As the College Football Playoff enters its seventh year with its most controversial selection to date, we’ve reached a point at which the only plausible reason anyone can come up with for why the powers that be decided to scrap the BCS and replace it with a four-team playoff is money.
Because in terms of the actual impact on the sport itself, depending on what your goal was, the outcome is either “nothing has changed” or “this is actively worse than the BCS.”
If you want to make an argument for the College Football Playoff, that argument mostly centers around the fact that in a year like 2019, when three Power 5 teams (LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson) managed to get through the regular season unscathed, the Playoff was able to include all three, and watching LSU drown Oklahoma in one semifinal was undoubtedly worth it to make sure that Ohio State and Clemson both got a shot, where the BCS would have had to choose just one of the two while the other, assuming it won its bowl game, would have had a long offseason to seethe over its exclusion from the championship game. But then, was this actually any better than the old bowls and polls system, where the Sugar Bowl could have invited Clemson to play SEC Champ LSU while Ohio State would have played Oregon in the Rose Bowl and had a chance to make its case anyway?
In most of the years of the Playoff, we’ve had a pretty good idea of who the two best teams in the country before either semifinal is played. Picking four teams does give the committee a bit more of a margin for error, because they can safely put a one-loss team that they think is better than an undefeated team in the field as the 3-seed instead of having to try to justify that selection — but then, that margin for error somehow has never been used to pick undefeated Cincinnati over one-loss Notre Dame. (Yes, Cincinnati would get waxed by Alabama. So will Notre Dame, so that’s not the reason.)
In short — if you were going to change the entire fabric of the sport in the name of crowning One True National Champion, couldn’t you have done a lot better than this?
People who don’t want further expansion to eight or sixteen claim that their concern is that the old bowl system will be completely dismantled while the sport’s regular season, like college basketball’s, becomes simply a lead up to the tournament at the end. But isn’t this more or less where we already are? 2020 has finally revealed that the regular season doesn’t matter: Ohio State can play six games, win all of them and look good in approximately none of them, and still be awarded a playoff spot because of helmet bias and/or Blue Chip Ratio, or something. And yet we’ve destroyed the fabric of the sport in a way that also ensures that maybe ten or fifteen teams, out of 130, even have a chance at making it to the sport’s final stage.
This is the worst of all possible worlds. Either admit that this is all a sham and go back to the BCS or else expand and give everyone a shot.