Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

College football playoff system tested by rocky year

Sports_Hampton_College Football Playoffs_10

Illustration by Luke Hampton.

It is difficult to tell a college football team that managed to win all its games that it doesn’t even have the chance to play for a national championship. Yet, that happened often under the BCS system, the old way the college football postseason was organized. In fact, it happened multiple times to schools like Boise State and TCU. Thus, for this and a host of other reasons, the switch to a college football playoff system for the first time this 2014-2015 season has been embraced whole-heartedly by most college football players and fans.

For a long time, avid college football fans had complained about the BCS bowl system used to determine a national champion. Under the BCS system, the teams who participated in the college football championship were determined exclusively by in-season games from which teams garner a BCS rating. The BCS rating was an average of computers system ratings and polls. The Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll were both used. A variety of different computerized rankings were used, including Sagarin Ratings, Massey Ratings and the Colley Matrix. Many of these computer rankings focused on strength of schedule, quality of wins and margin of victory. Still, complaints about the BCS system consistently marred each season.

The teams ranked number-one and number-two played in the BCS National Championship at the end of the year. This system was often criticized because teams that were in weaker conferences could have outstanding seasons (sometimes even going undefeated) and never make the National Championship. In addition, many argued a single postseason game was insufficient to know who truly was the best college football team in the country.

Under the new system, there will be a four-team playoff to decide the national champion. The top four ranked teams in the country as determined by a selection committee will play for the championship in a bracket style tournament. Questions of whether the playoff system is an improvement from the BCS system abound and will continue indefinitely. For instance, the playoff committee itself is comprised of people with a variety of experiences. Some are administrators, some are coaches, some write about sports. This diversity was created intentionally by the committee to created a team they hope will be well-rounded. The result of this well-roundedness is a number of committee members who have very limited football experience, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a good example. Tom Jernstedt is an NCAA basketball commissioner, but he has no experience in football. Whether these types of individuals are appropriate for a position that allows them to decide which teams to play in a college football is up for debate. In addition, the playoff system presents some of the same problems as the old BCS system.

The fifth-ranked team will undoubtedly contest its ranking (and resulting ineligibility to be national champions) in the same way that many third-ranked teams did under the BCS system. Of course, part of the indisputable improvement from the BCS system is the revenue boost –– now there are three games in the postseason that are part of the playoff system.

The selection committee began publishing ratings in week 10 of the season. The third and most recent set of ratings, published Tuesday Nov. 11, rank Mississippi State number one, Oregon number two, Florida State number three and TCU number four.

As the final ratings approach, the contending teams will likely be a group of one-loss teams vying for the coveted top four spots. It is possible that one team will remain undefeated. Which team that will be is highly debatable. Though Mississippi State is considered to be better than Florida State at this point in the year, they play in the notoriously competitive SEC conference. To remain undefeated, they face the daunting task of beating now number-five Alabama and number-11 Ole Miss on the road. In contrast, number-two FSU plays in the ACC conference and faces less stout competition –– playing no currently ranked teams to end their regular season.

American football fans have been calling for this new playoff system for many years. That wish has come true; now the only remaining question is whether it is best for college football.

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