Breaking Down the New College Football Playoff System

The BCS era is officially over. Whether you were a fan of the absolute havoc the BCS created or completely despised the system, one thing is for sure, the system created a number of memorable matchups and stirred up controversy every year.  Whether you remember Texas (I mean Vince Young) beating the unbeatable Pete Carroll led USC Trojans or Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers getting snubbed out of the championship game altogether, the BCS is officially a relic of the past.

Next up – a four team playoff. In my view, “baby steps” towards an eventual larger scale playoff system. 

What games will be played? 

Two semifinal games and four other bowl games will be played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The 1 and 4 seeds will square off, along with the 2 and 3 seeds. This year the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will represent the semifinal games. The championship game will follow on a Monday night every year.  The selection committee will also rank and place at-large teams in the noncontract New Year’s Day bowls, including the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Who determines the four best teams in the country? 

A selection committee composed of 13 members.  

Who is on the selection committee? 

According to the official playoff website:

 “A talented group of high-integrity individuals with experience as coaches, student-athletes, collegiate administrators and journalists, along with sitting athletics directors, comprise the selection committee. The members of the selection committee are: Jeff Long (chair), Barry Alvarez, Mike Gould, Pat Haden, Tom Jernstedt, Oliver Luck, Archie Manning, Tom Osborne, Dan Radakovich, Condoleezza Rice, Mike Tranghese, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham.”

Overall, this is indeed a group of highly qualified members. However, we would be lying if we said this was an unbiased group with ties to the Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, ACC, AAC, and Notre Dame. 

  • Pat Haden is the current athletic director at the University of Southern California. This is the same Pat Haden that left the press box to run down to the field and scream at a referee – an unprecedented event leading him to a fine of $25,000.00.  See video above…   
  • Barry Alvarez is the current athletic director at the University of Wisconsin, and former head coaching legend at Wisconsin. 
  • Jeff long is the current athletic director at the University of Arkansas. 
  • Oliver Luck is the current athletic director at West Virginia University. 
  • Archie Manning is an Ole Miss legend; however, he recently took a leave of absence because of his health. 
  • Dan Radakovich is the current athletic director at Clemson University. 
  • It would not be a committee if Notre Dame was not represented through former coach Tyrone Willingham.

What matters? 

Unlike the BCS, the AP Poll, Coaches Poll, Harris Poll, and computer rankings will NOT be used to make the selections.  What matters is who the overall four “best” teams are at the end of the regular season. 

In reaching its decisions, the selection committee will evaluate “strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won and other factors.” In other words, the committee will evaluate the totality of the circumstances, and will not be hamstrung directly to the computers or the polls. 

Implicitly, strength of schedule becomes drastically more important. Simply playing cupcakes and MAC teams out-of-conference will no longer cheat the system.  Just this year we’ve seen games such as Michigan State traveling to Oregon.  Likewise, having a conference championship game like the Big 10 and SEC is a hug perk.

When are rankings released?

The selection committee will release its top 25 rankings weekly on Tuesdays seven times during the season.  The first release will be this Tuesday, October 28, 2014, and the final rankings will take place on Sunday, December 7, 2014.

How long will the playoff system be around? 

The “plus one” playoff system is contracted through the 2025 season.  ESPN of course owns the rights to broadcast all games.  ESPN reportedly paid $7.3 billion, or $608 million per year, for the 12-year deal and TV rights.

Here is a link for a cheat sheet explaining the playoff system.

We will just have to wait and see how this year goes. As in years past, there will certainly be controversy regarding bubble teams.  Just imagine if the playoffs were next week.  Who would be left out?  Mississippi State and Florida State are locks.  What about TCU?  Notre Dame?  Oregon?  Ole Miss?  Auburn? Alabama? OSU?  Michigan State? 

By Technical Writer: Andy Smith