College Football Playoff keeps status quo in check

By Steve Shonder

The arrival of the College Football Playoff marks the end of an era dominated by the top five conferences, particularly the SEC — or does it?

Only the top four teams in the country are eligible for a shot at the national championship, which isn’t a bad thing considering only the alleged top two teams were given a shot under the BCS system, and those teams were never the universal choices. At least now there’ll be less room for controversy; but, this leaves the smaller conferences once again on the outside looking in.

There’s been plenty of deserving teams from the smaller conferences, which are no longer known as non-automatic qualifiers. Each season there’s always one or two of the small conference teams that come out and wipe the floor with anyone and everyone, but they never get the chance to actually go toe to toe with the Alabamas of the world.

That’s not likely to change with the advent of the College Football Playoff. It doesn’t matter that the computers have been thrown aside. Despite the proud proclamation by the College Football Playoff that everyone has equal access to be in the top four teams, there will never be a world in which an undefeated NIU gets a shot over a two-loss Oregon or Auburn.

It’s the return of the status quo more or less; it’s not the revolutionary change we’ve been led to believe. Perhaps a stronger non-conference schedule will push NIU over the top, and if Athletic Director Sean Frazier’s enthusiasm for scheduling works in football’s favor it might help convince a selection committee to include the underdog Huskies.

The only truly revolutionary change that would put every FBS college football team on the same level would be to look at the FCS and copy its 16-team playoff setup. There’s a way to include the bowls and allow the bowls to survive if that’s really that big of a concern. Even having just an eight-team playoff would be better.

Then again, college football isn’t really fair, and the current postseason scenario might not survive for very long. There have been some rumblings that in the aftermath of the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit the top five conferences might simply abandon the NCAA or gain more autonomy under the NCAA banner.

In the meantime, NIU’s postseason chances will always remain on a hope-and-prayer situation like it was under the BCS’ regime. If the Huskies won’t be able to snag a spot in among the top four teams, at least they’ll have the Bahamas Bowl.