The College Football Playoff has arrived.
The CFP isn’t supposed to begin officially for exactly a month – on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl with the semifinals.
But, those clamoring for an eight-team tournament finally have gotten their wish.
Four of the five power conferences’ championships on Saturday actually serve as the quarterfinals. The four winners advance to the New Year’s Day games in Pasadena and New Orleans.
Atlantic Coast Conference: Miami vs. Clemson.
Southeastern Conference: Auburn vs. Georgia.
Big Ten Conference: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State.
Big 12 Conference: Oklahoma vs. Texas Christian University.
The committee will announce its Final Four on Sunday.
Currently, the CFP rankings have Clemson (11-1) No. 1, followed by Auburn (10-2), Oklahoma (11-1) and Wisconsin (12-0).
If they win, they’re in.
The next six teams are Alabama (11-1), Georgia (11-1), Miami (10-1), Ohio State (10-2), Penn State (10-2), Southern California (10-2) and TCU (10-2).
What happens if the Hurricanes, the Bulldogs, the Buckeyes and/or the Horned Frogs prevail in the conference title games?
They should be in.
What about Alabama? Penn State? Southern Cal?
Too bad. The Crimson Tide and the Nittany Lions didn’t reach the conference championship games. Well, last year Ohio State wasn’t a conference champion, and it made the Last Quartet. That was a mistake. Don’t repeat. You don’t win conference champions. You don’t deserve consideration. What about the Trojans? Too bad. The Pac-12 overall was the weakest of the top five conferences, and USC lost two. So its conference championship game against Stanford (9-3) really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
And the American Athletic Conference championship between undefeated University of South Florida and Memphis also is dismissed, unjustly, it seems, because the league is not in the Power Five.
Except that if TCU beats the Sooners or if Miami or Ohio State are not impressive in a triumph, or win on a fluke, Alabama believes it should be included in the Final Four because of the team’s pedigree and No. 1 ranking for much of the season, and despite its loss to Auburn and rather mediocre schedule. Fine argument, but Alabama should have played somebody other than Mercer late and should have beaten the Auburn Tigers.
If TCU defeats Oklahoma in the rematch, it belongs in spite of two setbacks. And if Ohio State (with three victories over teams among the top 20) wins over the unbeaten Badgers, it belongs because of the conference championship and despite the shellacking against Iowa.
And if Miami beats Clemson, it overcomes the loss last week because it’s how you finish. And if Georgia upsets Auburn, the Bulldogs, No. 1 recently, is back up, although the Bulldogs were blown out earlier by the Tigers.
Life and college football are not fair.
Look in the mirror and say: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest four of all?” There always will be questions and debate if a mirror or a committee decides who competes for the national championship.
But this year is fairer than most seasons.
It comes down to four conference championship games that should decide the semifinalists.
Want to make it fairer?
Create a 12-team playoff.
But how does a dozen get to four?
Let the Power Five championship games count as the first round of the playoffs with 10 teams competing for five, and add the two teams vying in another conference – the AAC or the MWC – play for the sixth spot. If Notre Dame or some other independent (BYU) is stronger than the non-power conference teams, it becomes No. 6. Or the committee could choose one wild-card team.
Four will play, and the top two after the conference championships receive byes the first weekend.
Two schools win and play the two highest-qualified teams. And the two winners play for the national championship.
Let me use this season as an example, and make assumptions.
The Power Five conference winners would advance, and say they are Auburn, Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Southern Cal. And USF would be the sixth team. Auburn and Clemson would get byes, and Oklahoma would play South Florida and Wisconsin would play USC.
But the committee also could select the Irish (if they hadn’t faltered) or Alabama, if the Tide is considered stronger than the non-power conference team – in this case USF. Let’s take South Florida, though, because of the undefeated season and the conference title.
After Oklahoma beats South Florida and Wisconsin whips Southern Cal, the CFP would have as quarterfinalists Auburn, Clemson, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
As it should be.
And everybody would be happy except the Tide, who haven’t earned the right to roll.