Before we advance any further, I’d like to preference my comments and thoughts by acknowledging that I am a proud Ohio State football fan, and I do understand that we were embarrassed by Clemson in the College Football Playoff Semifinals. While I have no problem with them being selected into the playoffs, due to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s lack of consistency in their requirements for teams hoping to make the playoffs, I understand who feel they didn’t deserve to be in there. Prior to Ohio State being selected by the Selection Committee into the playoffs, people expressed their thoughts as to why Ohio State shouldn’t be in the mix. The team that they felt should be in place was Penn State, specifically because they beat Ohio State and won the Big Ten conference championship; a conference which Ohio State plays in. Because Ohio State had a very impressive resume without the conference championship, alongside the fact that Penn State lost two games was enough for the committee to put Ohio State into the playoffs. No big deal, right? Wrong.
The Selection Committee received backlash for their decision to put Ohio State in over Penn State due to a lack of consistency regarding the standards and expectations they had for teams wishing to be selected by the committee. The committee wasn’t forthright with teams and fans as to what they were looking for in a playoff team, and somewhat contradicted themselves week by week. In doing so, it helped to justify their decision to put Ohio State in the playoffs. Their decision also brings up a bigger issue that has to be addressed, and that is, “at large teams.”
An at large team represents a team with a great resume, who either plays in a smaller conference, a team with a great resume that is not affiliated with a conference such as Notre Dame, or in this case, a non-conference champion. Even though Ohio State played in one of the top conferences in College Football, they were considered as an at large team because they aren’t conference champions. There isn’t a solid set of rules for at large teams, which is an issue.
For example, let’s say Notre Dame has a fantastic season. They finish the regular season 12-1, with four wins over teams that are highly ranked. They lost one game early in the season, and it was a quality loss against the top team in the nation in overtime. Since then, they’ve played great football and their resume is fantastic. However, because they’re an at-large team, the committee overlooks them and puts in a team who won their conference champion, who’s resume isn’t as polished as the one of Notre Dame. Of course, this wouldn’t be fair, but based on the inconsistent standard that has been set, it’s entirely possible. Here is how you solve this problem.
So here are my final thoughts. If you’re the Selection Committee, be specific in what standards and requirements teams need to meet. If those include being a conference champion, having a high strength of schedule and having less than two losses, so be it. If a team like Notre Dame, who isn’t affiliated with a conference, or a team like UCF, who represents the AAC (American Athletic Conference, a conference outside of the power 5 conferences) need to meet a certain standard in order to be seriously considered to be in the playoffs, then it is the job of the Selection Committee to make this known before the season starts. That way, there is no confusion, and those teams know what they need to do to be considered for the playoffs.
The committee will never please the entire college football fan base. But they can do a better job of eliminating confusion.