Notre Dame students react to new College Football Playoff system

As in seasons past, NCAA College Football (NCAAF) is preparing to wrap up its regular season and move into the multi-week bowl game season, culminating in the National Championship.  But unlike seasons past, the 2014 postseason will feature something new—a Selection Committee and a playoff.

The College Football Playoff (CFP) is the new postseason format the NCAAF is debuting this season.  Designed to overcome the shortcomings of the old BCS rankings, the CFP format is headed by a committee of 13 members who meet in person once a week, beginning in Week 10, to rank the top 25 teams in the nation.  At the end of the regular season, the Selection Committee will select the top four teams in the country to meet in the playoffs for the National Championship.

The need for this new format arose from the controversy surrounding the old BCS system.  Under the old system, only the top two teams would get to go to the National Championship after being ranked by a series of polls and computer rankings.  The system left much to be desired, and there was controversy surrounding top-tier teams who did not make it to the championship game (USC in 2003, Auburn in 2004, Hawaii in 2007, Boise State in 2009, etc.).

The new format is a much simpler approach, designed to address those well-discussed problems with the BCS.  One of the most notable changes, the implementation of a playoff system, has been received very warmly by the Notre Dame student body.

“The top two before might not have been the best two teams, and there was a lot of contention over who played in the BCS Championship the last few years,” sophomore Moira Hubbell told the Rover.  “Now that there are four teams, there’s more room for programs to prove they’re the best.”

“The playoff format is more exciting because you see all these one-loss teams such as Auburn, Oregon fighting to stay alive,” said senior Jay Johnstone to the Rover.  In the old BCS format, even one quality loss against a powerhouse rival was often enough to knock a team out of consideration for the National Championship and possibly even other high-tier bowl games.

Although the student body is generally supportive of the playoff system, there is a certain amount of skepticism over the committee’s ability to pick fairly.

“The idea of a playoff is great and has always been on the forefront of peoples’ minds, but I don’t like that it’s a group of 12 people deciding,” sophomore Tim Chang told the Rover.  “They can only really take in a couple of things each week.”

The old BCS program did include computer rankings in an attempt to more fairly cover everything that might be seen by individuals.  The shortcomings of a small committee may manifest itself in various ways, and one way in particular is the problem of conference bias, most notably that with the SEC.  In Week 10, when the CFP rankings were released for the first time ever, three of the top four teams were SEC West, leading to cries of SEC favoritism.

Also noticeable is the fact that the rankings seem to be specifically engineered from week to week.  For example, in Week 10 third-ranked Auburn played fourth-ranked Ole Miss, and Louisville (who received almost no votes in the AP Poll) was ranked 25 ahead of its matchup with first-ranked Mississippi State.  Week 11 saw Arizona State, ranked 9, line up against number 10 Notre Dame and number 6 TCU versus number 7 Kansas State.

“They’re setting the early rankings as a test run, making the rankings so that high ranked teams play,” sophomore Alex Berry explained to the Rover.  “They’re making money off it now, but as they gain confidence in the system it will get more effective.”

Despite these shortcomings, Notre Dame students still believed the Fighting Irish had a reasonable shot at making the playoffs until the loss against Arizona State last weekend.

Freshman Marisa Mitrano told the Rover: “It was a disappointing loss because we actually had a legitimate shot.”

Johnstone elaborated on this idea, noting, “A lot of teams ahead of us were going to have to beat each other, we would have just had to wait for other teams to lose.”

The College Football Playoffs are in their first year, and like any new system there are bugs that will have to get worked out of the system.  As senior Michael O’Brien said to the Rover, “It’s difficult to assess [the Selection Committee’s] performance and the teams they are evaluating this early in the season.”

With the general support for the expanded playoffs, only time will tell if the new Selection Committee can live up to their goal to improve upon the BCS system.  The system will always have its detractors, but with the new format comes the opportunity to move forward into a new age of college football.


Kyle Mulholland is a senior Computer Science and Economics dual-degree living off campus.   He has learned 8 of the 11 ways Imgur says one can wear a scarf.  Contact Kyle at