COMMENTARY: College Football Playoff Format Can't Arrive Fast Enough

Charles E. Sutton | 11/4/2013, 12:36 p.m.
We need a college football playoff system — today.
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller looks to pass in the first half of the Buckeyes' 56-0 road win over the Purdue Boilermakers on Nov. 2. (Sandra Dukes/USA Today via ohiostatebuckeyes.com)

We need a college football playoff system — today.

I know, we'll have a playoff next year. But given the current bottleneck at the top of the rankings, we sure could use it right now.

Five of the top six college football teams in the nation are undefeated. Of the top eleven, six only have one loss. I can't speak for you, but I believe it'd be nice if we knew which among them is tops once January got here, as opposed to relying — again — upon opinion and speculation.

The NCAA will showcase three big-time matchups in Week 11 that should help ease the logjam at the top of the rankings, but the underlying problem remains. The winners of these games will probably finish the season unbeaten and, once again, college football fans will find themselves in a major dispute over which team is really No. 1.

On Thursday night, Stanford (5) plays at Oregon (3) and Oklahoma (10) visits Baylor (6). On Saturday, Alabama (1) will play host to LSU (13). On Saturday, both Oregon and Alabama were idle, giving fans an opportunity to focus on Florida State (2), as the Seminoles played Miami (7).

Though Florida State won impressively, it probably won't be enough to get into the BCS championship game without Oregon or Alabama losing a game.

November hasn't been kind to Alabama recently — despite winning the last two national titles, they've experienced a November loss in both of those seasons — and they've played only one ranked opponent (Ole Miss) since struggling in September at Texas A&M, but they're the defending champions and haven't lost in eight games this season. So FSU shouldn't bank on any slippage there.

Oregon has the inside track to the title game if they beat Stanford and win the Pacific-12 championship to go undefeated. Florida State, on the other hand, has no top-25 teams remaining on their schedule and will almost certainly play a team outside the top 10 in the ACC championship game. Thus, the path to the title will be far more challenging for Oregon, which will work in their favor if both teams go unbeaten.

The other unbeaten team in the top five is Ohio State. Led by Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes went undefeated in 2012 and, in all likelihood, will do the same this year. On Saturday, Ohio State crushed Purdue on the road, 56-0.

The problem for Ohio State is the strength (or lack thereof) of their schedule. Even when they play arch-rival Michigan later this month, it won't help much because Michigan will likely be unranked.

So, unless two of the top three teams lose down the stretch, the Buckeyes, too, probably will not be chosen to play for the championship — hardly a just or desired outcome for such a dominant squad.

If we had a playoff system right now, we'd have two great matchups amongst the top four teams, irrespective of which teams played against one another. Without a playoff system, well, you know where we'll end up: deeply embedded in another debate over which team is best.

Some would argue that maybe I need to exercise a little patience. They're probably right. After all, next season we'll finally have a playoff. But when it comes to college football, there's no room for patience, nor error.

Meanwhile, I'll try to enjoy the rest of this season's ride while comforted by the thought of next year's postseason.