Football

College Football’s Biggest Imperfection

Cincinnati Bearcats
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

College football is one of the most exciting sports, but it is also one of the most frustrating. The intensity of the regular season is unlike any other sport. Unfortunately the excitement comes to a screeching halt at the end of the 12 game season. In 2014 College Football was given actual playoff with four teams. Sadly, this is still too few and brings to light the biggest imperfection in college football which is their expectation of teams to be perfect. This problem needs to be addressed for the sake of college football players, coaches and fans.

The Best Stay the Best

College football, just like any sport, has seen plenty of shifting in who the best teams are. Think back to when Nebraska was the best and now they are one of the worst Big Ten teams. It has been impossible for all dynasties to last forever, but this is a different age.

With a four team playoff college football has made it so that the same good teams stay at the top. If this stays the case then these same teams will likely always be the best. For the seven year existence of the four team playoff Alabama and Clemson have been in it six times, and Ohio State and Oklahoma have been in four times. These four teams have made up 20 of the 28 competitors making it clear where all of the talent is.

Each year there are tons of high schoolers looking to take their talents to college. That just leaves the question of where they should go. This system has made it impossible for people to go where they really want to play. What this means is that instead of a player going to some team they actual care about, Arkansas for example, they will go to Alabama instead. It would be nearly impossible for Arkansas to put together a championship team. This is because all of the talent is flooding to four of the best football schools.

If the playoffs are expanded this will give more of the four and five star recruits a reason to take their talents to other schools. The more competition there is the better the sport will be. Nobody can compete with an Alabama team with all five star recruits.

For now it is the same story. Coming into the 2021 season there really is not much of a question of who stood in the top four. Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio State.

The Disrespected Teams

Just to get an idea of how many teams are disrespected there are 130 Division I FBS team. It is not feasible for 130 teams to fight for four spots with the caliber of the best teams. Right now the playoff expansion talks consist of 12 teams which is still too few. Also, trying to host a 68 team March Madness style tournament would take way too long for football. If 12 is what is feasible then it should be implemented immediately

This change would give eight more teams a chance each season. This opportunity would be huge for those less respected programs and for the integrity of the game. Here are a couple examples of recent teams who were victims of the current system.

2018-19: Washington State Cougars

It is extremely rare if the Washington State Cougars make national news, but 2018 was a special season for them. This was a team led by the highly talented Gardner Minshew, who is now in the NFL. The 2018 season was Minshew’s only season with the Cougars and he made the most of it.

With Minshew at the helm this team absolutely demolished their opponents. He finished the season with the second most pass yards in college football with 4,779. They averaged 373.8 passing yards per game which topped all of football by almost nine points. This included six games of 400 or more pass yards including 473 yards against Arizona where they won 69-28.

Their season did not conclude as they may have hoped. Their last game against Washington would decide the Pac-12 North. Unfortunately, they lost to Washington putting the two in a tie for the Pac-12 North with a 7-2 record. Even though Washington had three losses overall it was the conference record that mattered. Washington State lost the most important game of the season and because of that missed the Pac-12 conference championship game. It is rare if a team misses the conference championship game and makes the playoffs. What are the odds the year prior Alabama missed the SEC championship game and still made the playoffs and won.

The Pac-12 is one of the least respected power five conferences making it extremely difficult for those teams to get to the top. This was a team that ran through the majority of their opponents and made a push for a top spot. Instead of getting a chance to really prove themselves they had to watch another Clemson and Alabama championship.

2020-21: Cincinnati Bearcats

This was an exceptional Cincinnati team in an unusual year for sports. They, like many, had a shortened season, but that did not stop them from putting on a show. Pure dominance in each game put them in the playoff conversation rather quickly. The Bearcats finished the season 9-0 after scoring 36 or more points in six of their wins and won by an average of 23.3 points per game.

Sure, they didn’t play spectacular teams from start to finish, but looking at the schedules of Alabama and Ohio State they didn’t either. During the regular season, five of the nine Cincinnati opponents finished with a winning record whereas only three of Alabama’s 10 opponents and two of the five Ohio Sate opponents did as well.

There is also that whole problem with the fact that the Big Ten allowed Ohio State to make the playoffs even though they only played five games. Instead of a team who worked extremely hard all season with a nearly full season under their belt making the playoffs the people at the top changed the rules to let an undeserving team in.

This might be one of the biggest snuffs in college football playoff history. They expect perfection and Cincinnati went out and put up a perfect season and were still disrespected because they are not a power five team. Sadly, it may have been necessary to show just how problematic this whole system is.

Playoff Expansion in Jeopardy

The heads of college football have been discussing a potential expansion of the playoffs, but it has struggled to gain traction. With the merging of the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 word around town is that this expansion could be in danger.

The whole story of this three conference merge and its impact on the playoffs are not really understood by anyone. Despite the lack of knowledge the overwhelming feeling is not good for the expansion. It most likely has to do with money as all of the recent detrimental decisions have been about, which if it is true does not make sense. If they want to make as much money as possible it would seem that expanding would bring more money because it means more games for fans to go to.

The discussions regarding this whole situation have not been completely clear, but there has been plenty of speculation that is positive and negative making it impossible to really gauge where they are at with this.

Final Thoughts

It is beyond unrealistic to expect that even the best teams can have a perfect season. This is especially true since it is only 12 games long, one of the shortest seasons of any major sport. As soon as a good team takes their first loss they are almost immediately eliminated from contention unless they are named Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State or Oklahoma.

These are college athletes who have so much more than athletics on their plates and expecting them to put up a 12-0 season is too much pressure. Expanding the playoffs gives really good teams with a couple losses the chance to prove themselves in a bigger stage than they have ever been on.

All that can be said at this point is that keeping it a four team playoff will only mean the downfall of college football. The same teams will always be at the top and year after year teams that are completely deserving will be disrespected. A couple losses or not being a power five team are terrible reasons to exclude teams. It is time for a change.

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