The College Football Playoffs committee’s failure to pick the University of Central Florida (UCF) for the second year in a row is proof that the tournament will never be as exciting as March Madness. Every year when March Madness begins fans are at the edge of their seats waiting to see what likely championship contender will fall prey to the tournament’s “Cinderella” team. For example, in last years tournament, the very unlikely University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) knocked off the University of Virginia. The emergence of a “Cinderella” team is a major part of what makes March Madness so exciting. However, the College Football Playoffs (CFP) is unlikely to ever experience the excitement of a “Cinderella” team. The committee’s failure to give UCF a bid in the tournament for two years is proof of this.
For the last two seasons, UCF has been unstoppable. UCF finished their 2017 and 2018 seasons undefeated for a combined 25-0 record. Despite having two perfect seasons and knocking off Auburn after they beat Alabama, UCF was not extended the opportunity to be the possible “Cinderella” team in the College Football Playoffs (CFP) either year. If UCF beats LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30 they would have defeated the SEC elite in back to back seasons. With two perfect seasons, why is UCF being overlooked? The structure of the CFP is to blame.
Participants in the college football playoffs are chosen by the CFP committee. The committee considers a number of factors. Those factors are not favorable to teams, like UCF, who are not in Power Five conferences. Accordingly, the CFP structure does not allow a team such as UCF to be eligible for the tournament no matter how perfect their season. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that the CFP will ever experience the excitement of a “Cinderella” team swooping through the tournament and upsetting the most likely championship contender. This is precisely why the College Football Playoffs needs to be expanded to include more teams.
College Football Playoffs Structure Neglects Non-Power Five Schools
General success during the football season does not equate to automatic CFP eligibility – obviously. The CFP committee considers several factors in addition to on-field performance. The committee considers the number of games lost, the point spread in games, and the strength of each schools schedule. The strength of the schedule is judged based on the teams each school faces. Schools with tougher schedules are given more weight during CFP selections.
In most cases, schools in the Power Five conferences are considered to be the tougher schools. Due to this, schools that are not in Power Five conferences, like UCF, are unlikely to get a real chance at the CFP. Group of Five schools, such as UCF, find it difficult to schedule games with Power Five schools. The lack of such games on the schedule makes it extremely difficult for Group of Five schools to clinch a spot in the CFP. This is exactly where UCF fell short in the CFP considerations. A substantial amount of UCF’s victories were not against what is considered a “strong” school.
Group of Five Schools Must Face the “Right” Power Five School
It is not sufficient for a Group of Five School to face just any Power Five school. The school must face the “right” Power Five school. This is also evidenced by UCF. Over their last two seasons, UCF successfully faced the University of Maryland of the Big 10 and the University of Pittsburgh of the ACC. However, these games were not enough to give UCF a leg up in the strength of schedule category.
Some may argue that UCF should have been given serious consideration by the CFP committee for the 2018 CFP based on their win against Auburn in last year’s Peach Bowl. Auburn beat Alabama in last year’s SEC championship. Alabama went on to win the CFP last year. Accordingly, some argued that UCF could possibly be defending the CFP title this year. Unfortunately, the fact that UCF defeated Auburn in last year’s Peach Bowl had no bearing on the CFP committee’s considerations in 2018.
However, that did not stop fans from fantasizing about what would have happened if UCF had been given their due. Some fans made the logical leap that UCF may have defeated Alabama in the CFP if given the opportunity. Some UCF fans went as far as to attempt to bait Alabama into facing UCF to settle the debate regarding who is the true national champion. As exciting as that game would be, it will probably never happen.
Since Such a Match-up is Unlikely to Happen, the CFP will Never be as Exciting as March Madness
Since the CFP structure does not favor “underdog” teams, the tournament will always have a certain level of predictability. A tournament that is too predictable simply is not exciting. That is the beauty of the March Madness tournament, its unpredictable nature. Yes, there are teams that are in it every year. Teams such as North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky are almost certain to make an appearance every year. At the same time, any of those teams could get knocked off by the most unlikely opponent.
For example, in 2012 the underdog Norfolk State University beat Missouri. Missouri was heavily slated to go to the Final Four and was unpredictably knocked off by the most unlikely opponent. Games like that are the excitement of the March Madness Tournament. The CFP is unlikely to ever know that excitement as long as underdogs like UCF are never given a chance to play on the CFP stage. For this reason, the CFP should be expanded to give more teams an opportunity to play on college football’s grandest stage. As long as the qualifications for CFP consideration remain, the CFP will never be as exciting as March Madness.