Do NCAA Football Conference Championship Games Really Matter?

Photo Credit: FanSided

With Conference Championship Week standing in the way of the College Football Playoff (CFP) selection committee’s meeting on Sunday, December 4th, 2016, to decide which four teams will go to this season’s CFP, that brings forth the question as to how much do conference championship games really matter, if at all, when selecting the four teams that get into the CFP. They have stated time and time and again that their number one goal when selecting those four teams to get into the CFP is to choose the best four teams to put in. So do conference championship games really matter that much if the best teams don’t win them?

Over the past few years, they definitely have. All eight spots in the previous and only two CFP fields have been occupied by Power Five conference champions, and seven of those eight won the conference championship by winning a conference championship game.

This question is particularly important since it is possible that either the Wisconsin Badgers or the Pennsylvania State Nittany as well as the Colorado Buffaloes could end up as Power Five conference champion with two losses. However, all three of those teams were beaten by Michigan, who is a two-loss non-Power Five conference champion that did not even make the Big Ten Conference championship game. So would the committee really move Wisconsin, Pennsylvania State, or Colorado ahead of Michigan just because they have a Power Five conference championship to their name?

It is also important for a team like Ohio State. Are they a lock to get into the CFP at 11-1 despite not even making the Big Ten Conference championship game? Would a loss by the Clemson Tigers or the Washington Huskies in their respective conference championships move them out of the CFP when they, like Ohio State, are 11-1 without a conference title to their name and actually earned a spot in their conference’s championship game?

Although it’s probably not this simple of an answer, here is one way to look at it. If the Florida Gators beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game, Florida will certainly not get into the CFP, while Alabama still likely will. If the Virginia Tech Hokies beat the Clemson Tigers in the ACC championship game, Virginia Tech will certainly not get into the CFP, while Clemson will not be out of the picture.

If conference championship games really mattered that much, this would not be the case. The winner of the game would be in, while the loser of the game would be out. Period. But one of the reasons the CFP only has four available spots is so winning a Power Five conference championship game is not an autobid to get into the CFP, and rightfully so, seeing as how getting into a conference championship game can be much harder for some teams than others given the sometimes unbalanced divisions. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that neither Ohio State nor Michigan even got into the Big Ten Conference championship game (You can read all about the changes that need to be made to make conference championship games feature each conference’s top two teams right HERE, but that is a whole other story).

Conference championship games definitely matter to an extent, but it would not appear that the committee is going to value a conference championship over how good a team actually is. Winning a Power Five conference championship game doesn’t automatically mean you are in the running to get into the CFP, especially since not all the conference championship games even feature the best two teams from each conference. However, a win in a conference championship game would certainly be a great resume booster, especially given the quality of the matchup, and team’s resumes will certainly be factors in determining how good they are when they are put up against all of the other CFP hopefuls in attempt to earn one of the four spots in this season’s CFP.

A conference championship game isn’t going to be the “be-all-end-all” in determining who the four teams are that get into this season’s CFP, but losing one or not even getting into one does not help your chances at making it into the CFP.


-Asher Fair