This article was written by Thoughts From the Bench’s newest writer, Smalls.
Wow. It’s been another incredible, albeit predictable, college football season. The season started with unbelievable hype around the supposed Hawaiian Jesus himself, Tua Tagovailoa. Urban Meyer was somehow only suspended for three games after poorly handling the Zach Smith situation (“poorly handling” is a very loose term here). Clemson was in the middle of a quarterback controversy between a true freshman and a player who had taken them to the CFP the previous year. Wisconsin looked poised to get over the hump with an absolute stud of a running back in Jonathan Taylor. Georgia was still aiming to finally exercise their demons by defeating Bama.
With all these intriguing storylines present, the end result was the same: Clemson and Alabama played for the national championship for the third time in four years. We are witnessing two of the most dominant college football programs ever play each other once again, at least in terms of continued success. Love it or hate it (I personally hate it, since I grew up in a Penn State football household and have become a Big Ten football stan), this is an unprecedented run. I’m not necessarily saying these specific teams are the most talented of all time (cc: 2001 Miami Hurricanes). I’m saying the consistency of these two programs has been unmatched. This was shown in August of this past year, when five out of seven college football writers at CBS Sports correctly predicted that Clemson and Alabama would be the top two teams in the country by the end of the season. It’s almost become second nature for these programs.
However, there was one other predictable result of the 2018-2019 season. And this one has been a staple for years: people bitching about the current system of deciding a national champion.
Sorry, I had to throw UCF’s nonsense in here, too. But the point is, with everyone in the sports world offering their own opinion, what actually is the best way to determine a national champion? While we’ve come a long way since President Nixon chose the national champion in 1969, the system is still far from perfect. For this reason, I think the following actions would create a much more appropriate championship system:
- Eliminate conference divisions.
- Require programs to join a conference in order to be considered.
- Expand the playoff to eight teams.
Hear me out…
Eliminate Conference Divisions
While I don’t agree with everything Joel Klatt says, I think his point on eliminating divisions would go a long way. I’m sorry, but a 7-5 Pitt team (not a shot at Pitt, relax Panther fans) should not be playing Clemson in the ACC Championship game. The same could be said for Ohio State beating an 8-4 Northwestern in the Big Ten championship. These games were not competitive and offer nothing to Clemson and Ohio State’s resumes. By eliminating divisions and coming up with a round robin-type schedule for the Power 5 conferences, you would ensure that the two best teams would play for a conference championship at the end of the season. This action would lead to more exciting conference championship games and a bigger emphasis on a team’s performance during conference play.
Require Programs to Join a Conference In Order to Be Considered
I’m looking right at you, Notre Dame. It was clear that the Fighting Irish didn’t belong on the same field as Clemson in the Cotton Bowl. The 30-3 final score should be a clear sign that they were outmatched from the moment they landed in Texas. In the current CFP system, it was hard to say that an undefeated team didn’t deserve a shot at a national championship. However, only two of Notre Dame’s first 12 opponents finished in the AP Top 25 (Michigan and Syracuse). Now, I do realize that Clemson’s schedule also only included two teams that finished in the top 25 (Texas A&M and Syracuse). With that being said, they won their conference fairly easily, and everyone knows conference schedules usually produce the highest level of competition and the toughest road to the postseason. Financially speaking, the $15 million Notre Dame earns each year in their TV deal with NBC is very lucrative. However, the football program will suffer (in terms of possible championships of course) in the long run by not joining the ACC and earning a CFP bid the same way as everyone else. Bottom line, a program needs to survive their own respective conference gauntlet in order to be considered for the playoff.
Expand the Playoff to Eight Teams
The White Dalai Lama, Mike Leach, already put it perfectly: every other football league, ever, has figured it out, so why can’t NCAA Division I-A football? Every level, from the NFL all the way down to high school football, has a playoff system that WORKS. I realize that a sixteen team playoff would be hard to achieve in Division I-A right off the bat and would drastically change the bowl system as we know it. But eight teams would really only add one game to the season, and would make sure that the best teams from around the country are given a much fairer chance to win it all. Five Power 5 champions, two Power 5 at-large bids (hello Georgia), and one mid-major bid (UCF, Florida Atlantic, Boise State, etc.) would give you an eight team playoff. Easy.
Now, let me address a few issues. When picking the two best at-large teams, I will acknowledge there could be some controversy that arises. However, whoever designs this playoff system could easily put in a few qualifications that a team must meet in order to receive an invitation. A few ideas I had: teams needing at least eleven wins, teams needing to at least play in their respective conference championship, teams earning a minimum number of wins against ranked opponents, etc. The point is that there are ways to do it. Next, picking one mid-major program to play in the playoff could potentially get tricky. Having said that, requiring a conference championship AND twelve wins would help avoid this controversy, just as a concept. The main idea of this whole section is that THERE ARE WAYS TO DO IT, even if it’s not exactly what I’ve described. But for some reason, all of these expansion ideas aren’t being seriously considered by the playoff committee.
Having said all of that, I’m also a sports fan, so I know that bitching about the current playoff system will never end. But I guess the committee will never listen to people like me, even though I’ve made some points that are “more compelling than their fat little girlfriends”. Love you, Mike. fat little girlfriends.