One of the best parts of the college basketball selection committee process is the inevitable snub discussion. It's the time of the show where ESPN's talking heads get together and discuss how some team belongs in the bracket and some team should be in the NIT or sitting home on their duff.
The first ever College Football Playoff selected four teams based on performances of the 2014 season. Alabama and Ohio State met in the Sugar Bowl, while Oregon played Florida State in the Rose Bowl. The winners advanced to a Super Bowl-type game to be played at AT&T Stadium on Monday night.
As it is with any selection process, there are questions unanswered. There are things we don't quite understand, but one thing's for sure: it's giving us exactly what we want, and when the final gun sounds, we'll finally have a relatively undisputed national champion.
With time winding down until the opening kickoff, let's look at some of the ways the College Football Playoff's enhanced the hunt for the national champion:
Conference Affiliation Matters
The selection process is a slap in the face to anyone who's not a member of the "Power Five" conferences. The selection committee criteria centered so much on strength of schedule, severely limiting the abilities of the teams in the American, Conference-USA, Sun Belt, Mountain West, and Mid-American Conference. It greatly enhanced the power of the teams in the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12, Big XII, and SEC.
But that's what makes this playoff so great. The Football Bowl Subdivision's found itself diluted with programs trying to muscle in on lucrative bowl contracts. The reclassification of programs like Old Dominion, UMass, and Appalachian State ruined what made the Football Championship Subdivision so competitive and so great, instead swelling the ranks of the FBS with teams who became nothing more than a second paycheck game for the big time conferences. Over time, I think we'll see the balance restored with competitive edges between the power conference teams, and we'll see an overall quality of football improve with competitive games between the Group of Five.
The bottom line is that the elite nature of the Power Conferences makes their games more high stakes and makes each week something tougher. We're getting away from the time where it's acceptable to pad schedules with games against both UMass and Maine.
Access is Limited Even For P-5 Schools
One of the biggest arguments for expansion of the four-team playoff is that the selection committee snubbed Baylor and TCU for Ohio State. That said, think of that game between Baylor and TCU back in October when they combined for 119 points. Had either team played even a little bit of defense, they'd potentially be the ones gearing up for the national championship, not the Buckeyes.
The limited access is what makes this so fun. It puts a premium on playing every week. It means a team has to be perfect, and it goes along with the elite selection thereof. The margin for error is so small that a half step too early or too late can ruin dreams of a national championship. Last year, the loss to Baylor would've ended all hope for the Horned Frogs. That they were even in the discussion shows how hard it is to actually get into the tournament.
The Rankings Have Flexibility
In a statistics world, the voters would've found themselves obligated to vote Florida State as the #1 team or #2 team in the nation. Placing them anywhere else would've taken them out of the national championship game, and it's hard to imagine anyone rationally saying the Seminoles don't belong. They would've needed to manipulate the computers in order to keep FSU in position for one of the two slots. Statistically, I think the Seminoles would've been a top two team anyways.
Instead, the selection committee didn't need to vote FSU into one of the first two slots. The committee could've slapped (and did slap) down a team that didn't pass the smell test. They watched the games, analyzed the numbers, and said, "You know what? You might be undefeated and the defending national champions, but you just don't look right."
To fans, it matters what the number is. To the teams, they should be able to use their number as a measuring stick. They should be able to say, "Hey we're #3 but we feel we should be #1. Let's go out and play the perfect game to prove it every week." As it turns out, the #3 team—Florida State—failed when challenged by the committee to stand up.
There's No Doubt Who Will Be Champion
Whoever wins on Monday is the national champion. You'll have a hard time finding someone who thinks otherwise. Either Oregon or Ohio State will fill their trophy case with the first ever gold stick football thingy. And that's what we really wanted.