SEC Presidents and Athletic Directors took a vote on Friday and the result was unanimous. They want a college football playoff that takes place between the top 4 teams in the country, with no bearing on conference champions at all.
And why would they vote differently? The SEC Championship was meaningless last season as LSU beat Georgia 42-10 for the title. The Tigers went on to the National Championship Game to play the Alabama Crimson Tide. Yes, the SEC’s Alabama Crimson Tide. How can a team that didn’t even qualify for it’s conference championship, play for the National Championship? LSU lost the game, not only lost, but was shut out by Alabama 21-0.
Yes LSU beat Alabama during the regular season in a very close game that went overtime. That loss kept the Tide from playing for the SEC Championship. So why should they get a shot at the National Championship? They shouldn’t have. In sports the best team doesn’t always make the Finals. Sometimes they have a bad game or a bad series and get eliminated. Sometimes they are just unlucky and sometimes they just get beat. That’s the way sports has been for over 100 years. It was not good for college football to have a team play for the national title (and win it) when they couldn’t qualify for their conference title. Just as it wasn’t good when the Miami Hurricanes beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the National Championship after the 2001 season. Nebraska lost to Colorado in the regular season finale, did not qualify for the Big 12 Championship Game, yet played for the National Championship and got blown out by the Hurricanes.
Winning your conference championship should mean something. And most of the time it does. It is the goal of every college football team when the season starts. If you want to win a national championship you have to win your conference championship first. That’s the natural order of things. But now the SEC is getting greedy.
Having a playoff with the top 4 teams in the nation, including those that might not be a conference champion, would make conference championships completely useless. What good is it to be the ACC Champion if you are ranked 5th, in that scenario? Say for instance Miami is your ACC Champ and ranked 5th and 3 of your top 4 teams are from the SEC. The third place team in the SEC goes to the playoffs but your ACC champion does not. Would the SEC have voted this way if they were not on the incredible run they have been on the last several years? Doubtful.
Lets take a look at the top 4 teams in the final poll over the last several years.
2005: USC, Texas, Penn State, Ohio State
2006: Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, LSU
2007: Ohio State, LSU, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma
2008: Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Alabama
2009: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU
2010: Auburn, Oregon, TCU, Stanford
2011: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford
Only the Big 12 has agreed with the SEC on favoring this format. The Big East, ACC, Pac 12, and the Big 10 all want something that has to do with conference championships. And why not? This isn’t an SEC hater issue, it’s an issue of having an even playing field for all conferences and especially for the fans. The point of having some kind of playoff system is so that you might see a team like Boise State playing the Florida Gators for the National Championship. So teams that earn a spot, get a spot. To earn a spot you should be required to win your conference championship.
What good is a playoff if 80% of the teams involved are from the same conference? They already do that in basketball. It’s called a conference tournament to crown the conference champion. You can’t have a national playoff that would follow the same format. Whether it’s the SEC, ACC or PAC 12, it just wouldn’t be right.
I thought when a playoff finally came to college football that it would fix a lot of the issues that have happened over the years. But if some how this format was to become a reality, it wouldn’t fix a thing. There would still be deserving teams being left out in the cold.
The ideal scenario would be a 4 or 8 team playoff format with only conference champions taking part. If a team goes 11-1 and losses the conference title game too bad. If a team goes 11-1 and fails to qualify for their conference championship game because that lone loss was within it’s division, too bad. That’s the way it goes.
There is no need for a ranking system at all. Conference champions make the playoffs and that’s that. There would be no room for complaining or campaigning for your team to get more votes. No controversy over who voted for what team. No controversy about which team beat ranked opponents or even the strength of a non conference schedule. Make it cut and dry. No grey area. No bubble teams. No controversy. If you win your conference championship you make the playoffs. If you don’t win it, then you don’t go to the playoffs. it’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately it will probably never be that simple. Let’s just hope that the SEC and Big 12 can’t swing other conferences to their way of thinking. A playoff is certainly needed and wanted. But not the way they want it. That would make no sense. If you change a system that is filled with controversy each season, to a system that will be still be filled with controversy each season, are you really fixing anything?
Ray Blanchette covers the Miami Hurricanes, and USF Bulls for Outside The Redzone. He also covers NCAA football for the Saturday Blitz. Follow along at www.saturdayblitz.com. Blanchette is the owner of Blanchette Sports Holdings. Follow along with them at www.blanchettesh.elementfx.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003521034703&sk=wall or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/BlanchettSports.