College Football Playoff: Why Four Teams Aren’t Enough

No. 1 Mississippi State remains in the driver's seat to be the top-ranked team int he playoff (Photo: USA TODAY Sports )

No. 1 Mississippi State remains in the driver’s seat to be the top-ranked team int he playoff (Photo: USA TODAY Sports )



“Four teams aren’t enough.”

I said that the second I heard that a four-team playoff was introduced to College Football. I was met with the expected response that the teams would sort it out and there would only be four deserving teams at the end of the year. I laughed. We must not have been watching the same sport for the last 10 years.

And here we are.

The season is coming to a close and there is absolute chaos. Florida State has been struggling, but looks to remain undefeated and a miracle season by Duke could have them and FSU with one loss at the end of the year. Baylor and TCU both have one loss and have already played each other (plus the Big 12 has no championship game). Alabama and Mississippi State could both end the season with one loss. Ohio State or Nebraska could end the season with one loss, as well as Oregon or Arizona State. All of this is happening and there are only three weeks left.

Let’s get into why exactly more than four teams should be in the playoff.

There are five power conferences.

Power conferences are not made alike. Using the eye test alone, the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12 are much different than the rushing attack-oriented Big 10. Each conference has its own flavor, as well as its own strengths. Who is to say that Florida State wouldn’t get a loss in the Pac 12? Who’s to say that 2-loss Kansas State wouldn’t have one loss in the Big 10? We simply don’t know because the conferences don’t really play each other. If a conference is a “power conference,” its champion should be in the playoff. There should be some sort of requirement, however, to ensure that the conference champion is one of the best teams in the nation. An example could be that the champion has less than three losses or maybe it is ranked 12th or better. If a team wins a conference, it is the best team in the conference and it did enough to prove that. Let the conferences sort it out. With a six-team playoff, there is an extra spot for Notre Dame, a BCS buster, or possibly a second team from a big conference. An eight-team playoff would remove even more doubt.

The Baylor-TCU situation from this season.

This was a conundrum I saw coming from a mile away. What happens when two one-loss teams play each other and the team that won that game loses to a sorry opponent? The team that won between the two will be devalued due to a bad loss and the team that lost that tiebreaker will have a better loss (TO THE OTHER TEAM). Couple this with the team that lost the head-to-head playing better football when the playoff comes around and the problem appears. For instance, this year, Baylor and TCU both have one loss, but Baylor beat TCU 61-58 when they played. Baylor followed that win with a horrible 41-27 loss to unranked West Virginia. Because of this, TCU is ranked higher than Baylor in every national poll despite losing to Baylor. In many mock playoff selections, TCU has been popping up, but not Baylor. If both teams win out, this is going to be a a sticky situation.

The Alabama-LSU situation from 2011 or Alabama-Auburn situation from 2013

In 2011, Alabama missed four field goals during a 9-6 loss versus LSU. In 2013, A last-second Alabama field goal didn’t go far enough and was caught by Auburn’s Chris Davis, who then returned the now technical punt 100 yards for the game winning touchdown. I can’t think of two other games in College Football history than left viewers staring at the screen more unsure if the better team won the game. With a 4-team playoff, neither loser of those games should get another chance. The 2011 National Championship between two SEC teams was the most pathetic joke I’ve ever seen in sports (How can a team that couldn’t win its own half of its conference deserve to fight to be the best team in the nation over other conference champions?) However, in a 8-team playoff, it’s fair-game and that losing team would still be in. The better team lost on that given day? Prove it in the new bigger playoff.

When a conference champion loses a game because of injury but regains form come playoff time.

This is a specific example, but it is one that affects Ohio State and Arizona State, none-the-less. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was knocked out for the season due to injury 11 days before the season started. Freshman back-up J.T. Barrett came in and looked awful. Ohio State looked sloppy against Navy, then lost against Virginia Tech. Barrett was shaken and couldn’t do anything right. Seven games later into the season and Ohio State is unstoppable and Barrett just dismantled Michigan State, which was statistically one of the best defenses in the nation. OSU also has gained at least 49 points and 533 yards in six of its last seven games Obviously this argument only works for a conference champion, but it is obvious that this is not the same team that lost to Virginia Tech. Because the Virginia Tech loss is the worst out of all of the contenders, this four-team playoff system will leave Ohio State and all of us will miss out on a potentially great team competing for the trophy.

