Not All College Football Teams Are Treated Equally

It's clear from the last few seasons that not all college football teams are treated equally. Some clearly get a pass when it comes to ranking, scheduling, who makes it to bowl games, and even the national championship. There's a clear demarcation between the "old money" and the "nouveau riche."

The Ohio State University football team
has been largely sleepwalking through the defense of its National Championship, largely leading Bleacher Report to compare it to Florida State University's defense of their National Championship. But there's a clear difference.

Florida State University had to play teams like Oklahoma State University far from home (in Texas). They had to play the number five team, Notre Dame. They went up against highly ranked Clemson without their starting quarterback (Jameis Winston was deservedly suspended for yelling out something stupid in public) and prevailed in overtime. In fact, most of their games against traditional rivals like Miami, Florida and Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship, were nail-biters, often involving dramatic come-from-behind finishes.

FSU was undefeated all season. Nevertheless, pollsters dropped the team from their number one perch, in favor of teams with one loss. In fact, despite winning every game, Florida State was in danger of missing the 2014 College Football Playoff, and had to open all the way on the West Coast in Oregon's backyard.

The Ohio State University barely beat the likes of Northern Illinois and Indiana, both of whom are 4-3 this year. Their play has been so uninspired that Urban Meyer has benched his quarterback. They only play one ranked team all year in the regular season, Michigan State, and that doesn't happen until next month.

Yet an announcer on ESPN's college football said that as long as OSU won all their games, the defending National Champions deserved to be ranked number one, regardless of their schedule (easily weaker than FSU's in 2014). That certainly wasn't the case last year.

This year, as FSU goes through an undefeated season so far, they only just joined the top 10 this past week, and are still ranked behind the Alabama Crimson Tide, another team that, like OSU, can lose a game a year, and still play in the National Championship. You won't find either of these teams having to start a game at 1130am on Saturday, or play on a Friday Night on the road, as FSU has, even though the Seminoles haven't lost a regular season game since 2012.

But FSU is not the only team "treated differently." Texas Christian University, Baylor University, and Boise State University, over the years, put together impressive seasons, even undefeated ones. They knocked off top opponents, but there was always an excuse to deny them the top spot. California with then-unknown QB Aaron Rodgers only lost one game (to USC) in their best season, but was bumped aside for a key bowl game by the "traditional" power University of Texas. Remember when Auburn University was denied a chance to play in the National Championship against USC in favor of the "traditional" power, the University of Oklahoma? Will the University of Memphis, Temple or Utah go ahead of Michigan State or LSU if all go undefeated?

If you can trace your football lineage back to championships before the early 1970s, you are considered "old money," and get better rankings, no complaints about a weak schedule, and no worries about having to go undefeated to get a chance to be ranked number one. For everyone else, you had better win all your games and beat a lot of quality opponents. Even that won't guarantee you the top spot, because if you didn't become a powerhouse, you're simply "new money," and didn't inherit a legacy that guarantees you all the tiebreakers and votes in polls.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.