Selection Sunday for the College Football Playoff was a sad day for the sport. The selection committee faced its first mildly compelling decision in years and fumbled it like a greased watermelon, opting to exclude 13-0 Florida State on the grounds that nothing matters other than perception.
The committee has decided to stand on this absurd, make-believe distinction between the best teams and the most deserving, apparently blind to the irony of referring to a team as the “most deserving” of a playoff bid seconds before arguing that said team doesn’t deserve a playoff bid. Words! What do they mean?!
Accepting this concept that a single snapshot in time, taken following the conference title games, is the extent of information needed to pick the playoff is unimaginably dumb. Everybody wants more objectivity in the selection process, yet somehow, a significant cohort of people have sided with this vague definition of “best” despite it being the most subjective selection criteria possible.
Alabama “looks” better now. Alabama would be favored on a neutral field. Alabama should make the playoff. Everything that’s happened prior to right now is rendered meaningless because some stuffed suits in a boardroom “think” Alabama is better. Florida State is ostensibly less likely to beat Michigan, so it shouldn’t get the chance, despite the fact that proving that statement is impossible and the only measurables we actually have are the season’s worth of data that is ignored by this radically subjective selection process.
The system will take the brunt here for some. There were at least five deserving teams and only four spots, you may hear. That should not be the headline, as it excuses the committee’s abnegation of its base responsibility to establish a process for selection. There is no process. There is only opinion, informed not by the data points provided by a team over an entire regular season that theoretically exists as a pathway to selection, but from some feelings some people have. It is, quite frankly, embarrassing for the sport that this is how competent and developed it is 10 years into this.
Playing omniscient sports decider is not only unfair to Florida State, but it further erodes the regular season, college football’s truly unique asset that is already suffocating under the weight of playoff expansion and conference realignment. Florida State’s regular season was pointless. It was literally perfect, and it was pointless to be that way, because it was deemed likely that two imperfect teams are playing at a higher level right now.
Next year, the CFP will flood the zone with a 12-team model, which will accomplish the goal of making it impossible to keep out a worthy team. The process will be “fixed” by bloating it, and no accountability will ever exist for speeding along this trend that entertainment value supercedes actual merit. There is nothing more Florida State could have done to earn a bid in a 13-game season than win all 13 games. Invalidating that accomplishment because you “think” Alabama is better is a sham.
To support this sort of nonsense is to support the same line of thinking driving total conference upheaval in the sport. Wanting to maximize the anticipated entertainment value by shoehorning a less-deserving team into the playoff is a justification that closely orbits the one backing conference consolidation. Realignment is about maximizing entertainment value, which translates to TV dollars, by getting as many programs we think are good into the same room. Sunday’s dereliction of duty is the same thing. If you support it, you’re participating in the same line of thinking that is currently stamping out underdog stories and regionality from all corners of the sport.
It’s sad to see. This sport not only has room for the unexpected, it’s built on it. 15 million people watched Colorado play Colorado State this year, a game that ended at 2 AM. Neither of those teams will have a seat at the big boy table in the future, but they created something valuable together. By pushing back on the inclusion of a team like Florida State, which has earned its spot but is expected to be an underdog, you’re saying stuff like that doesn’t matter. You’re saying there is no spot for the underdogs, even when they’ve earned that opportunity, in a sport that has depended on underdogs for some of its greatest moments. What a disappointing path to walk down.