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The CFP: The COVID Football Playoff?

As the college football world tentatively works its way through the schedule, the question marks continue to multiply.

We’ve seen conferences like the Big Ten and Mid-American Conference start their seasons weeks behind their counterparts. We’ve seen teams like Coastal Carolina land themselves in the Top 25 rankings for the first time in program history.

But, amidst the chaos, there is one consistent factor that ultimately controls the fate of this year’s college football season, and if we’ll be able to watch the beloved College Football Playoff (CFP) come January. That being the ongoing pandemic and the heightened risk of spreading COVID-19 throughout college locker rooms and campuses.

For now, let’s assume the Playoff will remain as scheduled and we’ll be able to watch the four best teams in the country compete in the Rose Bowl and Allstate Sugar Bowl for a spot in the National Championship Game on January 11.

While the usual contenders like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State currently stand atop the national rankings, the uncertainty of the pandemic has allowed for quite a bit of questioning and discrepancy when it comes to deciding the 25 best teams in college football on a weekly basis.

For example, Notre Dame is currently ranked fourth and has started their season a perfect 6-0 as an honorary member of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2020. One spot above them, and ranked number three, is traditional powerhouse Ohio State. Makes sense right?

Faulty Ranking System?

Well, no, not really. To some fans and followers of the sport, this shouldn’t be the case at all considering Ohio State has only played two games so far after the Big Ten’s kickoff on October 24. How can a team who has played four fewer games, and only plans to play eight in-conference games total, already land a spot in the top three?

Let’s take a look further down the rankings. Sitting at number twelve is Oregon, a historic program with a solid roster and good coaching. The only issue there is the Ducks haven’t played a single snap of their 2020 season yet, as the PAC-12 is set to kickoff this Saturday, November 7. This brings us back to Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are currently ranked fifteenth in the country and also boast a 6-0 record. It’s hard to believe the school and their fans aren’t at least frustrated they’re behind a team who has yet to step foot in a stadium yet.

Coastal Carolina football cheerleaders
Coastal Carolina cheerleaders

There are even teams like Oklahoma State who probably deserve to be a few spots up in the rankings considering the late start or lack of games played by some teams in front of them. The Cowboys are currently ranked fourteenth and sit four spots behind tenth ranked Wisconsin. Although Oklahoma State is not undefeated, they’re still a solid 4-1, with their lone blemish coming in a loss to another traditional contender in Texas.

But, again, while Wisconsin is usually in the CFP mix every year and a contender for the Big Ten title, they’ve only played one game so far due to their late start and the cancellation of their Week 2 game due to positive COVID-19 tests throughout their roster. Their Week 3 game on November 7 has already been cancelled as well, and an uproar is likely if they remain in the tenth spot after some of these Big 12 teams, and teams from smaller conferences, continue to win with six or seven games under their belt.

Conclusion

While there are a few more cases of teams who have played two or less games ranked above teams already half way through their schedule, the main takeaway is how the rankings committees will continue to deal with these discrepancies.

Will they continue to rank teams based off of their talented rosters and success in years past? Or will they turn their focus to overall record, the strength of schedule and conference standings like they do in years without a national health crisis occurring?

Either way, there will be unhappy fans, boosters and supporters on both sides of the fence waiting to see what January has in store.

And there will be even more question marks.

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4 thoughts on “The CFP: The COVID Football Playoff?”

  1. Hi Nick,

    Great read. I like how you brought to light the clearly favored 2-0 teams getting a rankings boost mainly based on years past.

    I would love to see how the committee reacts to such wins (or losses) when a key player is out for the game due to covid reasons. Take Clemson last week. Trevor Lawrence is out and they still get the win. But for a mediocre BC Eagles squad, the CFP regulars should have still won by a favorable margin. Moving forward, I wonder if they will take players missing due to COVID ( a two week absence) into consideration or treat it like any other injury in football.

    Hotty Toddy,

    Nik

    1. Really good point about player absences due to COVID being treated like a normal injury or not. Definitely another factor for the rankings committees to consider each week, or two weeks depending on how long a player is out. Another example of 2020 making life more difficult!

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