Eric Purnell | The Duquesne Duke
On Monday night, for the first time in NCAA history there was not a No.1-ranked team in the national championship. In a thrilling conclusion to a wild college football season, No. 4 Ohio State capped an incredible season with a 42-20 win over No. 2 Oregon at AT&T Stadium behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones.
The win for head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes was exciting for the state of Ohio, but perhaps an even bigger victory for the NCAA.
The 2014-15 college football season was the first season in which the NCAA used a playoff system to decide the national champion, and the four-team playoff worked on every level.
What the playoff system has done is give the most deserving teams a shot at the title.
Sure, No. 6 TCU fans may still be upset about their team’s exclusion from the playoffs despite having a one loss season which resulted in a 42-3 embarrassment of Ole Miss in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl, but their problem is with the decision of the playoff committee, not the adoption of it.
As the final week of the college football season ended, TCU was ranked No. 6, making them one of the first two teams out, along with No. 5 Baylor. Had the playoff committee not been incorporated this season in place of the BCS system, a computer would still be deciding the two top teams that face off in the national championship. While TCU may not have been able to salvage their season due to the new playoff committee, other teams did, including the 2015 National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes.
Following their 35-21 loss to an unranked Virginia Tech team on Sept. 6, most people considered Ohio State’s national title hopes gone. They dropped from No. 6 to No. 22 in the nation after the loss. From there, they were supposed to climb back into the hunt with a backup quarterback in redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.
That just didn’t seem possible, and if the objective were to climb back into the top two, it wouldn’t have. This year however, the magic number was four, and following a 59-0 dismantling of Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game, the Buckeyes reached that magic number and climbed into the final spot in the playoff bracket.
The first ever round of the college football playoffs seemed like poetic justice, for those clamoring for change over the past decade: a No. 4 ranked team upset perennial SEC juggernaut in the Alabama Crimson Tide, the same Crimson Tide team that won the daunting SEC this season and three national championships in the last five years. The same Alabama team that the AP poll ranked higher than Ohio State.
The Buckeyes’ and Ducks’ respective victories in the Sugar and Rose Bowl games were not only beneficial in terms of the NCAA accurately crowning a champion, but were also incredibly beneficial in growing the game’s popularity. With a combined 56 million viewers who tuned into the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, according to ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz, they were the most-watched cable programs of all-time, until the National Championship game aired and broke both of their records for viewership.
Skyrocketing television ratings do not make the system flawless. Fans could care less how many people watched the playoff football games, and more about who else could have knocked off Alabama or Florida State with the chance?
Being that it is a new system, some kinks will have to be worked out. Is four the correct number of teams to make the bracket? Should conference championships affect the polls when the Big 12 doesn’t hold a conference championship game?
These questions will resurface, but for the time being we’ll just have to judge the playoff system based on how it has impacted the game this season. It can surely be defined as a huge victory for college football and the NCAA.