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Ohio State vs. Oklahoma: Will this decision cause real reform for College Football Playoff?

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We just got done witnessing one of the greatest offensive performances in Big Ten championship game history. No. 6 Ohio State just put up a 45-24 beat down on No. 21 Northwestern to gain its record third Big Ten championship game title. 

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for a record-setting 499 yards and five touchdowns in the win. He also threw for six touchdowns in the regular season finale beatdown of then No. 4 Michigan. 

Yet, the Buckeyes could be left without an opportunity to compete for a national championship. 

Meanwhile, No. 5 ranked Oklahoma avenged an earlier loss to rival Texas in the Big 12 championship game just prior to what took place in Indianapolis. 

Yet, Oklahoma is in danger of not being involved in the College Football Playoff either. 

That’s because at the same time, No. 1 Alabama just got its backup quarterback to lead a comeback from two touchdowns down (twice) against then No. 4 Georgia. 

Yet, here we are the day of the fifth College Football Playoff announcement in history and some are honestly suggesting that the Bulldogs are the team the College Football Playoff committee should be selecting. 

The problem is, how do you define the “best” teams in college football? Does record matter? Does who you lost to matter? What about the schedule you faced? How about the wins you have on your resume? 

When the College Football Playoff was first implemented, it was sold as a cure-all for what was ailing the old BCS system — subjectivity. 

Well, to be fair, at first it was an over-reliance on computers and their complete lack of subjectivity. Then the BCS swung completely the other way, relying on human polls that were completely flawed as well. 

The answer was supposed to be to take the four best teams and let them duke it out on the field for a championship. After all, with over 120 teams in the FBS, there could only be four teams capable of winning a national title every year, right? 

The CFB Playoff committee lucked out in the first few years of the new format. Everyone played nice and the four teams they chose were really obvious ones — names that earned the right by winning conference titles and putting beatdowns on opponents in conference title games (Florida State in 2014 excluded). 

But, what happened when things weren’t so crystal clear at the top of the polls anymore? Well, there was no clear-cut system in place to help guid the committee and over the past three years we’ve found out that subjectivity has really sucked. 

We’ve managed to see a Big Ten champion get leap-frogged by a team who didn’t even win the division that the Big Ten champion came from. We’ve seen the SEC get two teams in to a four-team playoff and on and on. 

It would be one thing if there was some clear-cut understanding of what it takes to make it to the College Football Playoff — and yes, I fully am aware that no two seasons are alike. 

So, the question now becomes how to make things easy to understand and to take the subjectivity out of a flawed committee. Let’s not forget that once Oklahoma and Ohio State are in the picture this weekend, the committee is only left with 10 of its 13 voices – four of which are SEC linked. 

Nothing says objective like conference allegiances to make conspiracy theories run wild.  

But, if by some miracle the Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes make it in to the College Football Playoff this year, the conference would avoid three straight seasons without its champion in the College Football Playoff. 

The more likely scenario however is that Oklahoma jumps to No. 4 and replaces Georgia. There’s also a real push by some in the media like Kirk Herbstreit and Stewart Mandel ($) to put Georgia right back in to the mix. 

You know, because losing by 20-something points to a 3-loss LSU team and then getting another shot to prove yourself and blowing a two-touchdown lead not once, but twice should get you in. 

Nevermind all of that talk and all of those questions. We’re here to hopefully provide solutions and not just bitch and piss and moan.

The point here is that five years in the College Football Playoff and we are here having the exact same arguments we were having throughout the entire BCS era. 

Tell me again what the College Football Playoff has solved for college football? 

Until the powers that be decide that getting a real champion matters more than how it makes money off of bowl games, nothing is going to change. 

So, here is my solution that should make things almost bulletproof and make the vast majority of people happy. 

Step 1: All five of the Power 5 champions get in to the College Football Playoff regardless of record.

