January Justice: Loving the College Football Playoff — No More Guesswork

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Aristotle once said:

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst.”

For years, we as college football fans have been separated from justice. The organizations of the NCAA and the BCS have prevented us from having a true National Champion when it comes to college football. 

But in January of 2015, finally we will see justice done. For years the NCAA has had to crown a “mythical” National Champion in football. As a lover of sports, I always thought that justice was denied when the matter of a football championship was not being settled on the field.

But here is something the NCAA finally did right. It is officially called the “College Football Playoff.” It will be four teams that will be seeded and selected by a 13-member committee consisting of a bunch of former football players and coaches as well as Condoleezza Rice, a football writer and a Lieutenant from the Air Force. And every week on Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, we are treated to the latest edition of the “Top Four Teams.” The heated and enthusiastic discussions that are occurring every week at the office, church, and soccer matches, on precisely who those four teams should be has become electric. This week’s drama is whether or not TCU, Baylor or Alabama should be one of the four teams. I have heard shouting matches on TV over this conundrum.

All of this will officially be decided on December 7th this year. That is the day that the four semifinalist playoff teams will be named. To many, it will hold even more drama than the announcement of the 64 teams to make the NCAA basketball tourney. There will be a good reason for this: The teams that get left out of that B-Ball tourney are clearly forgettable in the first place. Not so much the case for numbers five and six that WON’T BE PICKED for the College football playoffs. There will be a lot of hooting and hollering at that juncture. People will begin to scream for an eight-team playoff and the lobbying will begin.

Then, on the first day of January, the two semifinal games will be contested — one at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the other in New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl.

That will be followed 11 days later on January 12, 2015, when we will have the glorious culmination of the College Football Playoff and Justice will finally be satisfied.

And how about the exposure for college football between January 1 and January 12th — the days between the semifinals and the finals? This will be 11 days perfectly made for TV commentary and drama.

I love competition in business and sports. In business, I was able to run a company that was named the most innovative company in the world, Fusion-io, by a BusinessWeek survey. But even that left me wondering. Perhaps we should have business playoffs. The water cooler discussion for these new playoffs on the job has been nothing short of amazing.

In sports, to this day at the age of 63, probably my most enjoyable golf rounds come late in the day when I get to the course, play 18 holes by myself and have my Titleist golf ball compete against my Taylor-made ball to see which one wins. I love to see a champion named. I used this method to improve my golf game to the extent of winning the United States Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship for the State of Utah.

Competition has also caused me to surround myself with those who are great competitors. Guys like NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young; Thunderfoot Lee Johnson, who played 18 years in the NFL as a punter; Ty Mattingly, academic All-American in football; as well as Jim Herrmann, drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. These are great people and great friends with whom we share a love of college football.

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And we all love the unpredictability of college football. Who would have ever thought Texas A&M could beat No. 3 ranked Auburn this past weekend at Auburn? Probably only folks that live in a 25-mile radius of College Station Texas, (and where the heck is College Station?).

Hope springs eternal for all teams, even my BYU Cougars, who have struggled a bit this after their loss of Heisman Trophy candidate Taysom Hill. But even when one thinks that there cannot be another upset, I think of the immortal words of Shug Jordan, head football coach of Auburn and the winner of the 1957 Mythical National Championship, who said: “Always remember, Goliath was a 40-point favorite over David.”

Now every game is meaningful. And even for the schools not vying for one of the top four spots — there are still plenty of bowl games and nice payoffs to be garnered. Further, since strength of schedule is part of the criteria for making the top four, just about every game in college football will impact, even in a small way, which teams get those final spots come December 7th.

To illustrate this drama, as we entered this season, the four teams that were sitting atop the polls were (according to the Associated Press which has been doing this since 1936) were:

Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, and Oklahoma

Well, two of them are still there but Oregon was out for a number of weeks.

By October 1st the top four teams were believed to be:

Florida State, Auburn, Miss. State and Mississippi with Baylor beating down the door.

Now welcome November — and here are the top four teams for the college football playoffs as of 11/11-2014: Mississippi State, Oregon, Florida State, and TCU.

Well, who is it going to be when the four semifinalists are announced? The truth is, no one can know with certainty. Oh, they may think they are absolutely right. As former Rutgers coach, Greg Schiano once said: “There are two things in America that every man thinks he can do — work a grill and coach football.” I certainly fall into that category of enthusiasts but not experts, but nevertheless, with that drum roll… here are the four teams I believe will be in this first edition of January Justice:

Oregon, Alabama, TCU, and Florida State

I would love to see Mississippi State there but I just don’t think they can get through the juggernaut of playing at Alabama and at Ole Miss in the next few weeks.

