Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Are college football conference playoffs headed for change?

Ever since the decision to allow playoff/championship games to determine conference football champions, there has been many discussions around the value of it (beyond the dollars, of course) and if a conference championship game always determines the best team from the conference. We know that the latter—determining the best team—will not always be true.

Last year, in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, Florida State narrowly defeated Georgia Tech. The Seminoles with an 8-0 league record represented the Atlantic division while the Yellow Jackets with a 6-2 ACC mark represented the Coastal Division. As it turns out, if the standings had been combined into one league (no divisions), those two teams would have been first and second. The two teams did not meet in the regular season. Clemson was also 6-2 but lost to GT.

On the other hand, in 2013, Florida State was in the title game against Duke which had only the third best conference mark. In both cases, Florida State had to win to get to the national title game in 2013 and the four team playoffs in 2014. Some of the discussion about the conference title game is a consideration to always include the top two league teams even if they come from the same division. If that were the case in 2013, Florida State would have played Clemson, not Duke.

The idea has some merit, but there are plenty of complications, especially with a 14-team league. Two teams tied for second could both have one loss, both to the top team in the league. If the two had not played each other, the choice would probably go to the team that defeated the next team in the standings or something like that. It could go to the team ranked the highest in the playoff rankings. It could come to a coin flip which would be crazy at best. And, with rivalry games scheduled every year, there’s no way to give all teams a balanced schedule every year.

Changing how the teams get to the ACC title game is open for discussion, but right now, having the two divisional champions playing may be the best option. However, the league needs to consider mixing up the divisions to give more balance to each. That may mean dropping some of the rivalry games every now and then, but can you imagine a season without UNC-Duke, NC State-UNC, Clemson-Florida State, Florida State-Miami, Pitt-Syracuse, etc. Probably not.
Dictionary.com word of the day
bafflegab (noun) [baf-uh l-gab] confusing or generally unintelligible jargon; gobbledegook

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