Despite the fact that the unlucky souls of the college football playoff selection committee have still yet to be determined, we are already skeptical of their role, their accuracy and what really has changed beyond doubling-up on teams.
It’s in our nature to question anything new, and collectively we’ve perfected the art of dissecting something before the cogs even begin to rotate. Still, there are plenty of legitimate concerns in the new four-team playoff system.
A process this unique should generate skepticism and spark debate, and it most certainly has and will continue to do so. Some of this discussion will be thoughtful and meaningful. Some will likely end up with a fan stabbing another fan with a trident. It’s passionate, unpredictable and further proof we care. Oh, do we care.
The selection committee—likely 12 to 15 members of various college football backgrounds—will be molded and tasked to determine the four teams that will play one another in semifinal games starting in 2014. We're all very aware of this, although that's not all.
According to SI.com’s Stewart Mandel, the selection committee will establish other bowl matchups for the four rotating games (likely Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, Cotton and one still TBD) that aren’t serving as semifinal matchups for a given season. For those of you unwilling to dust off your calculators, this means they’ll be selecting 12 teams total but not necessarily the top 12 teams.
Although AQ (automatic qualifier) bids are no more, that’s not exactly the case. The Rose Bowl will still feature a Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup when it’s not serving as a semifinal because of contractual obligations within that bowl. So even though they “killed” AQ, it will now live on in a slightly different form that really won’t be all that different in certain circumstances. Still, the committee's influence here beyond these grandfathered contracts is certainly welcomed.
This is a rather substantial and refreshing change compared with some of the agendas and influenced selections that have plagued these finer BCS showcases over the past decade. This should generate more deserving matchups that are created based off of on-the-field accomplishments and not how well a team travels or who a sponsor would rather see. Again, we can only hope.
Because the committee will be tasked to do more, it won’t just be the top four (and those just beyond it) that it has its eye on. It would also appear that this process would begin well before the season winds down. They better damn well be watching games throughout the year, but releasing BCS standings 2.0 for all of us to see is a completely different story.
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick provided some further details on what the in-season assessments might include, and he told the South Bend Tribune that the selection committee would be releasing top 20 weekly standings starting in the middle of the season.
"We didn't want the top four teams to just come out of the blue at the end of the season," Swarbrick said. Get ready for weekly chaos and controversies likely starting at about the time the leaves begin to fall. This will be a similar situation to what we'll endure for two more years, only now there will be faces to blame and not just a formula. Continued controversy was inevitable, but now it will be a anticipated weekly.
Saying these teams could possibly “come out of the blue” is miscalculated, obviously, given the various polls, rankings and dedicated fans who are willing to put their own eyeball test up against everyone else’s. It's a comfort zone. Bigger yet, it gets us back to the week-to-week percentage grind that was one of my great frustrations with the BCS. I’m sure this Sunday televised release could pull in a nice buck from a certain network, though. Sound familiar with something you’ll see every Sunday night starting around the same time for the next two years, thankfully without the presence of Craig James?
The committee's influence was supposed to be a breath of fresh air away from the familiar BCS process. Instead, it would appear that the roots won't be completely shed.
Picking teams will be a similar process, regardless of whether we have a robot, computer, human or groundhog do the honors. Assessing them and delivering them based off perceived guidelines, however, didn't need to be. Nicole Auerbach of USA Today tweeted out these supposed selection committee guidelines, which will focus on ranking teams based off of: “W-L record, strength of schedule, head-to-head and if a team is a conference champ.”
If these guidelines are indeed followed—and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be—then a team’s playoff resume should be judged when it finishes it final game. If conference champions are going to be appreciated more in this new format, as they should, then a Week 8 assessment seems premature.
What's wrong with using the polls for what they should be used as, rankings that provide adequate bragging rights with your buddy or a rival school, and having our playoff and marquee bowl matchups delivered to us on a silver platter at the very end? College basketball does it every year, and a committee (albeit one that generates a much larger bracket) provides the necessary information once they've seen the finished products.
College football isn't college basketball, nor should it attempt to mimic their style and postseason agenda. In this instance, however, it would have been better to further separate from what they're preparing to destroy.
This wouldn't eliminate the controversy, conspiracy theorists or the clamor for more teams, but it could further distance itself from the BCS which still doesn't feel all that far away.