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College football: Selection more difficult than playoff itself

Leave it to the NCAA to turn something that should be relatively straightforward into a convoluted mess.

The latest mind-boggling policy is the way the four playoff teams will be chosen for college football, starting next season.

For years, a 10-member selection committee has put together the 64-team (now 68-team) bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament. Each member is a Division I athletic director or conference commissioner who serves a 5-year term on the committee.

Now, you’d think with the success the NCAA has had with that system putting together (in essence) a 68-team playoff, it would be logical to use the same format to choose a playoff consisting of 64 fewer teams.

But that’s where we careen off the road and into uncharted territory.

On Wednesday, the NCAA named its 13-member selection committee for the college football playoff … and only five athletic directors – and not a single sitting conference commissioner – are serving on the committee.

Six of the other spots are filled by a Hall of Fame player (Archie Manning), a Hall of Fame coach (Tom Osborne), a former Big East commissioner (Mike Tranghese), a retired coach (Tyrone Willingham), a former NCAA executive vice president (Tom Jernstedt), and a former college football writer (Steve Wieberg).

OK, so instead of using the same type of people who pick their basketball bracket, the NCAA brought in some other folks around the college football community to lend a different perspective. I can deal with that, and it may even be a good thing to get people with different views from both inside the system and outside of it.

But the last two members really left me scratching my head.

They include a former Air Force Academy
superintendent (Lt. Gen. Mike Gould) and a former Stanford provost and
U.S. Secretary of State (Condoleeza Rice).

Now, I’ve already seen a few stories pop up about the inclusion of a woman in the process. For the record, I have no problem with that; women are just as capable of researching, studying, and making informed decisions about college football as men.

But why is it necessary to bring in so many people with such diverse backgrounds simply to choose four teams to compete for a national championship?

The simple answer is that the NCAA wants to make sure there are no biases. If they bring in some outside help, maybe there will be fewer accusations of favoritism when the inevitable complaints come from the deserving teams who will be left out.

But if the old way is good enough for basketball, why not football? I realize football is a huge cash cow for the NCAA, but the basketball tournament is also a big-time money-maker, and there are far more complicated logistics to put that together.

Instead of making things more complicated, wouldn’t it be easier for all involved to give the process more transparency by making it simpler? Seems like the NCAA is turning a relatively simple math problem into rocket science … but that does seem to be their forté, doesn’t it?

Heck, if they want to throw some of their billions of dollars my way, I’d be happy to pick four teams each year to play for the national title.

No. 11 South Carolina at Tennessee

When: 11 a.m. Saturday Line: South Carolina by 7½

Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville TV: ESPN

What’s up: This could be a trap game for the Gamecocks, but they’ll be wary after the Volunteers nearly nicked Georgia a couple of weeks ago.

My pick: South Carolina 27-14

TCU at No. 21 Oklahoma St.

When: 11 a.m. Saturday Line: Oklahoma St. by 7½

Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater TV: Fox

What’s up: The Horned Frogs’ dynamic offense has sputtered, but the Cowboys haven’t been playing as well the last 2 weeks, either. Still, look for OSU to be fired up as it tries to stay in the Big 12 title hunt.

My pick: Oklahoma St. 34-17

No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday Line: Stanford by 6

Where: Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto TV: ESPN2

What’s up: This contrasting-style game pits the Bruins’ balance against the Cardinal’s power run game. Stanford will play angry after an upset loss to Utah last week.

My pick: Stanford 28-27

No. 24 Auburn at No. 7 Texas A&M

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday Line: Texas A&M by 13½

Where: Kyle Field, College Station TV: CBS

What’s up: Auburn has finally cracked the top 25 this season after looking stronger the last few weeks. The stay may be short-lived when they take on Johnny
Manziel and the Aggies’ 12th Man.

My pick: Texas A&M 38-20

USC at Notre Dame

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday Line: Notre Dame by 3

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend TV: NBC

What’s up: This year’s installment will be a bit of a downer from the last decade or so. Both teams have struggled offensively, so look for a low-scoring game.

My pick: Notre Dame 17-10

No. 5 Florida St. at No. 3 Clemson

When: 7 p.m. Saturday Line: Florida St. by 3

Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson TV: ABC

What’s up: By far the game of the week, the Tigers are looking to buck past trends and dethrone the Seminoles in the ACC. There’s a lot of firepower on both sides, and it should be a shootout.

My pick: Clemson 41-38

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