It’s strange to think how much effect the media has on who plays for the BCS National Championship. Right after Auburn stunned Alabama on Saturday, the discourse around who would play for the all the Xochtils focused on if a 1-loss SEC champion would be more deserving than an undefeated Ohio State. And that’s a fine and valid conversation, except that when it happens on ESPN and in other mainstream media outlets, it actually has an effect on who could play (communication majors everywhere are like “SEE!!! WE MATTER.”). Remember, a huge component of who ends up playing in that game is what people think of how good those teams are. It’s very likely that at least one voter changes his or her mind based on the fact that ESPN is framing the conversation this way.
Why is Ohio State being picked on and not Florida State? Yes, I think Florida State has had more top-flight opponents and has looked more impressive, but I don’t think looking impressive is a qualification for a national championship. It doesn’t matter how you win in any major American sport, so why college football? The fact is that most rankings have Ohio State’s scheduleranked as more difficult than Florida State’s. So why is the SEC picking on Ohio State as the undeserving team? Because that’s the narrative that is more likely to stick, given how the Jameis Winston coverage and how the Seminoles have beaten opponents.
It’s a sad way to run a championship sport. Who plays for the championship should be based solely on how many games you win, how many games you lose, and who you beat–in other words, the objective quality of your opponents. Subjectivity should never be a part of it because then we are judging teams based on tradition, how they played last year, style of play, if they played their starters the whole game, et cetera. The conversation about an SEC 1-loss champ versus an undefeated Big Ten/ACC champ should be a side conversation to the actual playoff entry format, not an input to it.
By the way, this won’t be solved by the playoff next year. You’ll still have lobbying as a way to affect who the selection committee puts in the 4-team playoff.
Below are my ratings for Week 14. A summary of my proposed playoff: top 6 conference champs plus the next two highest-rated teams. Top 4 conference champs host the other 4 teams at home on college campuses on December 21. Semifinals and Championship are incorporated into existing bowl rotation.
The teams in bold are potential conference champions that can win out to win the National Championship. These top 6 teams can host a first round game.
- #1 Ohio State. Beat #12 Michigan State for the Big Ten title and you’re the #1 seed.
- #2 Florida State. Beat #18 Duke for the ACC title and you’re probably the #2 seed.
- #3/#4 Auburn/Missouri. Whoever wins is the SEC champ and probably the #3 seed.
- #5/#6 Arizona State/Stanford. Whoever wins is the PAC 12 champ and probably the #4 seed.
The next grouping are of teams that can win their way into the eight-team playoff:
- #9 Northern Illinois. Beat #61 Bowling Green and you’re in.
- #12 Michigan State. Beat #1 Ohio State and you’re in.
- #13 Oklahoma State. Beat #28 Oklahoma and you’re in.
- #18 Duke. Beat #2 Florida State and you’re in.
Our top 6 conference champions are likely to come from this group. If NIU or Oklahoma State lose, then the next highest-rated conference champ could be Baylor, Central Florida, or even Texas. It’s a longshot for any of those teams, but that’s the fun of sports. Sometimes a team sneaks in and surprises us.
Then we have our 2 at-large teams. If Ohio State or Florida State lose, they would drop from a #1/#2 seed to the back half of the bracket, which is fair, given that it would be their first loss. No hosting for them. The other possible at-large teams are the SEC title game loser and Alabama. So, SEC lovers, you might still have 3 teams in there, which I think could be fair given the strength of the top of the conference.
So, if the higher-rated teams win out, here’s what we would get on December 21:
- 8-seed Oklahoma State at 1-seed Ohio State in Columbus on FOX at 12:30 pm EST
- 7-seed Northern Illinois at 2-seed Florida State in Tallahassee on ESPN at 4 pm EST
- 6-seed Alabama at 3-seed Auburn in Auburn on CBS at 7:30 pm EST
- 5-seed Missouri at 4-seed Arizona State in Tempe on ABC at 11 pm EST
I would watch those!