Arizona State also fell victim to injury and lost starting quarterback Taylor Kelley for three games. In backup QB Mike Bercovici’s first game, ASU looked awful and turned the ball over four times. UCLA throttled them 62-27 in a game that is hardly representative of the team that just beat No. 10 Notre Dame 55-31.That 35-point loss is going to keep being brought up if ASU wins the Pac 12 and analysts are looking for every reason why certain contenders shouldn’t be in the playoff. Like Ohio State, Arizona State now is not the same team that played in their lone loss.

A four-team playoff is better than the two-team National Championship of last year, but it still isn’t enough. It is better to have all of the real contenders with a couple pretenders, just like the systems of every other major sport. The current system leaves teams that have proved they’re among the nation’s best sitting at home. The sport, the teams, and the fans would all be better off with a playoff that features more than four teams. That’s my opinion.

-Marty F. Nemec

Advertisements

A really good quote on sports in today’s market.

I really liked this quote by Eric Deggans, a TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times in Tampa, Fla. It rings true to sports journalists and it is definitely something to think about.

“It’s simple industry math: sports is the form of television most resistant to the forces dismantling big audiences elsewhere. Fans want to see it live, which reduces use of DVRs, keeping viewers from fast-forwarding through commercials. And it’s the last big meeting place for viewers of all stripes, still setting audience records at a time when TV networks are losing 10 percent of their audience every year.

Which leaves staff positions as the best place to make cuts, especially if the company can use the instability to trade experienced, higher-salaried employees for younger, less-expensive ones. And if the jobs on the line are mostly held by folks who don’t appear on camera, fans may not notice anything. At least, not at first.”

The whole story, as well as his professional bio, can be found here. I take no credit for this quote or linked story in any way.

Sports writers and viewers, what do you think about this quote? Is it true? What are you thoughts?

Marty F. Nemec

Random fun: Awesome pass from Peyton Manning to a U.S. soldier standing on a table. (NFL)

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning took part in the USO Tour to celebrate the United States soldiers posted overseas. He made many passes to soldiers along the way, but this has to be the best one. Sgt. John Albeghetti was the receiver in this awesome video.

Support our troops and thank you, Mr. Manning, for showing these hard working soldiers a good time!

-Marty F. Nemec

Game of the Week- Week 4(CFB)(Poll)

#4 Florida State(3-0) vs. #10 Clemson (3-0)

Clemson comes into this game as an underdog, but the Tigers are no strangers to knocking off the Seminoles. Clemson has won six of the last nine games against FSU, including last year’s match-up, which derailed FSU’s hopes for an ACC championship. In that game, the 21st-ranked Clemson Tigers racked up 443 total yards(344 yards passing) against an FSU defense that was supposed to be on another level. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins torched FSU’s secondary with a 144-yard performance on only seven receptions. The Clemson defense, which didn’t show up for many other games, made FSU’s weak running game completely disappear(29 rushing yards). FSU was heavily favored in that game as they are now. This year’s Clemson squad, has taken a step back perhaps, but quarterback Tajh Boyd has averaged 249 passing yards per game, while completing 73.3% of his passes. Boyd added six touchdowns and only one interception to go along with them. Clemson running back Andre Ellington is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and has four touchdowns and will complement a very potent passing attack. This offense will score when given opportunities.

This Florida State squad is better than last year’s, unfortunately for Clemson. Over the course of three games, FSU has only given up a field goal. FSU running back James Wilder Jr. is averaging 6.9 yards per carry with four touchdowns and Chris Thompson is averaging a sky-high 14.1 yards per carry with three touchdowns. This rushing tandem will be sure to make up for last year’s pathetic showing. Quarterback E.J. Manuel matched Boyd’s touchdowns and interceptions but had less passing yards. The quarterback comparison isn’t fair, though, because Clemson has played tougher competition than Florida State, so Boyd probably has the advantage. Florida State comes into this game with the first-ranked defense and the second-ranked offense in the country. The Seminoles are thinking of a National Championship and they want to show Clemson and the rest of the world why.

Marty’s pick

Clemson has won six of the nine most recent games against FSU, as stated earlier, but they have won only one game played in Tallahassee out of the last ten. Clemson will have to overcome very brutal odds if they want to upset the Seminoles in their own stadium. Also, Clemson’s defense has been playing under par, giving up 19 points to Auburn(who was taken to overtime against LA Monroe) and 24 points to Ball State. Florida State is going to find success in the running game early and they are going to throw it at Clemson consistently for the entire game. The running game will also give Manuel success from the playaction, which will find multiple wide-open receivers on deep throws.

