The latest College Football Playoff rankings are out and — just as all of these releases are, up until the final one — it’s just a song and dance meant to drive argument and interest in the race for the four spots in the championship postseason.
It really doesn’t matter that Ohio State is ahead of LSU. The Tigers could very well pull ahead with a win in what will be perceived as a tougher matchup in its conference championship game.
It really doesn’t matter that Georgia is fourth while Utah and Oklahoma are fifth and sixth, respectively. A win for the Bulldogs in the SEC title game will guarantee them a spot - and a higher seed - in the playoff, while Oklahoma seems destined to jump Utah with a conference title and take Georgia’s spot in the playoff should the Bulldogs lose.
It really doesn’t matter that Clemson has pinballed around the rankings so far. They’re the defending national champions and they’ll be in the playoff so long as they remain undefeated.
In the end, everything seems to be on a crash course for yet another round of bashing the selection committee for including one team while leaving out another. And when you look at the big picture, the NCAA has brought a lot of that scorn upon itself.
Of the 10 conferences in FBS football, there is a split between the ‘Power 5’ and the ‘Group of 5’. Those names weren’t originally created by the NCAA, but the association acknowledged the split several years ago when it set special stipulations to mandate that at least one G5 team is represented in the six major New Year’s bowls.
But, by doing that, the NCAA has stepped in an even bigger puddle. There is now a de facto admission that five conferences are seen as superior and will get preference in rankings and bowl allotments. That much isn’t so bad as the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC consistently put forth the best teams in the country. But the problem arises when elementary math takes over and there are five power conference champions and only four playoff spots.
It’s as if a ship named five officers and only provided four lifejackets to go between them. Regardless of anyone else on board who is deserving of a vest, it’s impossible for anything other than a power struggle to result.
There have been plenty of years in which a P5 conference hasn’t produced a national championship-caliber team. And there have been years where one P5 conference has objectively had two of the best four teams in the nation that both deserve to play on.
Of course, there are also about a half-dozen instances dating back to the BCS days where a G5 team went undefeated and wasn’t even allowed the ability to keep playing toward a national championship before being dismissed and cast aside while P5 schools battled it out.
With P5 conference members given more of a benefit of the doubt for losses and those same teams mostly controlling who and when and where they play any non-conference game, it’s almost guaranteed that every season will end with a couple of shoe-in playoff teams, along with about a half-dozen other P5s with solid cases to make and a few G5s who can’t get the time of day due to their perceived lack of schedule strength.
It’s past time for the playoff to expand. If the P5 schools are so far above the rest, then each of the conference champions should have a chance to play for a title. And when great G5 teams get bashed for their schedule, it should be taken with a grain of salt since obviously no P5 squad wanted to bring them in for a perceived easy win.
There are too many teams and not enough weeks to work out a perfect regular season that produces a unanimously agreed upon playoff field. So it’s up to the powers that be to come up with something that isn’t designed to ensure plenty of legitimate contenders left on the sidelines each fall.