Alabama Football: If only the CFB Playoff was about best teams

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Looking back at the nine seasons of the CFB Playoff, Alabama football fans should be the least complainers. Only two schools have had double-digit Playoff appearances and the Alabama Crimson Tide leads with 13 games, including seven National Championship games.

The CFB Playoff structure was widely embraced as a far better format than the BCS. Still, even before the first Playoff final four were selected there were many complainers. The format’s approval did not stop earlier claims that an eight-team format would have been more fair.

All through the Playoff’s history, it has been argued that eight, 12, or even 16 teams were the only way to decide a true champion.

One reason for the Playoff enthusiasm in 2014 was that computer rankings would not be used by the Selection Committee. Instead, human experts would objectively analyze the college football season and determine the four best teams.

Predictably, enthusiasm for the format waned as the Playoff fields were dominated by Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State. Missing the biggest post-season, college football party quickly became too painful for disgruntled teams and their fans.

Another reason for dissatisfaction also grew. Currently and over the next couple of years, the biggest dispute will likely be centered on payouts to conferences. Like much else in college football, money drives decisions.

Along the way what became lost was, and should be, the most important goal for the CFB Playoff. Initially, it was ‘the four best teams.’ Next year it should be the 12 best teams but it won’t be. Instead, there could be one or more undeserving teams in the 12-team field.

The reason why is automatic qualifiers. A few weeks ago, 11 CFB Playoff decision-makers met in Chicago. A key discussion item was whether next season, there will be six automatic qualifiers and six at-large teams, or five auto qualifiers and seven at-large teams.

At least one Group of Five Commissioner was staunchly opposed to going to seven at-large teams. No final decision was made, but reports are the group appears to be leaning toward the 5-7 format. No decision was made on how to treat what will likely be a two-team Pac-12.

Published CFB Playoff Selection Committee Criteria

The six categories for ranking teams have been the same from the start of the Playoff era.

  • Team Record
  • Conference Championships
  • Strength of Schedule
  • Head-to-Head games
  • Results against common opponents
  • Results against ranked opponents

When evaluating ranked opponents, no polls are used. The only rankings that matter are the CFB Playoff Top 25 rankings.

Do Selection Committee members use other data? In more than one Playoff cycle, ‘Game Control’ has been referenced when explaining why certain teams were given certain rankings. Recently, Jerry Palm explained,

"… “game control” is not listed among the criteria. It never has been considered despite the term (or similar concepts) coming out of the mouth of past committee chairmen. (The CFP does not have a way to measure “game control” — I’ve seen the data the committee uses — but let’s not kid ourselves: They do talk about it.)"

Next. Key games to follow in the bye week. dark

The first CFB Playoff ranking of the 2023 season will be released on Tuesday, Oct. 31.