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

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Some Things We Learned- Week 4(CFB)(POLL)

1. Oklahoma wasn’t a National Championship contending team with QB Landry Jones.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones looked like he would pick up right where former quarterback Sam Bradford left off. As a sophomore in 2010, Jones threw for 4,718 yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also completed 65.6 percent of his passes that year. Oklahoma fans thought of the success he would have in his junior and senior years. Surely, he’ll keep getting better and maybe win a Heisman trophy or National Championship!

His junior year came and his numbers dropped sharply. He only had 29 touchdowns and his interceptions rose to 15. His yardage dropped to 4,463. The most important thing that happened during that season, however, was that his biggest weakness was exposed. He disappears against competition. Against Florida State, Baylor and Oklahoma State(three of the five ranked teams OU played in 2011), Jones had a combined one touchdown and five interceptions. He became a quarterback that dished out yards, but not points. He became a quarterback that made his team settle for field goals when the competition was scoring touchdowns.

One year later, his production has dropped even more. After three games, Jones has 772 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. That puts him on a pace to finish the season with 3,088 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. That’s a far cry from the expected National Championship run. His team has already lost to Kansas State, a team Oklahoma beat by 41 points last year, and is already seemingly eliminated from the national title race. There is certainly time to fix this season, but the fact that his stats are this average after playing UTEP and Florida A&M as two of his first three games is disconcerting.

2. Florida State’s path to the National Championship will be paved by its offense, not its defense.

Florida State allowed just a field goal in its first three games, which included ACC foe(and annual nuisance to FSU) Wake Forest. The FSU defense had the luxury of playing Savannah State, but holding Wake Forest to 126 yards was very impressive. This team appeared to live by its defense, just like it has for years, due to a lacking offense(although in former quarterback Christian Ponder’s case, it was due to injuries). FSU quarterback EJ Manuel has been a capable quarterback for his career at FSU, but his passing has always been suspect. Anytime Florida State faced a good team, Manuel’s passing seemed to disappear and he’d develop a tendency to hold the ball too long. Last year, Manuel was sacked 33 times, which averages out to roughly three sacks a game. That’s ridiculous.

At this point in the season, it is obvious that every prediction that could be made from the last paragraph is wrong. The vaunted FSU defense was shredded for 37 points by a team that mustered only 26 points against Auburn(1-3) and 41 points, roughly the same amount FSU allowed, against Furman(an FCS school). On the other hand, Manuel is passing on a Heisman level with 905 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. Manuel is also completing over 73 percent of his passes and his passer rating of 180.2 has him ranked eleventh in the country. FSU running back Chris Thompson is also averaging more yards(10.8) per carry than other running back ranked in the top-40. This is a potent offense that ranks second in the nation in points per game and would be scary for any defense to go against. Funny sidenote: Both Florida State and Oklahoma State(the first-ranked team in points per game) played against Savannah State, who is thought by many to be the worst team in the FCS and has won only four games in the last three years.

With a schedule that features one ranked team in its remaining eight games, Florida State is expected to finish the year undefeated. Its postseason hopes will be at the mercy of the other undefeated teams because FSU’s schedule will lose in almost any comparison to an undefeated SEC or Pac-12 team. With EJ Manuel’s newfound passing ability and an easy schedule, FSU could potentially make a run at both a National Championship and a Heisman trophy this year. Florida State’s defense may not be the smothering entity the country has been accustomed to, but the offense is fine with that.

3. LSU is not a top-five team.

The LSU Tigers squeaked by with a 12-10 win over Auburn, who was 1-2 and lost to Mississippi State by 18 points. Even worse, Auburn gave up 28 points to Louisiana Monroe, a team from the Sun Belt conference, and had to go to overtime to win. LSU is not even the third best team in the SEC, much less the entire conference. In all honesty, Mississippi State has a strong claim to be ranked higher than LSU, and that’s not even counting Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. The fact that LSU received a first place vote in both the AP and Coaches Poll shows what kind of imbeciles decide who the best teams in the country are. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself here and here. LSU is lucky to be in the top-10 and they certainly are not of the five best teams in the country as the season stands now. LSU will have plenty of chances to prove it deserves its ranking starting two weeks from now when it plays the eleventh-ranked Florida Gators.



Agree? Disagree? Do you have another “Thing We Learned?” Let me know in the comments!

-Marty F. Nemec