve. I think a lot of fans are fed up with being lied to for 15 weeks to be shocked when their team is put in a bowl game that puts them in a wildly different spot than where they were ranked just seven days before.
College football really is a beautiful thing; there’s a reason the three biggest venues in the United States are college football stadiums. To oversimplify it: stop ruining it and let the chips fall where they may instead of poking them to where you feel like they should be.