By the way, I quickly acknowledge that the Final Four could consist of:

Mississippi State, Baylor, Arizona State, and Ohio State.

That is the beauty of this game. The fun is in the guessing and the anticipation.

Who is in your Final Four for the College Football Playoffs?

By the way, the name “the College Football Playoff” is the official name for what I am calling January Justice. It was the noted sports consultant, Premier Sports Management of Overland Park, Kansas, that came up with that boring appellation. Wish I could have gotten a million bucks for that genius name recommendation.

I don’t think there has ever been a bigger change in my life to college football than these playoffs — I love the fact that we are now letting our college teams earn their championship on the field.

And in the end this year, we shall see Justice done with a true National Champion. It could even be Alabama, for as legendary coach Paul Bear Bryant once remarked:

“If you want to walk the heavenly streets of gold, you gotta know the password – Roll Tide Roll.”

Thomas Paine added, and I paraphrase a bit:

“I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that our duty consists in doing justice and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.”

It is my premise that January Justice will finally be done with the College Football Playoff making all of us creatures who love the sport of college football finally happy.


Posted in Posted in Events, HuffingtonPost, Life Balance, Sports  |  6 Comments

6 thoughts on “January Justice: Loving the College Football Playoff — No More Guesswork”

  1. I hate the whole concept of a National Championship in College football. I share your love of competition and college football. But everything about the National Championship goes against the best aspects of college sports. This is driven by money, pure and simple. The networks make a fortune. The major conferences do well and a limited number of schools benefit. But what about the student athletes? Almost none but the added cost of more time away from academics. College football did fine for decades without a National Championship playoff or game. I don’t see how this makes the sport any better. It would be nice to see the NCAA do something just one time that was for the benefit of the athletes.

    1. Thanks for the considered thoughts, Joe. The NCAA essentially has championships in everything now so at least Men’s football will now be decided on the field; not be some pollsters. All the best – david

  2. I loved your article about the college football playoff. I actually have spent the last 13 years lamenting as to why the most exciting sport on the planet (college football) had the most anticlimactic finish to each season. Alas, it’s here, woo hoo!

    However, I think it can still be improved. The state of AI today, is that a computer algorithm can do a far superior job ranking teams than any human. However there is a lot of “anti-AI” perceptions. One of the major causes of this, is at a certain point, the BCS no longer allowed algorithms to take the score into consideration, only wins and loses. They did this because they didn’t want teams running up scores. This limitation threw a huge wrench in the algorithms causing poor results.

    In fact a good algorithm wouldn’t take “score” into consideration directly, but instead would look at the score at every time frame of the game, and figure out statistically each teams chance of winning (based on historical data). That normalized value (plus a bonus for winning or losing) would not only be a much better indicator of the difference between two teams and is also immune to teams running up the score.

    In short I would want to see rankings being completely based on a good algorithm.

    The next step would be to get rid of ridiculously uneven matchings. I would propose that after 3 games, any scheduled game with a near certain outcome is replaced by those teams playing teams closer to there ranking.

    With those couple tweaks I’d feel really good about getting the right champion.

    Alternatively we could just give USC and BYU an automatic entry into the playoffs and that would also make us happy :)

  3. David,

    I agree with you that it should be decided on the field and I’m glad the NCAA has taken this partial step towards a championship. However, there’s no innovation in now having a different committee (v. sportswriters, coaches, or a computer algorithm) decide who is invited to three games designated as a championship bracket. Having a committee and rankings anywhere in this equation remains old-school thinking and only builds on what has been going on since 1926. This latest system is only slightly less mythical than each of the previous incarnations of championship systems. As you well pointed out the debate has only moved lower in the rankings. On the other hand, we have eight great Div-1A (aka FBS) conferences whose champions should form an actual championship bracket: American Athletic, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, C-USA, MWC, Pac-12, and SEC. Yes, this excludes some lesser conferences and independents but in the event of a real championship we would undoubtedly see some market-driven behavior in response. These games could actually begin in December after the conference championships and be finished even earlier than the current championship schedule if desired. We have enough human element today with referees, let’s remove the rest and actually settle this on the field.

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