College Football is a Whole New Game
The first Associated Press top 25 college football poll has come out and defending National Champion Florida State is on top. I hope they enjoy it because the days of the college football polls may go the way of the senior All-American football player. With the new College Football Playoff, the need for a poll is minimal. Just look at college basketball, sure they still have polls each week, to more or less keep fans and alumni talking, but what do they matter when it comes to winning the national title? Nothing. A committee, just like they have in college basketball, will determine which four teams make the national semi-finals. The committee will no doubt keep an eye on all the football teams and results each week. And because they’re all fans of the sport, they’ll obviously see the polls, but the NCAA wants football-educated people determining who gets a shot at the national championship, not fans or media with a regional bias. And an Alabama can’t hide behind a reputation while destroying teams like North Texas and Alcorn State.
If the Seminoles and their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston can run the table this year and go unbeaten, they’ll have an excellent chance to make the semi-finals. But if there are 5 undefeated teams, or even four, there’s no saying who the committee will decide played a tougher schedule or deserves the semi-final bid more. In past years, if you were number one early in the season and lost an early game, you had 7 or 8 weeks to climb back up in the polls. If you ran the table but lost your conference championship game late in the year, the odds were stacked against you.
The new system is more like professional sports. Lose early, lose late, doesn’t matter, if you qualify for the playoffs you’ve got a chance to win it all. The polls have always been popularity contests. The voters loved the traditional powers and conferences. The occasional TCU or Boise State or BYU threw the polls for a loop. The voters always seemed to favor the 1 or even 2 loss traditional school over the unbeaten “mid-major.” But what if a Northern Illinois really is the best team, shouldn’t they get a shot? We’ve seem Memphis and Butler’s basketball programs get to the Final Four and nearly win it all over the “big boys.” The same thing could happen this year in college football, and I think it would be awesome to see at least one of the semi-final teams come from a smaller conference.
How about a national championship game between Florida State and Toledo or Ohio State and Fresno State? Just like the pay-to-play situation with the college athletes and the NCAA, college sports are starting to realize that they have to give the “little guy” some recognition. The odds of Toledo making it into the National Championship Game are about the same as Urban Meyer inviting the media over to his house for a barbeque, but at least the possibility is there. With the new system and a real committee making the decision, not a popularity poll, I’m really excited about the 2014 college football season. Let’s hear it for SMU’s first real shot at a National Championship since…The Pony Express.