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With Houston upsetting third-ranked Oklahoma in the opening weekend of college football and jumping all the way up to No. 6 in the AP poll, talk has already started about the possibility of the Cougars going undefeated and making it into the College Football Playoff.
However, it is this talk of Houston being a playoff team that is the biggest flaw in the new 4-team playoff format.
Former Florida State quarterback and current ESPN analyst Danny Kanell was a guest on ESPN Radio and explained how the playoff is flawed for teams like Houston, a team not from one of the so-called “Power Five” conference (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) and is instead from one of the other conferences, the Group of Five (AAC, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt).
It comes down to this: The 4-team playoff gives teams like Houston false hope of making it to the playoff when it almost certainly won’t ever happen.
“I almost feel like the playoff should be exclusive, it should just be the Power Five, because I feel like it gives these [Group of 5] teams hope when it is not going to be a reality,” Kanell said.
When Kanell was asked if Houston could make it to the playoff if they go undefeated, he flatly said, “I don’t think they should be in the final four [if they go undefeated].”
As Kanell points out, it is not impossible for Houston to make the playoff. If they go undefeated and Oklahoma wins the rest of their games and the final decision comes down to Oklahoma or Houston, the Cougars would almost certainly get in based on their head-to-head win. But, if it comes down to Houston and any other 1-loss team from a Power-5 conference, the committee is almost certainly going to give the Power-5 team the benefit of the doubt based on the much more difficult schedule.
There is already going to be a situation where at least one of the Power Five conference champions is going to be left out. Then things get even more complicated when two of the top teams in the country come from one Power Five conference, such as Florida State and Clemson in the ACC.
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The contrast here is simple: strength of schedule.
Houston has the 80th toughest remaining schedule, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). There is not one team in a Power Five conference with a remaining strength of schedule ranked lower than 66th.
Houston only has one remaining game against a team currently ranked, No. 13 Louisville. However, even that game may not help much since Louisville has to play both Clemson and Florida State before they meet Houston in November.
There is a real possibility that Houston’s fate was determined before the season even started, that no matter what they did, they weren’t going to the playoff. If true, then give the Group of Five teams their own tournament and stop giving them hope of something that is unlikely to happen.