Winning the five biggest and baddest conferences in the land should matter, regardless of your record. You’ve likely gotten this far by having to beat some of the best teams in the country, even if it was only in the conference title game. 

Step 2: Add in three more teams to the mix for a total of 8 teams in the College Football Playoff. 

Step 3: If a Group of 5 champion is undefeated, they get an automatic berth as one of the remaining 3 teams. 

What happens if more than one Group of 5 team ends the season undefeated? See Step 4.

Step 4: How do you determine the remaining at-large berths?

It has to be a combination of numbers and human critical thinking. What we’ve seen over the past two decades is college football swinging too far towards numbers and then over-correcting the other way towards humans. 

Here’s my proposal — get the committee in a room with some of the best analytical minds in the game. There are some really great things happening with numbers to back up what the eye is usually seeing on Saturday’s in the fall. The folks at Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders and others are putting data to use to help better inform what is really happening on the field. 

Why not use those minds to help inform the debate that will happen over the final three teams in, or in the case of multiple undefeated Group of 5 champions (which hasn’t happened in the CFB Playoff era by the way)? 

Take their data points, whether in a formalized system or each set of data points on their own, as a start to the debate and go from there. I mean, can you imagine being able to settle a debate about Oklahoma and Ohio State by simply saying, look the data suggests that XYZ team objectively played a better season or that we chose XYZ team because we believe this data point suggests their offense outweighed ABC’s defense and would win a game on the field?

Clearly the committee needs help and getting real data minds in to the mix would be the exact help this group needs. 

To be clear, this doesn’t end all debate, because that 9th team is certainly going to be pissed, but the reality is that is going to be the case unless you’re playing a single-elimination tournament throughout the season. 

Step 5: Make the Data transparent 

One of the biggest problems with the old computer polls was that it was hard to understand the formulas and data being used to come up with their rankings. 

This time around, let’s make the set of data being used transparent. Luckily, Football Outsiders and the S&P+ rankings are as transparent as they come. Pro Football Focus is behind a pay wall, but they could give the committee full access to what is behind the curtain so to speak. 

The more data and the more transparent that data is, the more people can trust that it works. Right now, no one trusts that the committee is going to do the right thing, and that’s a major problem. 

Step 6: Seed conference champions 1-5 and at-large teams 6-8

Do we really need to explain this one? Seed No. 1 plays Seed No. 8 in the quarterfinals…so forth and so on until a champion is crowned. 

It really isn’t that hard. But, the logistics and money will always make it hard. So how do we please everyone? See Step 7.

Step 7:  Quarterfinals after a bye week following conference championship weekend

I love a good bowl game like the rest of America, so let’s play the four big ones (sorry Cotton and Peach bowls) as host sites for the quarterfinals. Hell, you could even convince me to go back to the days of the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 always in the Rose Bowl and Big 12 vs. SEC in the Sugar Bowl and leave the ACC champion to play the Group of 5 representative or remaining highest seed. 

Personally, I’d be even more apt to play these games at the house of the 1st through 4th seeds and blow up the antiquated bowl system all together.

Take your pick of any of the above, but don’t tell me the money won’t be there either way. 

Step 8: National Championship game is played on New Year’s Day

Tradition is what makes the college football game so great. So, we’ll play the national championship game on New Year’s Day to help appease those who don’t want to totally let go of the olden days. Also, we avoid the issue of the NFL playoffs. 

Yes, I realize that the day of the game would change every year but in terms of getting eyeballs on the game this is the best chance for the most eyes. 

Step 9: Stop with 6-6 teams making bowl games period

I’m sorry, but if you can’t have a winning season at a minimum, you don’t deserve to go bowling. It reduces the clutter and more importantly makes the season continue to mean more. 

But what about the bowl game practices and such? Ok, let’s allow all teams 10 practices of 2 hours each between the 1st week of the playoffs and New Years Day. Sound good to everyone? 

If you have better ideas, let us hear them below…what we do know is the system currently in place is not workable. 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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