This weekend is championship weekend in college football. The Pac-12 Championship Game kicks off on Friday night between #13 Oregon and #5 Utah at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. On Saturday, we have the Big XII Championship Game (#7 Baylor vs. #6 Oklahoma), the Sun Belt Championship Game (#21 Appalachian State vs. UL-Lafayette), the American Athletic Championship Game (#20 Cincinnati vs. #17 Memphis), the SEC Championship Game (#2 LSU vs. #4 Georgia), the Mountain West Championship Game (#19 Boise State vs. Hawaii), the ACC Championship Game (#23 Virginia vs. #3 Clemson), and the Big Ten Championship Game (#1 Ohio State vs. #8 Wisconsin).
As it stands, the college football playoff sends the top four teams to the playoff. The four teams are chosen by a committee. The conference championship games are part of a team’s resume, but in and of themselves, they don’t guarantee a spot in the tournament or anything.
What really is prompting me to write this is what I saw on ESPN earlier this week. Pundits were debating whether Utah should get in over Baylor if both win this weekend and if Georgia loses as expected. The debate even went into discussion about the need to have a prettier looking win and that winning may not be enough. That you had to impress the committee by how you won. My issue with this is what makes most sports great (figure skating and a few others are an exception) is that what happens on the field/court/ice decides who wins the championship. Not a committee.
I understand that sometimes a committee is needed like in college basketball’s NCAA Tournament, but at least in that case, there are automatics bids handed out to the winners of the conference tournaments. There’s at least a path to play your way into the tournament and not have to worry about the committee. In college football, it’s just straight committee and I don’t think that’s fair. Really good teams get squeezed out and it leaves fans, players, and coaches all upset.
What I would propose is an expansion to eight teams where winners of the Pac-12, SEC, Big XII, ACC, and Big Ten get automatic bids to the tournament and then there are three wild cards selected after that. For those that don’t follow college football, those five conferences are collectively known as the “Power Five” or “P5” conferences. That’s where 80% or higher of the ranked teams are. That’s why winners of those championship games would get an automatic bid.
What I like about this formula is it gives college football their own version of the NCAA Tournament that college basketball has. Conference championship games wouldn’t just be for show anymore. They would have real meaning and bearing on who gets to play for the national championship. Plus, there would still be three wild cards left over for a non-P5 school to get in if they were deserving of a shot.
Curious to get some thoughts on this. I think it’s sad that a team like Utah or Baylor could win their P5 conference championship game and get squeezed out by the committee because of style points. Or even more cynically, because they weren’t trendy enough to boost up the ratings. There’s been some talk of Utah not being a team college football wants to see in the playoff because of ratings.