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This is not working: College football's playoff system is flawed

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Former Editor-in-Chief & President

DECEMBER 06, 2016

Arguably one of the toughest jobs in sports (besides being an NBA referee or the NFL commissioner), being a part of the College Football Playoff committee means one is bound to be scrutinized regardless of who they select as the final top four teams. The system is partly based off of statistical analysis but is largely influenced by the opinions of a 12-person panel that consists of athletic directors, former head coaches and others. With just four spots and numerous highly qualified teams, it’s impossible for every fan and Power Conference director to be satisfied with the committee’s decision — making controversy and hostile conversations on Twitter inevitable.

For those of you that don’t know yet, the committee selected Alabama (No. 1), Clemson (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3) and Washington (No. 4) on Sunday to play in this year’s College Football Playoff. The semi-finals will take place on New Year’s Eve, with the Peach Bowl featuring the Huskies and Crimson Tide, while the Buckeyes and Tigers will meet in the Fiesta Bowl. The winners will then face off Jan. 9 in the National Title Game.

As I said before, it’s simply not plausible to settle this matter fairly. How is it right to leave out a team (Penn State) who wins its conference title game and also beat another team from its conference (Ohio State) who ultimately made it into the playoff? The Playoff Committee is arguing that Penn State lost to Michigan by 39 points and also fell to an 8-4 team, Pitt, earlier in the year. Penn State fans are firing back using evidence that the Nittany Lions are Big 10 champions and are riding a nine-game winning streak. They further contend that those two losses were during the first month of the season. Moreover, Penn State’s strength of schedule towers over that of one-loss Washington, which rolled over opponents such as Portland State and Rutgers in its boring non-conference schedule. There are also endless ongoing debates regarding Clemson’s close games all season long, along with Ohio State’s season being saved multiple times by a game of inches.

Aside from Alabama’s well-deserved No. 1 ranking, we could go on and on arguing about who made it and who got rightfully snubbed. Personally, I think that the committee made the right choices because I believe that the four teams selected are currently the best teams in the nation.

But I’m not here to point out why I believe that I’m right and other fans are wrong. In this system, there is no right and wrong. Part of the reason why we all love sports is because they are debatable. They have the ability to spark controversy and ultimately generate productive conversation. The issue with the College Football Playoff system, however, is that the fates of tightly bunched teams are determined by a discussion rather than a fair number-based ranking established by statistics like many professional leagues such as MLB and the NBA.

Ever since the system was implemented in 2014, the CFP’s weekly rankings have become a controversial topic. Each week, something new comes up, whether it deals with the strength of a schedule or the extent to which certain wins are deceiving. The sample size of games played by each team is simply too small to pick the four best teams in the nation with full confidence.

If the fans had their way, we might have a March Madness-like tournament to determine a National Champion. And while that sounds like a lot of fun, it would also take forever considering the fact that teams need at least a week off during the regular season between games. An eight-team playoff also appeals to many, but would make the postseason longer than it already is and bring about controversies similar to those we are seeing under the current format. All in all, there isn’t a ton that fans can do now besides accept the result and look forward to bowl season. What they shouldn’t expect is for the controversy to be any different or less heated in the years to come.

To Penn State fans and alumni: I’m sorry things turned out this way. At least your team gets to enjoy a trip to the Rose Bowl Game. Maybe there will be a solution proposed down the road, but for now we just have to accept a flawed system.

Contact Josh Yuen at [email protected].

DECEMBER 06, 2016

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