Florida State already gave Wake Forest a through beat-down for having the audacity to beat them last year. Expect the Seminoles to extend the invitation to Clemson as well. FSU by double digits.

WINNER:



Agree? Disagree? Have your own prediction? Let me know in the comments.

GOTW record: 2-1

-Marty F. Nemec

Game of the Week- Week 2(CFB)(Poll)

#24 Florida(1-0) vs. Texas A&M(0-0)

The selection of games this weekend is a little weak as it has no ranked match-ups. I had trouble deciding between Georgia-Missouri and Florida-Texas A&M, and I eventually went with the latter.

Florida didn’t look very good in their opener, but there were things that were promising. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards and had a very important fourth-quarter 50 yard touchdown. Mike Gillislee averaged 6.2 yards per carry on his way to 148 yards and two touchdowns. The offense clicked in the second half, but had a good amount of trouble waking up in the first half. One can assume Florida will not have that problem in this game. Another liability for Florida suprisingly is their defense. The 27-14 score does not show the two missed field goals by the Bowling Green Falcons. Another missed fact may be that Bowling Green only had 38 less yards than Florida(365-327). Florida’s defense did clamp down near the red zone and that is a quality that will help the Gators immensely. Another great help to Florida will be coach Will Muschamp’s former job as defensive coordinator of the Texas Longhorns. Texas A&M runs an “air raid” offense which very strongly stresses passing plays and that is alien to the SEC conference, but Muschamp had to defend against the “air raid” offenses of the Big-12 conference every week. He should know how to coach the Florida defense to limit big plays and keep the Aggies’ passing attack under control.

Texas A&M was not able to play its opening game due to bad weather. The Aggies will be starting Johnny Manziel, a freshman quarterback, and he hasn’t had even a second of playing time. Another interesting fact is that Manziel will be the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener at Texas A&M in 68 years. Luckily for the Aggies, this game will be played at their stadium in College Station, Texas. Florida won’t be intimidated much, though, so don’t count on that being a game-changer. Texas A&M does have other intangibles on their side. The biggest of those is probably the fact that it wants to prove it is a team that belongs in the SEC. The media has talked extensively about Missouri and Texas A&M not belonging in the conference and both schools will be determined to prove the world wrong on that matter. Texas A&M did lose Cyrus Gray, a 1000+ yard rusher, but it still has Christine Michael. Michael looks like he could be as good or better than Gray, so maybe the Aggies will be fine in the rushing department.

This has the makings of a good game. Texas A&M is known for having a high scoring offense every year and although Florida’s offense finished last year ranked 105th in the FBS, Florida is a proud team that responds well to pressure. Florida also has a great deal of talent that Muschamp can work with. It should be a great, entertaining game.

Marty’s pick

I respect Texas A&M but former starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill(drafted in the first round by the Miami Dolphins) is a tough act to follow for Manziel. Texas A&M will suffer greatly from not having a warm-up game and they will be severely punished for any mishaps on offense. I feel that this game will be close and could be a high-scoring affair. I have to give the edge to the Gators in a game that both teams will fight their hearts out to win.

WINNER:



Agree? Disagree? Have your own prediction? Let me know in the comments.

GOTW record: 1-0

-Marty F. Nemec

Some Things We Learned- Week 1(CFB)

1. Alabama is still a national title contender.

Believe it or not, this team only had 10 returning starters from last year. Despite that, Alabama forced three turnovers and held Michigan’s high-powered offense to 269 yards. Michigan was playing without its starting RB, but the fact that Alabama held Michigan to 69 rushing yards is very impressive. On offense, Bama picked up where they left off. A.J. McCarron threw for 199 yards, two TDs and no INTS. Even though Trent Richardson left for the NFL over the summer, the running game is still clicking too. T.J. Yeldon ran for 111 yards on 11 carries and Jalston Fowler added 67 yards on eight carries. Alabama is definitely still in the mix for the National Championship.

2. Oklahoma’s offense isn’t what was advertised.

Oklahoma came into this season ranked in the top-5 and had a QB who was considered a Heisman contender. Everyone was expecting a blowout when Oklahoma went against UTEP, a small school few people have heard of. Did you know UTEP stood for the University of Texas El Paso? I will further prove my point by stating that the bettors in Vegas had Oklahoma winning by 30 points. Instead, Oklahoma found itself only up 10-7 at the start of the fourth quarter and had to score twice to put the game away 24-7. Last year, Oklahoma’s conference rivals couldn’t hold it under 30 points, especially not a Conference-USA team that went 5-7 last year. Oklahoma was only held to 24 points or lower twice in 2011 and it happened against teams ranked in the top-5 both times.

