Some college teams should be ineligible for the national championship

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As with most aspects of 2020, the coronavirus is playing havoc with several college football teams. At this stage of the season, we should know who is playing in what bowl game and what four teams are likely to be tapped to playing for the national college football championship. This article was written last Friday prior to Saturday’s games, so some facts will have changed. Nevertheless, I press on.

Frankly, some teams should be ineligible for the national playoffs. Why? Because they haven’t played a full season of games. I understand why some games were cancelled due to the coronavirus, but the price should be paid by the teams who had idle Saturdays.

Let’s look at some of the top 25 teams that were on the Associated Press poll of last week. Alabama at 9-0 is listed at Number 1. Notre Dame, 10-0, comes in at number 2. Clemson is number 4 with a 9-1 record. But the number 3 slot is given to Ohio State who has played and won only five games. If the playoffs were held last week, these would have likely been the four teams chosen. Ohio State, in my estimation, should be ineligible for the playoffs this year.

In other absurdities of football life, Southern California 3-0, Colorado 4-0, Buffalo 4-0, are all ranked in the Top 25. Wisconsin has only won half of their four games and, at 2-2, is ranked #25. By what logic are these teams who have played about a third of a regular season ranked at all, much less in the Top 25? But back to the playoffs.

It defies logic that a team that has had half a season should be allowed to compete with teams who have played entire, or near entire, regular seasons. Lest I be accused of regional bias, let’s ignore Alabama and Clemson, both Southern teams.

Notre Dame has played twice the number of games as has Ohio State. They had twice the wear and tear on athletic bodies, twice the opportunities for players to be injured, and twice the opportunities to be scouted by Ohio State.

OSU, on the other hand, has had twice the opportunity to rest and heal, twice the opportunity to avoid injuries, and twice the opportunity to watch the films of their potential opponents for the championship.

The truth is that any college football athlete playing five games in a season hasn’t had that short of a season since junior high school. By now, another game will have been played. Unless, of course, a team like Wisconsin has, yet again, managed to sit out another game.

There are other college teams who will have played full, or nearly full, seasons. Teams like #6 Florida 8-1, #9 Miami 8-1, #10 Iowa State 8-2, #11 Coastal Carolina 10-0, #14 BYU 9-1, #17 Louisiana LaFayette 9-1, and #22 Liberty 9-1. Put one of them in the top 4 in the place of Ohio State.

“What?” you say. That a team like Coastal Carolina could never beat either Alabama, Notre Dame, or Clemson on their absolute best day? Maybe not in a regular year. But this is 2020 and much stranger things have happened all year long. Give Cinderella a chance to dance at the royal ball.

I have no doubt that Ohio State is a good team and, perhaps, if they had spent more time on the field this year, they might be the best team in the nation. But, even if they were to win the National Championship having played a half season, many people, including myself, will never consider them the best team.

Whatever the legitimate reasons the games were cancelled, the fact remains that the other teams played the games and OSU didn’t. And, even if they won last Saturday against arch-rival Michigan, that’s still only a half season.

This year, I think that the entire Top 25 list should be dropped. Maybe a Top 10 or a Top 15 list, but no more. Any team that played a half season or less shouldn’t be ranked or be eligible for any thing beyond their own conference championship. This is an opinion column. And that’s my opinion.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the crisis, the church is live streaming at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays at http://www.facebook.com/cctksharpsburg/ He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

10 COMMENTS

  1. I believe without much argument that we know who the top-2 teams are this year; quite similar to what the BCS strived for back in the day. [Posting this prior to the announced final playoff rankings] And any debate on whether to expand the 4-team playoff (to 8) should only look to this year’s example and ask … do we really want to see #1 play #8? But I am in favor a 6-team playoff (#1 & #2 getting a bye) in any other “normal” college football season.

      • So I guess what you really are trying to say is that any of the conferences that showed a great deal of respect for the havoc that Covid causes should be eliminated from consideration. Those are where the teams with severely truncated schedules are from. That, or you just have a general dislike for Ohio State and like you said, It’s an opinion column

        Whoever gets selected, let’s hope the games are competitive and enjoyable…and viewed safely 😷

  2. It’s the College Football Playoff Selection Committee that determines the playoff teams, Rev Epps, not the AP. But the point you make about OSU (#4) is a valid one since they have only played 5 games compared to the 8-10 games that all within the top 10 have now played. And of those 5 games that the Buckeyes have played and won, with the 6th game this Saturday for the B1G championship; all of them amount to a little more than a preseason schedule for them.

    However, and despite my southern regional bias in CFB, the Playoff Committee is tasked with finding the best four teams for the playoffs (and the rest of the NY-6 bowl games) regardless of the number of games played, even in a virus shortened season. Now you can make a clear case too for why their conference is propping them up ($), but it’s a bit clear as well that they are a strong contender for the national championship; given their roster depth, their NFL-type talent, and of course last year’s playoff performance against Clemson.

    Football, as in life, is not always fair. Perhaps your next article should be whether the NFL should allow .500 teams (and even lower) into their playoffs. Now that is a strong case for “ineligibility” to a higher degree. But then again, we do play the game (as in life) the way the rules are written and if by chance they’re not agreeable by the majority, we should change them.

    • The reason I would not eliminate NFL teams with a losing record from the playoffs is that they have an actual playoff. The college “playoffs” depend on the opinions of a select few, most of whom will have biases. In the NFL, a Cinderella team just might win the Super Bowl. In the BCS, the Cinderella teams don’t even get invited to the dance, even if they never lost a game.

      • I agree with Rev. Epps. If the college playoff field was large enough to include every reasonable claimant to the throne, it might be more fair. The NCAA does this in basketball, and it is a great success. Obviously, 64 teams could not be invited, but 6 or 8 are reasonable.

        NFL teams play similar schedules that are put together by the league, not some “homer” athletic director. NFL playoff teams earn their place in the postseason under rules established before the season kicks off. The participants are not selected by a committee.

      • Allowing teams with a losing record into the playoffs should not be the norm in any case and is only reflective of a society that has gone extremely soft or greedy; or both. Your beloved Vols Rev. Epps, accepted a bowl invite with a 3-7 record while down the road from there in Columbia, SC they accepted an invite with a 2-8 record. I can envision the great Vince Lombardi on the sidelines up above saying, “What the heck is going on down there?” I’m sure too he’d have a more colorful response about wanting to see a “Cinderella” story play out as well.

        As for an expanded college football playoff format … it doesn’t work Stranger, as it does in basketball for example, since there is not enough parity within the sport, and with more players on the field, it does have a multiplier effect. Just view the College Football – FCS playoffs for example over the many years with 16, 20, and now 24 teams. The top seeded teams (#1-#4) tend to always go on to win the championship. But as I said up top, it would be interesting to see a 6-team format that would recognize the Power-5 – Conf Champs and a Group-5 entry. There, you would have some “fairness” I guess. [Y’all, have a Merry and a Happy this holiday season!]