The Playoff Committee ‘Getting it Right’

The College Football Playoff Committee is, for some reason, going to release it’s first set of rankings next week. This makes little sense since it is literally a “no win” situation.

They will get angry comments and criticism from people who disagree, and even if they “get it right” what will the rankings represent? The classic scenario of “if the playoff was today”, which is silly. The season is barely half over, and the two of the top three teams not only reside in the same division, but will play each other before the season is over. And newsflash for Mississippians (or anyone in the SEC): two teams from the same division will almost certainly not make the playoff. It’s not impossible, but it would take a lot of conference champions with 2-losses to make it a reality.

But no matter what the rankings are next week, or in December, the question everyone will continues to ask is, “did they get it right?” What exactly this means is anyone’s guess. Since the goal of the playoff committee is to pick four teams and rank them in order to form a bracket of sorts, most people think getting it “right or wrong” is just about getting the “right” four teams in. This is almost always going to be a conversation about the fourth team in and the the first team out, but will sometimes include the 3rd team in and the 2nd team out. But why is that the only part that matters?

If the #3 seed team wins the championship, didn’t the committee get it wrong? In fact if it’s not #1 over #2 in the championship game, didn’t they technically “get it wrong”? If the #4 seed wins, will the arguments be that the #5 team who got snubbed deserves to be champion?

The bottom line is that a one game playoff is very arbritary. So many factors go into one team beating another. Skill and strategy definitely play a role, but so does luck. When the small sample size of 12 (or 13) games is used to pick four teams to play eachother, and when these teams have played vastly different schedules, guessing who the four “best” teams are is nearly impossible.

So determining whether or not the playoff committee get’s it “right” or “wrong” is mostly about personal goals for the playoff. If it’s about determining who the “best” team in college football is this season, then the playoff isn’t the answer. If it’s about rewarding four teams for a high level of play all season, then the playoff get’s closer. If it’s about creating three fun/exciting games, at the end of which one get team get’s a special trophy, that seems more accurate. Getting it right should only be measured in the quality/competitiveness of the three games, and not based on who some people think is “actually” the 4th best team.