The Elephant in the Room
(1L Delegate Sports)
Concluding the 2018 College Football Playoff (CFP) Title Game, where No.4 Alabama defeated No.3 Georgia, 26-23 in overtime, the absence of the No.12 University of Central Florida (UCF) remains an issue, as they were denied access to the CFP series.
Throughout the 15-week regular season, a thirteen-man committee ranks teams, adhering to the CFP Selection Committee Protocol. The committee considers variables such as the strength of schedule, head-to-head competitions, championships won, and comparative outcomes of common opponents, as they provide weekly standings of the nation’s top 25 teams. After 15 weeks, the teams ranked in the top four, compete in the CFP series.
As it stands, the CFP is a bracket-like competition, consisting of two playoff games, the winner of each making it into the title game. This year’s CFP series consisted of No.1 Clemson facing No.4 Alabama, and No.2 Oklahoma facing No.3 Georgia. When Alabama defeated Clemson, and Georgia defeated Oklahoma, the CFP Title game was set to be a South Eastern Conference (SEC) showdown. Alabama verse Georgia.
As it stands UCF remains the only undefeated football bowl subdivision (FBS) team. They ended their season in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, with a 34-27 win over No.7 Auburn. Worth noting, Auburn is the only team this season to have beaten two No.1 ranked teams. On November 11th, then, No.10 Auburn, defeated No.1 Georgia, 40-17. Two weeks later, then No. 6 Auburn, defeated No.1 Alabama, 26-14. In the SEC championship game, however, No.6 Georgia came back to defeat No.2 Auburn, 28-7, to become the SEC Champions.
UCF has recently made a self-declaration as the 2018 CFP Champions. On SBNation, Richard Johnson comprised various social media accounts that showed UCF’s intent on treating the coaches and players as the national champions, with pay bonuses and celebratory parades respectively. However, some are asking if simply being undefeated in enough.
Those arguing that being undefeated is not enough rely mostly on the strength-of-schedule variable in the rankings. It is clear that the America Athletic Conference is not a football powerhouse, and because universities have a degree of control over making their schedules, UCF had the opportunity to strengthen their schedule, despite having a weaker conference. According to a Bleacher Report article, universities consider how much an opposing team may charge for the game, how matchups affect recruiting opportunities, fan base turnout, etc. But ultimately, because UCF could have made their schedule tougher, they should have.
Alternatively, those arguing that being undefeated is enough, are arguing that UCF did what was required of them. UCF won their conference championship game, yet still, were denied access to the playoffs. If UCF did everything in their power to show their “worthiness,” and a 13-0 record is not enough, then what is? Did they not win by enough? What more could UCF have done, and should UCF have done, to solidify their access to the CFP series?
According to the College Football Playoff Committee website, the committee strives to grant “[e]very FBS team… access to the College Football Playoff based on its performance. No team automatically qualifies.” However, it would seem that being undefeated, at the least, should provide access. Additionally, it seems that Alabama, a team that did not compete in their own conference championship game, “automatically qualified”, simply for being Alabama, a well-respected, and undeniably competitive team, with a history of championship titles.
The CFP committee may consider expanding the CFP series beyond four teams. Conference champions should arguably have access, and teams that, in the current season, have repeatedly displayed worthy competitiveness, should arguably have access. With an expanded and more inclusive CFP series, both UCF and Alabama would have undeniably been able to compete in the CFP series and determine their own title game fate. The logistics of expansion are much more complex, however, as access to the CFP series has recently become a hotly contested topic, it should be considered.