College Football Playoff will be beauty contest in 2020

The College Football Playoff is one of the most popular events in sport. It is also one of the most controversial, as the fourth and final spot often comes down to a debate between at least two programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate that in 2020, as the playoff committee – like the actual teams – will have to navigate the chaos of this season as best as possible.

“They haven’t given us any baselines [for playoff inclusion this year], so everybody is under consideration until the committee decides otherwise,” CBS Sports college football analyst Jerry Palm said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “But they haven’t set a minimum number of games or anything like that, at least not yet. They’ve got their work cut out for them this year, though, because when they’re doing their rankings, they have some data that they can work with: strength of schedule, things like relative offensive and defensive numbers and things like that. None of that applies this year because you have at least four conferences that have fully isolated themselves from the rest of college football by playing only conference games, which means the ways that you can compare these teams statistically to others don’t exist because they’re playing in a closed system.”

Indeed, big-time matchups like Ohio State versus Oregon and LSU versus Texas were canceled this season due to COVID-19. The committee will not have out-of-conference games as a data point in 2020.

“So really, the committee just has eye test this year,” Palm said. “Head-to-head results and conference championships have always been a factor, so that’s about all they have. It’s really going to be a beauty contest this year, and that makes it even harder not only for them to do their job, but for anybody to argue against what they’ve done because you have no data to back it up. Nobody has data to back it up.”

No. 1 Alabama (6-0), No. 2 Notre Dame (8-0), No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) and No. 4 Clemson (7-1) would likely be the top four if the season ended today, but as Palm observed, there’s still a long, long way to go. 

Of those four, Ohio State has the stiffest test this weekend, as the Buckeyes host No. 9 Indiana (4-0) in Columbus this Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m. ET.

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