Conference Championship Week Stirs More College Football Playoff Debate
College football championship week has arrived, and there is one spot to be determined in the College Football Playoff. The 13 member CFP committee will announce the final pairings of the four-team College Football Playoff on Dec. 2.
But as you look at the Conference Championship games this week, are there any Power 5 championship games that are actually deciding a champion? The SEC, ACC, Big 12 and even Big Ten have four teams that seem to be the best without a championship game needed. Alabama is undefeated and the best in the SEC. Same for undefeated Clemson in the ACC. Oklahoma has one loss and is two games clear of the next team in the Big 12. Ohio State beat Michigan and is the only one-loss team in the Big Ten. The Big Ten’s severely imbalanced schedule causes some issues. Washington and Utah already played this year in Salt Lake City and Washington won. The Huskies also beat Washington State. End of story, they are the Pac-12 champs. And playing their best ball, Washington should get a shot in the proposed 8-team playoff or a variation of the playoff with some reform to the current setup and rankings.
Here’s how the CFP rankings look heading into conference championship weekend.
Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame have secured their spots in the College Football Playoff. Even a loss by Alabama or Clemson in the conference championship games will get those two undefeated teams into the college football playoff.
1. Alabama (12-0) 5. Oklahoma (11-1)
2. Clemson (12-0) 6. Ohio State (11-1)
3. Notre Dame (12-0) 7. UCF (11-0)
4. Georgia (11-1) 8. Washington (9-3)
Georgia vs Alabama (-13)
Pittsburgh vs Clemson (-26.5)
Notre Dame is undefeated and does not play in a conference championship game. Frankly, the NCAA should get rid of the independents and get Notre Dame, BYU, Army, Massachusetts, New Mexico State and Liberty to affiliate with conferences. But, that's another debate.
An upset by Georgia over Alabama will put Georgia into the CFB Playoff. Otherwise, Oklahoma and Ohio State will need to win and get enough CFP committee support to get the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff.
Big 12 Championship
Texas vs Oklahoma (-7.5)
Big Ten Championship
Northwestern vs Ohio State (-14.5)
Utah vs Washington (-5.5)
So we have four championship games with all favorites of more than a touchdown. The most competitive conference championship game is in the Pac-12 between Utah and Washington, and yet neither of those teams can make the College Football Playoff.
Central Florida (-3) is undefeated and plays Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship. UCF's starting quarterback was injured last week and is out for the season and bowl game. Even a win by the UCF Knights and losses by Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State won't be enough to get the Knights into the CFP for the second straight year.
Why are these championship games being played?
This would be a great weekend to have the eight team playoff starting and the four teams that advance play in the College Football Playoff and major bowls in late December and early January.
It would look like this with the top 4 teams in the College Football Playoff rankings hosting these playoff games.
No. 8 Washington at No. 1 Alabama
No. 7 UCF at No. 2 Clemson
No. 6 Ohio State at No. 3 Notre Dame
No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 4 Georgia
Don't those games look much better than the conference championship games in which the league titles were essentially already decided? The interest would be greater and also drive more betting action at the sportsbooks.
The College Football Playoff Committee continues to create the issue and debate regarding the CFP and expansion, but a simple reform would generate more interest (and betting) while also allowing an undefeated Group 5 team to have a shot to compete for a NCAA football championship that will never be provided in the current structure and system. It would also give each major Power 5 conference an entrant into the proposed playoff.
The CFP committee could even have a bye week before the four playoff games if desired, both alleviating the concern of too many games by eliminating the conference championship games, and providing more coverage and buildup to the College Football Playoff with 8 teams in 4 games.
The smaller conferences could still have championship games and there would be football this week. Other teams being selected to bowl games already get at least three weeks off until their next game.
More meaningful games and more interest . Makes more sense. Now that's something worth striving towards and playing for.
You can bet on it.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay