Photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina athletics
Another week, another poor round of College Football Playoff rankings? This seems like Groundhog’s Day, doesn’t it?
It’s no secret that the College Football Playoff system is broken and archaic. While 53% of teams will make the playoffs in the NBA and 43 percent will make it in the NFL, just THREE percent of college football programs will make the playoff. That’s four out of 130 programs — 127 this season — all of which come from the “Power 5” conferences.
Since the inception of the committee in 2014, no Group of 5 program has cracked the top four. That includes more than deserving teams like UCF in 2017, who finished the regular season undefeated. Despite wins against ranked South Florida and Memphis in the AAC Championship, UCF finished no higher than 12th in the playoff rankings. The Knights quickly proved the committee wrong, defeating the committee’s seventh-ranked Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.
Want more college football content?
Discussion like this takes place every day in our forum! Join today!
While the committee claims to handle their rankings objectively and fairly, their own rankings seem to contradict that. Every week, the committee’s chair Gary Barta’s words turn into more of an odd concoction of words. While some teams move up for not playing, some teams move down. While some teams move down a lot for losing, some only move down a spot.
Take Cincinnati and Iowa State, for example. Despite being idle last week, Iowa State moved from seventh to sixth. Cincinnati, who has not played since Nov. 21 due to COVID-19, moved from eighth to ninth, being replaced by Georgia.
“When Cincinnati came out and our committee had its first evaluations, we had information to put them where we put them,” Barta said about the Bearcats. “We haven’t had a chance to see them play since Nov. 21. Other teams around them have been playing and have been adding to their resume.”
Ohio State is another team that hasn’t played in a long time, or played often. Its last game was Dec. 5, before that Nov. 21. The Buckeyes have played just five games this season — one of which was against a ranked opponent (Indiana). The Buckeyes have yet to move up or down the rankings; they’ve remained in fourth since the beginning.
The Curious Case of Coastal Carolina
Have you met Coastal Carolina out of the Sun Belt? The Chanticleers have been the darlings of college football. After winning five games in 2017, they’ve finished the regular season with an undefeated 11-0 record. They currently sit 12th in the rankings, moving up a spot from the most previous rankings.
The Chanticleers have wins over two top-20 opponents. Early in the season, they defeated Louisiana (now ranked 19th) 30-27. In Week 14, the Chanticleers defeated BYU (now ranked 17th, ranked 13th when played). They also have wins over an 8-3 Appalachian State and a 7-win Georgia Southern.
On the field, they’ve been just as solid. Coastal Carolina ranks 21st in SP+ and 11th in offensive SP+. The Chanticleers average 37 points per game and allow just 18 points per game.
Despite what the committee might tell you, they compare closely to Iowa State. The Cyclones are 2-2 against committee top 25 teams; their two wins came against No. 20 Texas and No. 10 Oklahoma. Their two losses have come to the same Louisiana that Coastal Carolina defeated and No. 21 Oklahoma State.
Coastal Carolina is also likely better than Georgia. Georgia (7-2) is ranked eighth in the most updated rankings. Its two losses are against ranked opponents in No. 7 Florida and No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs lost those two games by a combined 33 points.
Despite knocking Coastal Carolina for a close win against the under-.500 Troy, the Bulldogs don’t suffer the same fate for their seven-point win against Mississippi State. On Nov. 21, the Bulldogs defeated the now 2-7 Mississippi State because of a late-game touchdown with 9:50 remaining.
“They played a game this past week against an under .500 Troy team, and it took them until the last 30 — they were behind, and I’m sure you watched the game,” Barta told reporters in his weekly teleconference about Coastal Carolina. “They were behind with 35 seconds left and Grayson McCall made a great play and threw a touchdown pass, but they struggled against a 5-6 Troy team.”
Throughout these rankings, Georgia hasn’t received the same treatment. A close win against Mississippi State should be a knock on the Bulldogs but that hasn’t been the case. Georgia instead receives praise from the committee for averaging over 40 points per game over the last few weeks.
This same treatment represents a major problem with the rankings. The Group of 5 teams are not held under the same microscope. They’re knocked for close wins, while the Power 5 programs are praised for the same close wins.
How To Fix It
The easy fix would be to get rid of the committee. The old computer rankings, used during the BCS era, should instead be used to determine the playoff teams.
To make it more fair for ALL college football programs, the playoffs should be expanded from four teams to eight or 16 programs. By doing so, the committee can ensure that all conference champions make the playoff.
This season, an eight-team playoff (where all five of the Power 5 champions and one G5 team makes the playoff) would look like this:
Here’s how it would look without the automatic tie-ins for conference championships, while one Group of 5 team makes it:
A potential 16-team playoffs would look like such:
It’s important to note that none of these are quick fixes. The playoff will seem unfair to some programs regardless of how many teams you extend the system to. The simple fact is, however, that as long as the committee chooses the system, it will continue to be broken and biased to Power 5 programs.