By Flint Wheeler
Here we go again. The semi-finals were once again a pair of garbage games. No one actually thought Washington would take down Alabama and naturally this game was essentially over at halftime. Meanwhile, Clemson defeated Ohio State, 31-0, (may as well been) and plowed straight through the Buckeyes defense all night long.
This has to stop.
In the three seasons of the College Football Playoff, the point differentials of the semifinal games are 39, 7, 20, 38, 17 and 31. The game decided by seven points was Alabama vs. Ohio State back in the inaugural season of the format. Every other game has been a three-score spread.
The playoff committee seems like the obvious group of people to blame. They are the ones that put in Ohio State over Baylor and TCU in 2014 when they blew out Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship, but then left out Penn State this season when they won the conference championship.
To say that the criteria are inconsistent would be an understatement.
If the committee wanted to stay consistent with this, they should have elected Penn State, who also defeated the Buckeyes previously in the season, to the playoff instead of Ohio State. Penn State is, correction was, one of the hottest teams — they actually haven’t lost since the Michigan game — and would have put up a hell of a fight with whoever they would have played.
Meanwhile, Ohio State did not look like a playoff team this year. They had close games with Michigan State (3-9) and Northwestern (7-6) and looked shaky during those two contests. Had MSU not put the ball in the hands of Tyler O’Connor for the two-point try at the end of the game, OSU very well could have lost that game. The Buckeyes clearly were not playoff ready.
If you take OSU out of the playoff and put in a more deserving team, Penn State, perhaps it would have been a completely different semifinal. If not a different result, my guess would have been the game would have been a much better product. The committee needs to establish a system of how they go about making the rankings each week. It’s been quite chaotic since it was created and it needs to live and die by rules that they set in stone.
The other thing you can blame is the system.
A playoff system with four teams just isn’t cutting it. The fact that players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are skipping out on their bowl games to prep for the NFL proves how meaningless non-prestigious bowl games are. The NCAA probably doesn’t like that, so giving more teams a shot at the title will eliminate some of this. Eight teams would be the answer.
Had this been this way this season, the playoff would (probably) look something like this:
These rankings look different, but the top five are the conference champions. The three other teams — Michigan, Ohio State and USC — are clearly the three other best teams in the country. There may not be a blowout game here at all, so that aspect would be eliminated. And at some point, there will be guys on these teams that have the NFL in mind that would put that on hold, eliminating that complaint. These would be fantastic games, which would result in ratings, which would then result in a lot of dollar bills.
Sounds like everybody is a big winner.
Lastly, the NCAA needs to move these playoff games from New Year’s Eve to some other day. Whether it’s before or after New Year’s Eve, but people have New Year’s Eve plans and parties to get to. The playoff should be appointment viewing instead of becoming a holiday sidebar.
The 2016 championship is going to be a heck of a game with a rematch between Alabama and Clemson. But the entire package the playoffs offer could be enhanced. The College Football Playoff decision makers have a lot to think about moving forward.