The problem with the College Football Playoff

Everyone loves an underdog, but what if these underdogs were built to never succeed? No matter how great they are.

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The 9-0 Cincinnati Bearcats dropped in rank this week, despite not even playing.

Alex Kajda, Staff Writer

It’s now week 16 of college football season. Despite the expansion of the season, many teams have played fewer than their usual amount of games due to cancellations and complications surrounding COVID-19. Teams in the Big Ten and Pac-12 saw their seasons delayed until weeks into the season due to conference protocols and agreements. This obviously causes a complication in the ranking system. How are teams who’ve played 10-11 games supposed to be weighted in the polls against a team who’s only played five or six? Because of this, let’s just say the rankings by the College Football Playoff committee have been very questionable as of late.

The biggest issue for me has been the underdogs. I hate seeing the norm happen in college football over and over again; I love it when something goes against the grain. For instance, in 2016 I rooted for Lamar Jackson and his Louisville Cardinals the whole season. The Cardinals were even ranked #3 at one point but fell to the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers in a thriller of a game. From then on, Louisville remained a contender but always fell outside the top four despite probably having a better track record than teams like Washington. Louisville eventually tailed off near the end of the season, but I still believed they were being slighted by the committee during their tear.

I wasn’t particularly a fan of UCF when they went undefeated in 2017, but still felt the committee severely undervalued them that season despite them being a Group of Five team in the weaker AAC conference. As the committee didn’t even place them in the top ten but instead placed three loss teams such as Auburn at number seven, whom UCF ended up beating in their bowl game by the way. In 2019, I was a huge fan of Minnesota, who started the season 9-0 and beat great competition such as Penn State, but still didn’t even crack the top six before eventually tailing off, despite having a more impressive resume and schedule than teams like Alabama.

This year, teams like Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina are off to 9-0 and 11-0 starts respectively. It’s a perfect year for odd things to happen in college football. Instead, neither team has been well received by the committee. And despite Cincinnati not even playing this week and remaining 9-0 (which was due to COVID issues, not even their fault) they dropped one rank in favor of a two-loss Georgia team to take their spot. For comparison purposes, Florida lost to a 3-5!!! LSU team and only dropped one spot from six to seven, still ranked above Cincinnati. Iowa State is loved by the committee for some reason despite how horrid the Big 12 has been this year. Their two losses, including one by 17 points against Louisiana are apparently good enough for a number six ranking. Speaking of Louisiana, you know who beat them this year? That’s right, 11-0 Coastal Carolina, who is currently ranked #12 despite an impressive victory against BYU, whom Coastal handed their only loss so far. Some argue that Cincinnati has been slighted since they haven’t beaten a team this year that’s currently ranked in the top 25, but two-loss Georgia, who jumped Cincinnati this week, hasn’t either.

It’s a broken system. The underdogs that everyone loves can’t ever succeed. Discussions on expanding the College Football Playoff to six or eight teams have been circulating for years, but no action has been made. People want to see the underdogs succeed and incredible stories to arise, but it’s difficult when the same four or five teams are loved by the committee while pushing all the others down. Recently, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers even said, “How can college football not get it together & realize four teams is not enough?” while also suggesting that the playoff get expanded to eight or 16 teams. The lack of games for some teams doesn’t make things any easier. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney also stated last week that “If I was on a committee, it would be hard for me to leave out a 10-1 Texas A&M or an 11-game Florida team over a team that’s played six games.” Swinney was obviously referring to Ohio State, who is ranked number four despite only playing five games this season. The Big Ten even had to change their rules to accommodate for OSU’s low game count and allow them to play in their conference championship.

The College Football Playoff has been heavily criticized since its inception in 2014. If the underdogs can’t get their shine, then the talks of expansion won’t stop. We haven’t seen a real underdog get a chance yet, and with this current four team system, I don’t think we ever will.