In 2014, the NCAA tried something different with college football, and it’s safe to say that it has worked. The addition of the College Football Playoffs have not only brought a more conventional style of postseason play to college football, but it has made the regular season so much more meaningful. The basic premise of the College Football Playoff is to have the four best teams play in an elimination-style bracket for the championship, versus only two in the previous “bowl” format. Starting in the end of October, a “College Football Playoff Selection Committee” releases the top twenty five teams, in their opinion, in order. Following that first ranking, weekly rankings are released every subsequent Tuesday.
The College Football Playoff can be seen making the regular season more interesting virtually every week. For example, take the marquee game from November 11th between, Notre Dame, the third best team in the country at the time, and Miami, the seventh ranked team. Because of the sheer magnitude of college football programs, it takes a nearly perfect resume to capture one of the four coveted spots in the Playoff at the end of the year. Although Notre Dame and Miami had only one loss for the year between them coming into the game, a loss for either team would all but assure that the 2017 season would not include a College Football Playoff berth for their program. After a thirty three point loss for Notre Dame, that nightmare scenario all but became a reality. When the third set of rankings came out on November 14th, Notre Dame dropped to eighth in the country, virtually out of the running for the playoffs. Nobody is safe, however, because on the same day, the first ranked Georgia team lost on the road to the tenth ranked Auburn Tigers. The committee didn’t deem this loss different than any other one, and Georgia dropped to seventh in the country, making the Playoffs unlikely for the previous number one team.
The new playoff style has brought competition and high stakes to every game, but it has its imperfections. The main drawback is the purely arbitrary ranking system the the Selection Committee uses to rank the teams. It is unknown how much they value all of the different variables that go into pitting teams against each other, like road wins, wins against top twenty-five teams, number of losses, improvement over the season, a conference championship, margin of victory, and so many other factors. Even with the controversy surrounding the selections for the top four, it’s hard to argue against the fact that the College Football Playoffs have made college football regular season more entertaining on a weekly basis, and the postseason a little more dramatic.
Graphic: Maraea Garcia