Unbalanced Power in a Broken System: Examining the CFP’s Semifinal Round

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The College Football Playoff is supposed to match up the four best teams for a shot at the national championship. Monotonous selections by the committee, combined with vice grip of power at the top, have resulted in a lopsided semifinal round over the years.

Seven years into the College Football Playoff’s rule as the framework which decides the members for the opportunity to win a public title, and the vast majority, from school football stalwarts to easygoing onlookers of the game, can disclose to you that it is a long way from an ideal framework.

On paper, this should be a framework which can decide the best four groups at whatever year. The 13-part determination advisory group makes their picks “utilizing meeting titles won, strength of timetable, straight on outcomes, and examination of results against regular rivals”.

All things being equal, in a year that has been fiercely capricious, we wound up with a Playoff that most have anticipated since before the season even begun, in Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

How does Cincinnati, which won the AAC and went 9-0, get positioned behind a three-misfortune Florida group and not have a genuine shot at the field? For what reason did 8-3 Iowa State, which has a misfortune to a typical rival when contrasted with 11-0 Coastal Carolina, get approval for a New Year’s Six bowl over the Chanticleers?

In a year in which the board got the opportunity to accomplish something else and it would have been to a great extent reasonable, they decided to stand firm. This would have appeared well and good in the event that they had the “on the off chance that it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude with respect to the season finisher, however it’s obviously needing fixing.

A valid example: the elimination round of the CFP. Barring the wild year that was 2020 where the eye test was without a doubt the ruling choice factor, the advisory group has left out 13 P5 Champions or other one-misfortune groups, and seven zero-or-one-misfortune G5 champions.

Truth be told, only 11 unique projects have been granted the 28 elimination round compartments passed out by the board. You would feel that barring that numerous commendable groups would prompt there being the ideal “Last Four”, however as most school football fans can advise you, that has been for from the situation.

Of the now fourteen College Football Playoff semifinal games, only three have been decided by single digits, while seven have been decided by over 20 points and 10 have been decided by 3+ scores. In fact, the average margin of victory in a CFP semi is 20.9 points.

For the rounds as a whole, 4 of the 7 have decided by an average margin of victory of 20 or more, and 6 of the 7 have been by an average of three scores or more. The only CFP semifinal round to not be decided by an average of over three scores was in 2016, when Alabama bested Clemson mainly by their defense and Georgia took Oklahoma to double overtime.

Of course, the committee’s selection practices does play a large role in this, but you would be remiss if you did not mention the very clear grasp of power at the top by college football’s elite.

Sure, just 11 programs have been invited to the CFP since its inception. But out of the 14 teams who have made it to the championship game in the current system, that has been divided up amongst just six programs: Alabama (5), Clemson (4), Ohio State (2), LSU, Georgia and Oregon.

Who knows, if Dabo Sweeney didn’t give the Buckeyes bulletin board material ahead of their matchup this year, then you could see a situation in which 10 of the 14 berths have gone to the Crimson Tide & Tigers.

Many times in the last decade, you can almost predict who will get to the national championship before we even reach the midway point of the regular season. Head coaches Nick Saban & Dabo Sweeney have, for the most part, really made it Alabama & Clemson and everybody else throughout most of the CFP era.

The College Football Playoff, without a doubt, needs some sort of expansion. Should it be six, eight or even ten teams? Should there be automatic qualifiers for P5 conference champions? Should the high-ranking G5 get a bid? Who knows what the change would look like, but many experts, pundits and fans are in agreement that the CFP needs reform.

Will that change the outcome at the end of the national championship? Maybe, maybe not. But, out of the six previous College Football Playoffs, the No. 4 seed has won it twice (OSU ’14, Bama ’17) and the No. 1 seed has done it just once (LSU ’19).

Who’s to say a No. 6 seed couldn’t pull off a miraculous run? At the very minimum, expansion would, by default, break the yearly monotony given to us by the selection committee and give us something fresh to watch.


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