Alabama Football: What should, and what will happen in B1G’s path to CFB Playoffs.
Is it too much for Alabama football fans and other SEC fanbases to expect a level playing field? Level that is, at least, part of qualifying for the CFB Playoffs. In the six seasons of the Playoff era, fairness has been at the center of most debates.
The fairness debates will be hotter in 2020 and primarily for one reason. That reason is the Big Ten football schedule.
As announced on Wednesday, the Big Ten will play eight regular-season games and a new ninth game option after the regular season. The conference has scheduled the Big Ten Championship game for Dec. 19. The CFB Selection Committee is slated to announce Playoff participants on Dec. 20.
What is fair to the SEC, ACC and Big 12 teams that will be in contention for a Playoff berth? A quick response is there is nothing fair about the Big Ten having an easier path to the Playoffs because of playing two fewer games. A week ago, we discussed mathematical advantages of playing two fewer games. A one-loss, maybe even a two-loss SEC team, should not be automatically excluded from a Playoff field by a 9-0, Big Ten Champion.
Should the Selection Committee define that a regular-season of less than nine or ten games would disqualify teams? Even if the committee should take such bold action, there is no chance it will. It is going to accept the Big Ten scheduling plan. The Pac 12 might not get such a pass if the conference finds a way to play an abbreviated regular season. Given no spectator seating constraints and wildfires in some Pac 12 footprint states, the conference has not indicated it will deviate from its no sports until January plan.
Having made an argument an eight-game B1G regular season should exclude the conference from a Playoff berth – there is a valid counterpoint. In theory, the Selection Committee can exclude a B1G Champion through its existing, internal deliberations. Over the years the committee has provided little clarity of how it should perform its task. Instead, each season, it has defined how it did select each group of four teams. ‘How’ will always be debated until ‘should’ is specific.
The solution is simple. It goes back to the creation phase of the CFB Playoff years ago. The committee’s task is, and always has been, to pick the four best teams. There are data points to assist deliberations. Conference championships and strengths of schedules are two of them. But the committee was always charged to use its best judgment to select the ‘best four teams.’
If that challenge is accepted and fulfilled in 2020, it will not matter that the Big Ten plays fewer games. But the committee cannot obfuscate or suggest nothing will be changed in the 2020 selection process. Instead, it should declare, ‘we will pick the four best teams,’ with conference championships no more than an incidental factor. That is what it should do. Alabama football fans are probably asking too much if expecting the committee to be so bold.
If only the Selection Committee were up to being so bold and straightforward. Then we could agree one of the best four could be a B1G team.