IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Fisher concerned about playoff selection process

Ken Cross

July 30, 2013 at 11:48 am.

Like a number of coaches, Jimbo Fisher is wondering how the new playoff system will work out. (Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports)

Call Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher a realist.  He sees change coming to all portals of the college football landscape, and he knows that in addition to dealing with what may be sweeping NCAA changes, making sure that the right teams are playing for the national championship should be the top priority of everyone.

When the BCS national championship expands to four teams next season, there is going to be as much controversy about the fourth and the fifth team that didn’t get in as there is the second and third right now.  How to minimize that gray area is on Fisher’s mind.

“We have to find some consistency and there can’t be that much deviation in polls,” said Fisher, who saw one of the many polls knock his Seminoles into the 20s after an unexpected loss to North Carolina State last season. “I don’t think the coaches poll should be a factor in it all.”

This starts the first argument.

Do all coaches know about what is going on in their sport in every conference across the country?  In other words, just to use Fisher as an example, if a Boise State pops onto the scene again, would he have seen enough of that Boise State team to rank it ahead of traditional names that always hang around the Top 10?

“We’re talking about a selection process, and in what, the only sport in America, maybe the world, that we pick a champion and not everybody is allowed to participate in that process,” he explained.

A very strong point because there is not equal representation out of all of the BCS conferences.  For example, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State go into the season as Sun Belt favorites. They also know that winning that conference basically guarantees no more than one of four off-the-radar bowls for Sun Belt teams.

The addendum to that point is the potential of the forming of the five 16-team mega-conferences, which would force the Sun Belts, the MACs, the WACs, and the Conference USAs of the world to form their own division — where they could crown a single champion.  That might not be a bad idea considering that those leagues never were on par with the Mountain West, who has placed more teams in BCS Bowls that anyone out of the aforementioned leagues.

Fisher, though, says that the flip side of that is that the bowl system can still play a role for teams outside what is that “elite circle” at this point.

“I am for it, but I think the bowl system is an important part of college football,” Fisher said. “You wouldn’t have had the Boise States, the Utahs, and TCUs and back in the day. You make it elite, and it takes so many people away from it.”

The influence of the coaches poll links to the idea of how much impact that the sports writers and media should have on the process.  They are going to see more teams and more games across the country, but do they in general have the depth of knowledge inside the sport to differentiate the fourth and fifth team in an objective manner?

This would make for a selection process that should not include beat writers of the teams because taking one vote away from a Boise State to give it to a much lesser team in a conference in the east, for example, would only continue to fan the flames of what looks like an almost impossible task of picking a Final Four.

“I know sportswriters are going to have as much influence as anyone,” Fisher said. “I think it is all about perception.”

Scheduling falls into the process as well.  Right now, most teams that play eight conference games will go for two intra-sectional matchups with strong opponents from the big-name conferences.  Then, they make sure they have two lesser opponents that will be designated home games.

“You’ve got your big ones,” Fisher said of scheduling. “We have had Notre Dame, of course, Florida, and Oklahoma recently.  We have to have at least two strong non-conference games if they say that will carry weight like it is supposed to be.”

Scheduling balance inside the league is also an issue.  With the size of the conferences, unless you increase the league schedule to 9-10 games, it is impossible to balance, for example the SEC, Pac-12, ACC, or Big Ten schedule across the board.  If you go to 9-10 league games, does that mean the season expands and college football goes to a 13-14 game schedule to get in the two key non-league matchups plus the two money-makers against lesser opponents?

“You’re getting these conferences so big that you are determining your conference champion of whom you draw from the other side,” Fisher said of the ACC’s scheduling dilemma. “They’re saying play nine. What about 10 and then balance it up?  You get you one good non-conference game and another and play.  Then you have a true conference champion because it balances at five and five.”