Why The College Football Playoff and Ranking Systems are “Unfair”

We’ve heard our whole lives that “life isn’t fair”. While I agree with that cliché, I also hate it. I won’t delve into why, but what I will delve into is why sports should be fair and how both the College Football Playoff and Ranking systems are unfair.

As I said above, sports should be fair. That’s why we have rules and keep score. Then, when one team beats another, it’s fair. I know what you’re thinking right now. You are going over every football game you’ve ever seen where the refs screwed your team and the outcome was decidedly unfair. Does Fail Mary ring a bell to anyone? The point is that football is as fair as it’s going to get inside the game play itself. The issues are the outside people that make football unfair.


Now that the BCS rankings are invalid, the main ranking systems we see are the AP top 25, ESPN Power Rankings, and the USA Today Poll. Do you know how these are achieved? Well I’ll tell you.

“The AP Top 25 is determined by a simple points system based on how each voter ranks college football’s best teams” (retrieved from collegefootball.ap.org/poll). That bold word means people decide which team gets a first place vote. It’s the same system for ESPN Power Rankings and the USA Today Poll. Voters determine the ranking. People have biases and favorites. Even if they think those biases and favorites aren’t coming into play, somewhere subconsciously it is having an effect. I’m not blaming the voters; I’m blaming the system.

College Football Playoff

The BCS rankings are no more and The College Football Playoff system was supposed to fix the mess that was the BCS. The BCS was like a really expensive and exclusive country club. It was hard to get in and even when you were in, you didn’t always get to enjoy the benefits. So if the CFP system was supposed to make everything all better than why, in their first selection yesterday, did they pick 3 teams from the top 5 of the AP poll? They are saying that their committee is “a talented group of high-integrity individuals with experience as coaches, student-athletes, collegiate administrators and journalists, along with sitting athletics directors (retrieved from collegefootballplayoff.com/overview). Again, I refer you to my point above about people and how they aren’t perfect. The last 4 teams ranked on December 7 are the teams that go on to play for the chance at the National Championship. You have to be chosen to be able to play for the national championship. Does that sound fair? Does that sound even remotely like the best possible option for college football?

The Solution 

How we solve this debacle is to go to a system similar to the one the NFL employs. There are a total of 8 divisions in the NFL, 4 in the AFC and 4 in the NFC. Then the NFL gives the AFC and the NFC 2 wildcard spots. The winner of each division goes to the playoffs and then the 2 teams with the best record out of non-divisional winners in both the AFC and NFC go to the playoffs as well. They all play each other, teams are subsequently eliminated until the AFC and NFC championship. The AFC Champion and the NFC Champion then play each other in the Super Bowl. It’s simple, easy, and fair.

There are 11 conferences in college football, including the Independents. The Independents need to join a conference (who cares which one) and that brings the total number of conferences to an even 10. The two teams with the best records out of all 12-conference champions get a 2 round bye. The remaining 8 teams then play each other bracket style until there are two left. The 2 teams who had byes then play those 2 teams in a semifinal game. The 2 winners then go on to play each other in the National Championship. The FCS already employs a system very close to this, the difference being they have 8 teams that compete to get to the National Championship. Simple. Easy. Fair.

You’d have to shorten college football season by 2 – 3 weeks, but if you had to in order to get a system that was fair and equitable – it’d be more than worth it.

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