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Here's hoping Year 2 of CFB Playoff brings a little debate

5/9/2015
Play2:24
Conference Championships Key For Committee

Heather Dinich looks into comments made by College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock at the playoff committee's spring meetings.

Dear Selection Committee,

You're welcome.

Sincerely,

The Ohio State Buckeyes

C'mon, Ohio State. All that was missing was a bow. The 12 members of the College Football Playoff committee were supposed to sweat it out, squirm a little, lose some sleep, eat game film for dinner.

Instead?

You Bucks and your third-string quarterback steamrolled Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, and -- with some help from Florida State -- the most anticipated ranking college football has ever seen was as easy as 1, 2, 3 ... 4.

Not only were Alabama, Oregon and FSU predictable, the committee looked like a Mensa group after Urban Meyer and OSU went on to not only defeat the top-seeded Tide but win the national title with seeming ease over the Ducks.

Where was the debate that has defined the sport for decades? Where were the controversy, the angst, the gnashing of teeth, the second-guessing and all of those other warm, fuzzy feelings fans had for the computers and media polls?

Why, in the state of Texas, of course, where Baylor coach Art Briles is still wringing his hands and TCU coach Gary Patterson is back at the drawing board.

So it is there we begin 2015, where the greatest playoff debate lies not with the system (oh, just give it time) but in the Big 12, where confusion reigns. The conference of "one true champion" had two: the Horned Frogs and Bears -- and both were left out with not much to argue about once OSU had completed its run.

What's a league to do? TCU, the team that won by a landslide over lowly Iowa State on the season's final weekend, was blindsided when it dropped from No. 3 to No. 6. Meanwhile, Baylor handled ninth-ranked Kansas State, yet never seemed to be in the race. Now the lone Power 5 conference without a title game thinks it might need a conference title game. And in an era when strength of schedule is critical, Baylor's SOS (SMU, Lamar, Rice!) is in critical condition. College football fans love debate. They crave it. But it has been taken from them -- and the Big 12 has been left to figure out the formula. "If the 13th game was going to be of such substantial import," says Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby, "we would've liked to know earlier."

Well, they do now.

The committee set several precedents, hammering home strength of schedule and conference championships while also owning the eye test, forgiving the Buckeyes and Ducks for home losses early in the season. The panel that entered this brave new era under heavy scrutiny has, in one season, managed to turn the tables, putting the onus on the leagues, not the process.

You want in? Then convince us.

"The committee evaluates teams based on what they do on the field," says Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP. "It's about who you play, not who you tried to play."

(Read: Sorry, Group of 5 team that will inevitably go undefeated and be left out.)

Which is why programs across the nation are scurrying to re-evaluate long-term plans. The Big 12 has to address whether to issue a scheduling mandate, perhaps having schools add a Power 5 opponent or eliminate FCS foes, as the Big Ten has. It also must decide if a title game is worth it. (Would a one-loss FSU have been in if it fell to Georgia Tech for the ACC crown?)

But one item isn't up for debate: The playoff isn't changing, other than the state of Texas now having a rep on the committee in Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, who replaces former West Virginia AD Oliver Luck, and the addition of former Vandy coach Bobby Johnson, who replaces Archie Manning to get the committee back to the intended 13 members. Beyond that, the only difference is one fewer CFP ranking, as the season starts one week later.

"We had a very good end result," says committee member and USC AD Pat Haden. "I know there are some schools in Texas that would disagree, but in any system -- even when I played -- there was debate. You're always going to have that. We all knew that going in."

What nobody guessed, though, was how little debate there would be when the dust settled in Arlington, Texas. And where's the fun in that? So here's hoping for controversy somewhere on the road to Glendale, Arizona.