Conference Championship Weekend and College Football Playoff Don’t Mix
We have been highlighting this problem since the start of the CFP in 2014. Five years later, we are no closer to tackling the three biggest issues with this weekend.
There are far more disturbances than explosions. There are one-sided bets outside the SEC and we still have five Power 5 conferences trying to block at four points.
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This leads to the usual talking points. We say conference championships don’t matter. We try to test our team’s six, eight, 12, and 16 personalized Playoff models and they all think they have the best design. We strive to maintain the normal season.
The regular season will always matter in college football.
Conference Championships? They will continue to be a farce unless three issues are resolved.
Problem: Lack of drama
22 Power 5 league games have been played since College Football season and the statistics show no real drama.
- The highest scoring team is 18-4 in these games.
- The average winning margin is 19.2 points per game and 12 of the 22 games were decided by 14 points or more.
These toys lack seasonings. Clemson is a 24.5-point favorite against Virginia in this week’s ACC Championship game. Ohio State is an 18-point favorite in the big game against Wisconsin.
Possible solution: Eliminate divisions
The Big 12 got that right when it added a conference championship game. Oklahoma used it to enter the Playoff in each of the last two seasons, and the Sooners could come back again with the help of a one-loss battle against Baylor this weekend.
That being said, this is not a perfect solution. Virginia is the second best team in the ACC. Ohio State has already beat Wisconsin and Penn State.
This speaks to another problem.
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Problem: One-way bet outside SEC
The conferences tournament produced a few games where you could say with 100% certainty that the winner of the game was at the Playoff.
In fact, there are only three:
No. 5 Michigan State 16, No. 4 Iowa 13
No 6 Agriculture 28, No. 2 Auburn 7
No. 1 Alabama 35, No. 4 Georgia 28
The only other game close was No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami at the 2017 ACC Championship and the Hurricanes were no guarantee of a win.
The fact that the SEC has made two of those three games and has the biggest game of the weekend with the No. 1 LSU and the No. 4 Georgia is another hold-up for the eight-team playoff. The SEC has no incentive to move to eight, knowing that a playoff team is almost guaranteed each year, with the Bulldogs and Tigers likely to come in if Georgia pulls off an upset Saturday.
Possible solution: Protect the champions of a loss
Just think of these three games listed above. It was the best conference championship game possible. Michigan State’s TD run of L.J. Scott and Jalen Hurts’ return to Alabama were crucial moments that could make the argument for playing conference championship.
They work against him. These games were considered truly playoff quarter-finals. The other one did – a matchup between No. 7 Penn State and No. 6 Wisconsin in the 2016 Big Ten Championship game – produced a 38-31 thriller that the Nittany Lions won. Penn State watched One-loss Ohio State go to the Playoff instead.
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Problem: Five champions, four points
After all the arguments, the CFP is still trying to please five Power 5 conferences and a team of five with four playoff spots. UCF has proven that a team of five will never enter the Playoff of the four teams.
This weekend could expose another problem. Ohio State, LSU and Clemson could all take care of business and give the Playoff three undefeated teams. What will the Utah committee do with a loss against a loss to Oklahoma or Baylor if that is the case? You leave a conference champion of a loss outside of the Playoff.
How many loss 5 power champions are left at this point? This list includes TCU and Baylor (2014) and Ohio State (2018). The more this happens, the more this process will be stretched.
Possible solution: Perfect model of eight teams
It doesn’t have to happen overnight and you need the SEC to buy to operate. The details are obviously different. Put the quarterfinal games on campus. Wait until the five Power 5 conferences play nine or even 10 conference games. This will improve and protect the regular season.
Understand the correct format of conference championship games, with or without sections. You have a consistent model at all 10 conferences producing a much more dramatic conference championship weekend. If you want to schedule a conference championship weekend and sow the best teams, then that’s fine.
Six is not enough and 16 is too much. Most models have the right idea with eight groups rather than the variant. Include all five conferences, the Group of 5 and two great offers to give fans the best odds of football league and football playoff football – which to prove it has proven to be a huge success at this point. We’ll spend more time discussing No. 8 and No. 9, but that’s fine. At least some teams with two losses can slip in.
The solutions come easily when you recognize the problems.
It’s time to do the championship and the Playoff again.