That being said, QB Landry Jones didn’t have a terrible game. He threw for 222 yards, two TDs and no INTs. Oklahoma RB Damien Williams ran for 104 yards on nine carries. The offense seemed to have trouble waking up and was actually efficient in the 4th quarter. Oklahoma will have a chance to redeem itself when it plays FCS foe Florida A&M this weekend.

3. Florida State’s schedule is the weakest of all of the contenders.

At the beginning of the year, FSU only had three ranked teams on its schedule, which wouldn’t have been so bad if any of them were ranked in the top-10. FSU needs Virginia Tech and Florida to play very well and maintain a high ranking until FSU plays them. Clemson looks very good and is already ranked twelfth in the nation. Clemson could be in the top-10 by the time it plays FSU, which is in three weeks. Unfortunately for FSU, it is the other two ranked teams that don’t look so good.

Florida is not expected to do well and it plays in the SEC, which is always a tough conference. Florida won’t play FSU until the last game of the season and it isn’t crazy to believe that Florida may not be ranked by then, especially with the inconsistency of the offense in its 27-14 victory over Bowling Green. Virginia Tech also leaves question marks, because it plays Clemson before FSU. Clemson is clearly better than Virginia Tech and that loss could leave VT unranked when they face FSU. This point is exemplified further by VT needing to go to overtime to beat an unranked Georgia Tech squad 20-17 in its first game. Florida State can control its own destiny if it wins out, though.

4. West Virginia and Oregon need to play better defense if they want a National Championship.

BCS bowls can be won with just offense, but it is very rare for a national title to be won without a good defense. Oregon and West Virginia are both teams respected annually for their amazing offenses but plagued by defenses that give up yards and points. West Virginia had the entire nation in awe after scoring 64 points against Marshall, but everyone seemed to miss the fact that Marshall scored 34 points and racked up 545 yards. If Marshall can do that to West Virginia, what could Alabama or USC do?

Oregon’s defense was equally as bad in letting Arkansas State, a Sun Belt conference school, score 34 points and gain 530 yards. People will try to point to the fact that Oregon was winning 50-10 at halftime and say they relaxed and put in their second-string defenders, but that doesn’t change anything. Oregon’s second string should be able to hold a weak team like Arkansas State to less points than that. Those players will be replacing the starters when they get tired or injured. Oregon should be deeper in defensive talent. West Virginia and Oregon will both have to get much better at defense to make a real run for the national title.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

-Marty F. Nemec

Game of the Week- Week 1(CFB)

#2 Alabama vs. #8 Michigan

This game pairs up two of the biggest and most respected football dynasties in the country. You will find few schools that have as many wins and memorable seasons, teams and coaches as these two. Together, they have had their hands on 25 national titles and account for 1,709 wins. There will be no shortage of prestige in this game.

Michigan is led by the phenomenal dual-threat quarterback, Denard Robinson. Robinson threw for 2,173 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, while also adding 1,176 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. Michigan also had the sixth best defense in the country. Their offense averaged 33.3 points per game and featured the 13th best rushing offense. Last year’s 11-2 record was an unbelievable first year for Michigan coach Brady Hoke and there are many people who think they can be better this year.

Alabama is the reigning champ, winning the National Championship in a devastating fashion against conference-rival LSU. Alabama outplayed them in every facet of the game and shut out LSU 21-0. That game was the first time a team has ever been shut out in the National Championship game. Alabama finished the year with the best defense in the country. Their offense wasn’t too shabby either, ranking in at number 20. You should take note that Alabama will only have 10 starters returning from that team, but those numbers seem to hardly matter when Nick Saban is the coach. Saban has a knack for making players act more mature and experienced than they are. The Crimson Tide squad that steps on the field Saturday will be a national title contender.

These teams are both looking for a National Championship this year, and luckily for us, they have to go through each other. This match-up looks great on paper and it could be an exciting clash of styles. Michigan’s spread option attack and Alabama’s run-heavy pro-style offense couldn’t be more different. It will be an exciting game.

Marty’s pick

As much as I respect Michigan’s newly found competitiveness, I think Alabama is simply better. Alabama has a great defense and will pressure Robinson and keep him on the run. Robinson has shown that his passing is inaccurate when he is pressured, so this does not bode well. Bama will run the ball most of the time and QB A.J. McCarron will only throw the ball when necessary, so there will be very few turnovers for Michigan to capitalize on. Alabama will “ground and pound” them throughout the game, so don’t be surprised if the game is still close at halftime. Bama will break away in the 3rd quarter.

