OPINION: Lack of diversity in college football playoffs major problem
Bryan Hudnell | Staff Writer
When the College Football Playoff system was announced at the start of the 2014-15 season, College Football fans were ecstatic. The outdated Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system was finally abolished and teams were given the chance to prove themselves in pursuit of a national championship.
This year, the teams selected by the Playoff Committee were Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama. All four are deserving and are quality programs, but a major problem emerges for College Football: there is almost no diversity in these selections year to year.
Georgia is the only team in this year’s playoffs making their first appearance. In the four years of the playoff system, Alabama has been selected every year and has appeared in every top 10 ranking the Playoff Committee has put out. Clemson is another mainstay and has made it three times. This will be the third straight year where an Alabama-Clemson matchup is present as well. Lastly, Ohio State and Oklahoma both have made it twice.
Now, the argument can be made that these teams are consistently putting the best product out on the field every year, and it should not be a huge shock that these teams are in the conversation every year. College Football has always been this way. But, at least in the BCS system, non power five conferences had the shot of breaking this trend. There has been close to zero indication of that in the playoff system.
Two teams have come close. The first team, and perhaps the team that had the best chance, was Houston. In 2015, they finished with a 12-1 regular season record and secured an American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship against #22 Temple. The Cougars also defeated Louisville, Memphis, Navy, and most importantly, Florida State in the Peach Bowl. This is a quality resume that the Committee straight up ignored. The Cougars were never ranked in the top 15 until after they upset FSU and they finished the season eighth.
In 2016, Houston stunned #3 Oklahoma to begin the season and received a lot of national attention. They were ranked as high as sixth, which is the highest ranking ever given to a non power five conference team. The Cougars’ hot start came to end after falling to Navy and Southern Methodist University.
The other team is Central Florida (UCF). The Golden Knights closed this year with an undefeated regular season and won their conference. A question all college football fans should be asking themselves is what if UCF comes out victorious against Auburn in their bowl game? What would those implications be? Auburn was ranked #2 before the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship game and here is UCF knocking off an SEC powerhouse. Even if they lose by a few points, they would join Houston in proving that these teams can compete with the best that college football has to offer.
Now, I am not saying that UCF can beat Alabama; those odds are slim. But what more do these teams need to do? They need a rigorous out of conference schedule and must win their conference championship to even be looked at. These teams do not have the luxury of scheduling Mercer or The Citadel like Alabama and Clemson can. They have to be perfect and have no weaknesses on their resume, which is an unrealistic expectation for any team to meet.
Whether it is expanding the playoffs to six or eight teams or being more lenient to teams in weaker conferences, College Football needs to take a hard look at how they are evaluating teams to give more teams a shot. If not, we will get stuck with the same matchups and the same teams every year.