Sunday, December 7, 2014

You Have Arrived at Your Destination... We Just Took the Scenic Route Instead

The winding road to somewhere that was the 2014 college football season has ended, and we finally have clarity in the playoff picture. Alabama will play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, and Oregon will duel Florida State in the Rose Bowl. If one looked at those 4 teams and 2 matchups in a vacuum, he would probably say that the 4 best teams in college football were selected to play in the playoff. But how the road took us here is the question. But no matter what 4 the committee settled on, someone was going to say they were wrong. And sure enough, cue the outrage. But even spliced in with the haziness and murkiness of this first year process, the 4 best teams were chosen to play in the playoff. That doesn't mean changes shouldn't be made, not just from the committee but college football in general. There's some reflection to be done.

Yes, many people are confused about how the #3 team from 5 days ago in TCU could find itself at #6 after winning by 52 points. And they should be, because it makes no sense. They should also ask why the same TCU team was ahead of Baylor all of this team when head-to-head supposedly didn't come into play until just now. The Big XII probably has to ask itself about its future, seeing as even though Jeff Long didn't say it outright, no conference championship game certainly affected the co-champs of the league negatively. We as a college football populace should ask why the slate was supposedly wiped clean after every set of rankings came out, yet they were released weekly anyway. We should ask why this is how the committee has decided to do business when college rankings are conditioned upon building samples of games weekly.

Yes, most of us will probably still ask for an 8 team playoff, which is still clearly the best solution. But amid the chaos, the fog, and the confusion that every set of rankings has brought to bear, the best 4 teams in college football will decide on the field who the best 2 teams and later 1 team in college football is. Not by an algorithm or complicated formula, or one set of sports writers coming together for a potluck lunch. And college football on the whole has benefited tremendously.

Say what you want about the weekly rankings show (and I'll do just that, they are useless and a detriment to the process), they sparked intense debate and thought about how the landscape will shake out week to week. When most of us honestly had no clue what one loss would mean to the overall picture, we'd eagerly await the weekend's games because we so desperately wanted to find out. Even though the BCS emboldened chaos when many things went haywire, one game could send the playoff haywire. And even when things went according to form as Championship Saturday 2014 did, somehow chaos reigned anyway. Even if you're mad about the process, and based on twitter and columns like this so many are, the process gave us the correct outcome.

What is going to change because of this decision? The Big XII might be on the verge of expanding, or creating a Championship game for a conference that doesn't need it (Baylor are the clear champs because they beat TCU head-to-head, at least to me). Many teams who scheduled cupcakes out of conference are now going to scramble to try harder to play better teams, even as the majority can't avoid it. Maybe the committee will think through their decision to release weekly rankings, or simply spell out their criteria better. There was too much confusion regarding the moving target weekly, even as the clock reset itself every Tuesday night. Fans will probably still ask the same questions next year as they've done this year, and every year going forward.

Very rarely will the decision be easy. When was it ever for the BCS?

All of that is the result of a process that even the 12 committee members still don't fully understand yet. It is in the first year of a 12 year growing process. The BCS wasn't totally clean in its first year, even though the 2 teams that played in the Fiesta Bowl that season were probably the 2 correct ones. There will be controversies ahead every season because there is no clean way to decide the best 4 teams in college football, as there isn't a way to decide basketball's 68 without controversy surrounding the bubble. Such is the nature of the beast.

Through all of the mindlessness, moving targets, and feigned outrage, the 4 best teams in college football are going to decide on the field who the national champion is, and that's all we can ask for, right?

We just had to take the scenic route to get there.

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