WINNER:

Agree? Disagree? Have your own prediction? Let me know in the comments.

-Marty F. Nemec

Why USC can go all the way this year. (POLL included)(CFB)

The University of Southern California was at the top of the college football world in the mid-2000’s. It was a last second Vince Young touchdown away from being the national champions for three years in a row(one was shared). Then, a rebuilding year came and freshman QB Matt Barkley stepped in. By the end of that year, Barkley had found senior-form. He stood up in the pocket and delivered the ball to his receivers with authority. He became a leader and directed the offense like he was a veteran. USC looked like it was ready to step back into the spotlight. Then, Reggie Bush happened. The 30 scholarship reductions happened. The two-year bowl ban and the loss of an entire year of wins, including the 2004 National Championship, happened. USC disappeared into the woodwork. No one mentioned the Trojans and no one cared. There are only a few people who could tell you USC finished last year ranked sixth in the country in the AP. Matt Barkley was in the Heisman Trophy race in terms of stats and no one mentioned his name.

It’s time to take notice now, because the bowl ban is over. Barkley is a senior now and if you didn’t notice, the AP has his team ranked first in the country. Barkley could have been a top-10 first round draft pick in the NFL had he left, but he came back to be a national champion. USC has waited for this moment, but can it really win it all this year?

Simple answer: yes.

USC’s starting team is arguably the best in the country. It has 19 returning starters and a QB who is already the preseason favorite to win the Heisman. USC was the 16th best offense last year and had the 15th best passing attack, which looks to get better with the addition of Silas Redd, ex-Penn State starting RB. USC uses a pro-style offense, which matches up well against almost any team scheme or style in college football today. If you need any proof in its effectiveness, look to Alabama in recent years or Miami and Ohio State in 2001 and 2002. The team also features what is easily one of the best receiving corps in the country. Last year, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, the top two receivers on the team, caught a combined 184 passes for 2,435 yards and 26 touchdowns. The defense is also primed to be better than last year because it is getting seven starters back. The unit will not rank in the top five, but it will be as good as many defenses that have been on National Championship winning teams.

USC QB Matt Barkley throwing a pass against Oregon State in 2009. (Peter Read Miller/SI)

USC also benefits from an easy schedule. The Pac-12 is in a down year after ex-Stanford QB Andrew Luck left for the NFL and the rest of the conference has been playing less than stellar lately. The only exception is the Oregon Ducks, who sit at number five in both major polls. Outside the conference, USC will play Notre Dame, Hawaii and Syracuse. All of those games should be easily won, except perhaps Notre Dame. It’s unrealistic to think USC will be challenged by any team other than Oregon if USC goes into every game with the right mindset.

However, this team is not perfect and there are things that could derail its title hopes.

The biggest weakness of this team is how shallow it is. The scholarship reductions and bowl ban have damaged recruiting immensely and the talent level for each position fades quickly as you look down the depth chart. Any injury to a player in a skill position could doom the entire season. Teams like LSU and Oklahoma could suffer an injury and plug in an almost-equal backup, but USC will not have that luxury. The Oklahoma Sooners won the National Championship in 2000 with every starter playing every game, so it is possible to avoid injury. The players will just have to be cautious.

Another problem is that the defensive line is very inexperienced. has a veteran in Wes Horton but the younger players will have to stop rushing plays and pressure opposing quarterbacks. Sometimes losing some defensive linemen is hardly an issue, but USC coach Lane Kiffin hasn’t been known for his defenses in his recent stints as head coach of Tennessee and USC.

USC is not a virtual lock for the National Championship, but it haa a legitimate shot at it. The talent and motivation of this team will rival any other contender and I look forward to seeing what happens.



Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

-Marty F. Nemec

Hello, everyone.

My name is Marty Nemec and I am an aspiring sportswriter and an avid fan of sports. I have decided to start a sports blog and I will be posting mostly about college football for the upcoming season, with the occasional tidbits about other sports. I am excited to share my passion and knowledge with you and I hope you enjoy reading my posts. Please, feel free to respond and let me know if you agree or disagree because sports are fueled by emotions and opinions. After all, “fan” is short for “fanatic”. I also have a Twitter handle, which is @martyfnemec, so come follow me. I hope to talk to you soon!

-Marty F. Nemec