So, what do you think about the lineup for this season’s College Football Playoff?
If you’re a fan of LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma, you think the selection committee got it right by choosing the four best Power 5 schools.
If you root for, say, Memphis or Appalachian State, you think the system is flawed because it’s too small and committee members ignore the Group of 5.
But let’s be honest – there’ll never be a consensus on the best playoff system regardless of how large or small it is.
Me? I’ve decided not to get emotionally involved anymore. I’d prefer a 16 team tournament with 10 conference champions and six wildcard teams, but doubt that’ll happen – certainly not in the foreseeable future.
What’s most likely is an eight team playoff, which will come once the current four team agreement runs out following the 2026 season (if not sooner).
With four teams, some believe the field is too exclusive.
With 16 teams, a case can be made that it’s too inclusive.
Eight teams is the middle ground, but even then there will be issues.
But I’m not here to opine about the merits of the CFP. There have already been thousands and thousands of columns written on the subject and I’ve been responsible for far too many of them.
What I thought would be fun, though, is to take the final pre-bowl Associated Press rankings and see how the Football Bowl Subdivision title chase would look under the “old eras.”
And for our purposes those eras will consist of the Conference Tie-In Era (ending in 1991); the Bowl Coalition Era (1992-94); the Bowl Alliance Era (1995-97); and Bowl Championship Series Era (1998-2013).
The Top 25 released December 8 is as follows: 1. LSU (13-0), 2. Ohio State (13-0), 3. Clemson (13-0), 4. Oklahoma (12-1), 5. Georgia (11-2), 6. Florida (10-2), 7. Oregon (11-2), 8. Baylor (11-2), 9. Alabama (10-2) and Auburn (9-3) tied, 11. Wisconsin (10-3), 12. Utah (11-2), 13. Penn State (10-2), 14. Notre Dame (10-2), 15. Memphis (12-1), 16. Minnesota (10-2), 17. Michigan (9-3), 18. Boise State (12-1), 19. Iowa (9-3), 20. Appalachian State (12-1), 21. Navy (9-2), 22. USC (8-4), 23. Cincinnati (10-3), 24. Air Force (10-2) and 25. Oklahoma State (8-4).
Let’s begin, shall we?
Conference Tie-In Era
You know how college football fans love to bitch and moan?
There would’ve been some major bitching and moaning if this week’s Top 25 existed in the 1991 season.
By then most of the top bowl games had reached agreements with conferences in order to have guaranteed participants, so the Rose Bowl would always feature the Big Ten champion against the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) champion, while the SEC champion was bound for New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl.
The Big 8 (now Big 12) winner was assigned to the Orange Bowl; the late, sometimes great Southwest Conference champion went to the Cotton Bowl; and the ACC titlist was placed in the Citrus Bowl.
A national championship game wouldn’t have been possible in 1991. LSU would be in the Sugar Bowl while Ohio State would meet Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Clemson would be in Orlando, and its only chance of winning a title would be for the top-ranked Tigers and second ranked Buckeyes to lose.
If all the favorites won their bowls, the season would end with three undefeated teams and a butt load of unhappy fans.
Bowl Coalition Era
Both the 1990 and 1991 seasons ended with split national championships. In 1990 Colorado won the AP title with Georgia Tech claiming the Coaches Poll national championship, and a year later Miami finished atop the AP rankings and Washington was the choice of the coaches.
This led to the Bowl Coalition, which gave the SEC, Big 8, ACC and SWC some wiggle room. For example, if the season ended with the SEC team No. 1 and the Big 8 team No. 2, then the Orange Bowl would give up its right to host the Big 8 champion so it could play the top SEC team in the Sugar Bowl for the national title. If a team from the Big 8 was No. 1, then the Orange Bowl would host.
So that means if the Bowl Coalition existed in 2019, LSU and Ohio State would meet in New Orleans for all the marbles, right?
The Pac-10 and Big Ten were not part of the deal because those leagues wanted to retain their Rose Bowl tie-in.
So Ohio State would be playing Oregon in Pasadena, while LSU would host Clemson in New Orleans.
That would possibly elevate the Sugar Bowl to the national championship game, but if Ohio State won the Rose Bowl that means there would still be two undefeated teams at the end of the season.
Bowl Alliance Era
This was a slight improvement over the Coalition in that the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls featured the highest ranked teams, with the top two meeting for the national championship.
And this was fine as long as a Pac-10 or Big Ten school wasn’t involved because they refused to give up their Rose Bowl gig.
So apply this plan to 2019 and once again you have LSU vs. Clemson in the Sugar and Ohio State vs. Oregon in the Rose.
The possibility of co-champions or an undefeated runner-up would again be not only possible, but probable.
Bowl Championship Series Era
Finally, the NCAA figured out a way to manufacture a national championship game without having to install a playoff system.
The Pac-10 and Big Ten agreed to join the party, and this party would include the BCS National Championship Game which was rotated among the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls before ultimately becoming a stand-alone event alternated among those bowl sites.
The top two teams would meet in the title match, while the other bowls would choose from the best of the rest (although the Rose still had “traditional” matchups when it wasn’t hosting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams).
The rankings were determined by a combination of polls and computer data, so who knows which two teams would’ve been spit out in 2019.
But assuming it jibed with this week’s Top 25, LSU and Ohio State would be playing for the national championship while Clemson would be taking on Oklahoma in a consolation prize bowl (although it would be little consolation to Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, even if they won).
But those eras are done, and now we find ourselves in year six of the CFP era.
For college football’s “haves” (meaning Power 5 members) there’s little room for complaining in 2019. Few doubt that LSU, Ohio State and Clemson belong in the field, and no team in the Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten or ACC can claim they should take the place of the Big 12 champ Sooners as the No. 4 seed.
The national championship of big-time college football has evolved quite a bit over the years, and it’s obviously much better that it’s ever been before.
Whether or not it can and will get even better, though, is a topic for another time.