Thursday, January 22, 2015

College Football's Epic Fail

After years of debate about the need for a college football playoff, 2014 saw it come to fruition. However, it was not without controversy involving the members of the playoff selection committee, the criteria used to select the teams, and which four teams should have have been selected. In my opinion, the inaugural playoff was at best a screw-up in regards to the teams selected and their rankings. At worst, it appeared to have had an agenda.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Florida State (FSU) fan, and I wrote this article based upon what I as an FSU fan perceived happened in college football this year. I'm sure many will disagree and write me off as a "nutjob conspiracy theorist." However, I'm sure some, such as TCU and Big 12 fans, will understand where I'm coming from. Heck, I'll betcha Detroit Lions fans can relate to where I'm coming from based upon what happened in the NFC WildCard Game with the Dallas Cowboys. I'm also sure that anyone who is a sports fan has at some time felt like their team got "railroaded". My whole point in writing this article is that nowadays appearance and perception is everything.


So, after all these years, why start the playoff now? What if the answer is because the SEC wanted it? After all, the SEC is college football's "cash cow". The playoff's predecessor, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), was by all accounts "fathered" by former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, because SEC teams kept knocking each other out of national championship contention each year. The BCS put a system in place that gave SEC teams an opportunity to play for the title even if they had 1 or 2 losses. In my opinion, the BCS gave the SEC a bailout.

Bowl Championship Series
Bowl Championship Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the BCS years, SEC teams won 9 out of 16 BCS title games, including 7 in a row. They were trying to make it 8 in a row last year, but SEC champion, Auburn, choked away a 21-3 first half lead en route to losing to Florida State (FSU) 34-31.

Could it be that FSU's victory, which ended the SEC's consecutive national title run, was the impetus for the new playoff system? Afterall, since the SEC is the so-called "best conference in the country", we just can't have some team from that "itty bitty conference" (as my uncle referred to the ACC) winning the crystal trophy, can we? Could it be that the NCAA felt a new system was needed which would help guarantee the SEC a shot at winning the title each year?

The Set-Up

Now, if the powers that be wanted to dethrone the defending champ and get the national title back in the SEC's hands, a new system would have to provide for the deck to be stacked against the defending champs and in favor of the SEC. Could it be that by having a 4-team playoff the goal was to have multiple SEC teams in the 4-team field to increase the SEC's odds of reclaiming the title? The only problem was that in 2014 one-by-one Auburn, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss crashed and burned leaving Alabama as the lone SEC entry into the 4-team field.
derived from
Map of states with Big 12 schools (and their division); (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that the playoff committee was governed by a bunch of convoluted rules as to how teams were to be selected and ranked? You can read these rules by clicking here. If I didn't know better, I'd think they were devised by the Federal government. Heck, these "rules" would have made Nancy "we have to pass the bill so you'll know what's in it" Pelosi happy.

If you, like me, followed the committee updates each week during the college football season, you noticed that the criteria seemed to change each week. One week they would say they were looking at each team's complete season. Then, the next week some other criteria would be more important. Did the rules / criteria change on a weekly basis in order to get a desired result? Was it to cause confusion? Could the "changes" explain :
  • why TCU was booted from the playoff at the last minute even though their only loss was on the road to a team ranked #5 at the time,  but yet
  • Ohio State reached the playoff despite their only loss coming at home to a team, Virginia Tech, that finished the season 6-6 and unranked? 
Heck, I remember various media personalities saying on more than one occasion that even they didn't know what criteria the committee was judging the teams on. Was there an intended reason for the confusion?

Now, besides the convolutedness of the playoff criteria, it seemed there was a propaganda campaign against FSU by the sports media. The media would incessantly bash the defending champs. Nearly everyday, the airwaves were filled with negative press about the university and/or its football team and usually it was the same story over and over again. Was this an effort to taint public opinion against FSU in hopes that the pollsters and playoff committee members would drop them lower and lower and maybe even out of the top 4 in the rankings?

Am I off base? Well, consider this - why did FSU get hammered over off-the-field incidents and yet if an SEC player was arrested we would only hear one little snippet about it and it would be dropped? Why didn't the media pound Oregon when their star wide receiver failed a drug test and was declared ineligible for the national championship game? Think about the media uproar that would have ensued if an FSU player had failed a drug test. Was FSU treated fairly, or did it get raked over the coals due to a hidden agenda?

