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John Bazemore, AP
Football coaches Nick Saban, of Alabama; Lincoln Riley, of Oklahoma; Dabo Swinney, of Clemson; and Brian Kelly, of Notre Dame, from left, pose with the college football championship trophy after a news conference Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Atlanta. The four teams are in the College Football Playoff.
SALT LAKE CITY — The College Football Playoff field is set — Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
Gee, isn’t this fun?
Let’s see, where have we seen these guys before?
This is Alabama’s fifth appearance in the five-year history of the CFP. It’s Clemson’s fourth and Oklahoma’s third. Notre Dame is making its first appearance although the Irish are not exactly strangers at the top of the College Football World Order.
The CFP is like a Seinfeld rerun; we’ve seen it before, but we keep coming back for more.
There isn’t anyone who thinks Clemson and Alabama won’t win their semifinal matchups, which would mark the fourth straight year we’ve seen the Tigers and Crimson Tide meet in the CFP, which has become as repetitive and uncompetitive as the NBA playoffs.
Barring an upset, this will be about as interesting as a Nick Saban press conference (will someone please explain why this man is so unhappy; he’s been in a bad mood for, oh, about 67 years).
Meanwhile, half the field of 130 FBS schools has been ignored, as usual. Once again, teams that don’t belong to the so-called Power 5 conferences have been shut out of the CFP, but we knew that would happen in August, didn’t we.
The question is: Why won’t the Group of 5 schools — the 65 schools that are not members of the P5 conferences — do something about it?
When will they revolt and form their own playoff?
Think of the ramifications. It would undermine the CFP’s claim of crowning a true national champion. It would mean a split championship. It would mean chaos, and that’s what’s needed to force change. CFP officials would be pulling their hair out, and that alone makes it a worthy endeavor.
The time has come for a revolt, as was stated here a year ago. Of the 20 possible berths in the five-year history of the CFP, Power 5 schools have filled 19 of them, the lone exception being Notre Dame, an independent that is treated as a Power 5 school just as it was in the old BCS system when it automatically qualified for a BCS bowl simply by placing in the top 8 (they called it “the Notre Dame rule”).
Not only have Group of 5 schools never made the CFP cut, they’ve also rarely appeared in the New Year’s Six bowl games. Out of 30 berths, the Group of 5 has claimed just four of them (they won three of four games played so far, with Boise State beating No. 10 Arizona, Houston beating No. 9 Florida State and UCF beating No. 7 Auburn).
If the CFP was supposed to be an equitable way to decide a national champion, it has failed. It was supposed to be an improvement over the format it replaced — the dreaded BCS, which ruled for 16 years and was another form of the same mess. But at least the have-nots had a chance — albeit a small one — of getting invited to compete in the major bowls (but never the national championship).
Boise State, Louisville, Utah, TCU, UConn, Hawaii, Northern Illinois, UCF and Cincinnati claimed a total of 13 berths — out of a possible 140. Unbeaten teams from Boise State (twice), Utah (twice) and TCU never got to compete for the national title. BYU was the last non P5 school to win a national title and that was 34 years ago and was a total fluke.
Either the playoff should be expanded to eight teams with a direct path for Group of 5 teams to make the field, or there should be a second playoff. Every year there’s some deserving team from the Group of 5 that gets left out of the playoff, and this year it’s Central Florida.
The Knights just completed their second consecutive unbeaten season, running their win streak to 25. Even the loss of their head coach at the end of last season and their star quarterback late this season hasn’t stopped them. As a consolation prize, the Knights will be the only Group of 5 school invited to a New Year’s Six bowl (the Fiesta Bowl).
The Powers That Be don’t even try to disguise the bias in the system. Ten of the 12 members of the CFP selection committee have direct ties to P5 schools, including the current athletic directors from Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Florida.
Anyone see a conflict of interest here?
No one is even certain of the selection process for the CFP. Conference championships are necessary — but not always, since both Ohio State and Alabama have been invited to the playoff without winning their conferences. Strength of schedule is important — sort of. Alabama’s schedule ranks 44th, Clemson’s 48th, Notre Dame’s 42nd and Oklahoma 31st.
A year ago, Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier was alone in advocating a revolt. “It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” Frazier recently told ESPN. “Why not? … There is absolutely no ability for us (teams in the Group of 5) to be in that national title conversation. That’s just reality. Anyone that says we can — that’s a flat-out lie.”