So another great regular season of college football has come and gone, and with that comes the annual event where some team complains very loudly that they’ve been treated unfairly by the CFP. This year, Florida State is not the only one with a case but they are certainly the most vocal about it.
And believe me, I get why they are so upset. Their case is that never in the history of the CFP has an undefeated Power-5 conference champion been excluded from the playoff until now, especially when a one-loss Power-5 conference champion (or two, in this case) were included at their expense. They won every game on their schedule and won their conference. Texas did not do that, nor did Alabama. They are loudly crying that they have been treated unfairly, and I totally get it.
The problem is they are acting like this is something new, and it isn’t. Let me remind you of a few:
- 2014 - Both TCU and Baylor were ranked higher than Ohio State, yet Ohio State was included in the CFP at the expense of both TCU and Baylor presumably because the BIG-XII did not have a conference championship back then.
- 2015 - PAC-12 champion Stanford was excluded from the CFP despite having the same win-loss record as both Michigan State and Oklahoma who were included.
- 2016 - Ohio State was included in the CFP at the expense of Penn State despite Penn State being ranked higher the week before, winning the BIG-10 championship, AND having beaten Ohio State earlier in the year.
- 2017 - Auburn beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl and was ranked #2 going into championship week, but then lost to Georgia in the SEC championship and got excluded from the CFP in favor of Alabama who they’d beaten just a couple of weeks before.
It wasn’t any better before either. During the poll era, the pollster-proclaimed champion was often controversial with non-winners claiming the system was unfair to their disadvantage. We replaced that with the BCS which was only marginally better, and likewise was rife with controversy:
- 2001 - Nebraska was chosen to play in the BCS National Championship game over higher-ranked Oregon and Colorado, despite having not won their conference.
- 2003 - Disagreement between computer and human polls resulted in a real BCS champ (LSU) and a pseudo-champ (USC) both claiming to have won the title.
- 2004 - Five teams finished the regular season undefeated, leaving three teams feeling left out of the BCS championship game. This also happened in 2009.
- 2010 - TCU was left out of the national championship despite going undefeated.
- 2011 - Alabama was chosen to play LSU in the BCS championship game, excluding teams from any other conference and allowing Alabama in despite having lost to LSU earlier in the year.
When the CFP was introduced for the 2014 season, we had 5 power conferences. The CFP was introduced with only 4 spots in the tournament. It was unfair from the beginning.
Let me state that again: It was unfair from the beginning. By definition.
From the beginning of the CFP, by definition at least one Power-5 conference champion was going to be snubbed every year despite winning their conference title. Every year at least one team was going to feel like they had earned the right to play in the CFP and was being excluded. We may have never had an undefeated conference champion get excluded before, but the possibility for that existed from the very beginning and nothing was ever done to preclude it happening. It was completely possible that each conference champion could go undefeated in one year; the fact that it hadn’t happened before isn’t all that relevant.
The point is, the system was never designed to be fair. It was never designed to take only conference champions, or only teams with the best strength of schedule compared to their record, or to prefer undefeated teams. It was never designed to take into account, or to explicitly not take into account, the health of starters, for example, or other factors.
The system was designed from the beginning to pit the “best four teams” against each other in a tournament, based on the decisions of a committee that would determine who the best four teams were. That’s what it was from day one.
It was never fair and never meant to be fair. For Florida State to claim it’s unfair this year, or for any of the others in past years to do the same for that matter, is like complaining because it is dark at night.
Duh. Obviously, it’s unfair. We all know.
What you really ought to be asking yourself is: Do you really think the CFP doesn’t know it’s unfair? That they did not know this from the beginning?