Furthermore, can you name me one, just one, other year when the undefeated, defending national champion was not ranked #1? Can you name me one other year where the undefeated, defending national champion won every week during the regular season but yet consistently dropped in the rankings? I've been a college football fan over 35 years, and I've never seen anything like this year. I've never seen the defending national champ disrespected like FSU was. I'm confident it would have been different if FSU had been say ..... Alabama.  As an acquaintance of mine, who's an Alabama fan, said to me one day, "They're (FSU) #1 until they lose." Boom. Exactly.

The Final Pre-Playoff Rankings

Did the convoluted rules for ranking the teams and the propaganda have the desired affect? It appeared to me that they did. The company line was that FSU fell in the rankings because they struggled in winning close games. Or, was there more to it than that? Once again, it appeared to me there was. The final rankings released after the conference championships were completed on December 6th were:
  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State
  4. Ohio State
When these were released, controversy ensued because the rankings had changed from the previous week's in which #1 and #2 were the same but #3 was TCU and FSU was #4. The question was why did TCU drop out of the top 4 even though it had won in a blowout that weekend? Some said the Big 12 and TCU were punished due to there being no Big 12 Conference Title Game. Now, why would they be punished for that? Could it have been because the NCAA likes money and conference title games bring in a lot of it? What about if there's even more to it than that?

Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans at sunset f...
Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans at sunset from the south, taken before the Sugar Bowl on January 3, 2005 by J. Glover (AUTiger). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For instance, did you know that the #1 seed got the benefit of playing its semi-final game close to home as a "reward" for being the #1 seed? It's like the NFL playoffs where the #1 seed in each conference gets to play all their playoff games at home. With one semi-final game being the Sugar Bowl, Alabama as the #1 seed gets to stay close to home and have what amounts to home-field advantage, which likely increases their chances to reach the championship game and reclaim the title for the SEC.

Furthermore, with Alabama going to the Sugar Bowl, #2 seed Oregon also gets a home game by playing in the Rose Bowl. By ranking hated, undefeated, defending national champion FSU at #3, they must travel 3000 miles away from home to play. The hated 'Noles road to repeating as national champ is now a steep uphill climb. So then, who's #4 and plays Alabama?

Well, TCU's tough. So, would the powers that be want them playing beloved Alabama? I seriously doubt it. Therefore, TCU got dumped in favor of Ohio State. It seems that if there's one thing more disrespected and hated than FSU in college football, it's the Big 10. Could it be that the Ohio State / Alabama matchup was viewed as an easy win for The Crimson Tide?

The Epic Fail

Alabama's easy win turned into college football and the media's worst nightmare. I wonder if ESPN, who has the rights to all the CFP games through 2025, thought their prized cash cow would be playing for, if not winning, the championship every year? But as Bart Simpson would say, "au contraire, mon frere." Ohio State had other plans.

College football and the rest of the country rejoiced when hated FSU lost to Oregon. All was suddenly well in the world again .... briefly, until College Football Armegeddon happened, and ..... Alabama lost to last minute CFP qualifier Ohio State. The plan to get the SEC back on top became an epic, epic failure.

Hilarious does not come close to describing it.


Some will say this article is baloney. They will say that there's no way any such a thing happened or could happen. Remember - I said at the beginning that this is how I perceived what happened in college football this year as an FSU fan. It's an OPINION!

Myself with FSU's 2013 National Championship Trophy.
But what if this is what happened? What if you have a similar reaction to what happens to your team next year? It won't be "baloney" then, will it?

Another group of people will say I'm just cryin' because FSU lost. I can already hear them. The truth is that no cryin' is involved. FSU had a great run. No other team in college football has a recent winning streak of 29 games, and the only other team with a national championship more recent than FSU's is Ohio State.

Besides, it's tough to stay focused and keep winning week after week when the entire country is rooting against you and just waiting for you to fail. Remember, we're talking about 18-22 year-old kids here, Couple all that with committing multiple turnovers against a good team in the Rose Bowl and you have the perfect storm. Stuff happens.

The truth is I'm a bigger FSU fan now than I was before the season. Why? It's because the entire country hated my football team for weeks, and FSU's players and coaches heard over and over about how sorry they were as a team and as human beings. Yet those guys kept fighting week after week and stuck together as a team. Only running into a perfect storm in the Rose Bowl beat them. So, I'm proud of all those guys, the FSU players and coaches, for standing tall and sticking together against overwhelming odds all year.

And to much of the country's dismay, my guys will be back. It's only a matter of time.

Go 'Noles.