Two points stand out about college football’s playoff ranking system.
First, it is working.
Second, that does not mean that the NCAA basketball tournament should copy it.
College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, and there is little doubt the new system is a welcome replacement of the BCS system.
At the start of the season, the FBS conferences, which administer the new system, were not shy about touting its appeal:
“The new postseason structure creates an exciting four-team playoff that preserves the best regular season in sports and protects America’s rich bowl tradition.
“It does not go too far; it goes just the right distance and respects the academic calendar while limiting the number of games played by student-athletes.”
Hey, there is truth in this advertising.
With one week remaining in the regular season and conference championships to be decided, there is still an air of suspense and possibility for at least 10 or more teams to make it to the playoffs.
Currently, Alabama (10-1), Oregon (10-1), Florida State (11-0) and Mississippi State (10-1) fill the top four spots in a formula that includes review of video, statistics and their own expertise to guide committee members in deliberations, as well as obvious factors like win-loss records, strength of schedule, conference championships, head-to-head results and results against common opponents.
That depth explains why the undefeated and AP No. 1 Seminoles are only third in the FBS rankings. Florida State has made a habit of playing down to lesser competition and eking out fourth-quarter victories.
In the previous BCS regime, it would be unthinkable for the nation’s only major undefeated team to be excluded from the championship game, regardless of merit. The four-team FBS allows for a more honest evaluation.
It also means that one loss does not necessarily end championship hopes, as often occurred in the past.
TCU, Ohio State and Baylor all have one loss but still have a legitimate chance to make the final foursome with a little help.
To the committee’s credit, even though the Bears gave the Horned Frogs their only loss, TCU is rated higher based on other factors. That no doubt engenders debate in Texas, but it is an example of the committee’s independence in reaching its own decisions.
The four playoff teams will play in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. The two winners will meet in the championship game Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Irving, Texas.
Yes, it works in football, but let’s not get too giddy.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the NCAA’s basketball chief would consider copying the FBS plan and releasing the Selection Committee’s ranking of teams in the weeks before Selection Sunday.
“We did talk about it and certainly have been monitoring what the football committee has been doing,” NCAA basketball chief Dan Gavitt told USA Today. “Even going back to last year, before football started doing what they’re doing, we had some ideas of possibly taking more steps with what I think has been a real good effort over the years in transparency in the process — additional things we could do in that regard, but also possibly take advantage, as the football committee has, of the promotional/marketing value of that as well. It’s tricky because you’ve got to make sure to balance those two things.”
Two words, Mr. Gavitt: New Coke.
Two more words: IHSAA basketball.
Another two words: Designated hitter.
What do these have in common? They are things that got royally screwed up because someone took the greatest things in the world and tried to make them better.
Don’t do it.
Selection Sunday for the NCAA basketball tournament is an event filled with mystery, debate and great drama.
This is not football, where a four-team playoff format almost certainly leaves out a championship-worthy team (some coaches already are clamoring for an eight-team format).
Basketball is not the same. Sixty-eight teams get in. Sure, No. 69 can feel slighted, but the No. 6 team in a conference really has no realistic expectation of cutting down nets in April.
Let’s hope the NCAA honchos appreciate that distinction.
It’s not broke, so don’t break it.