The ultimate legitimacy of any voting process is its transparency.
It's becoming increasingly difficult to see clearly through the College Football Playoff Selection Committee's methodology.
As respected and experienced as the 12-person committee may be, it specializes in secrecy -- behind closed doors, curtains drawn. That's not necessarily bad when you consider the media cottage industry that has grown up around the mystery surrounding the weekly rankings.
That's part of the problem. That slice of a $7 billion enterprise remains a mystery. In fact, college football's now 80-year-old weekly poll evaluation of its teams has never been more subjective.
We get no CFP vote totals, ala the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll. Worse, there are no individual votes released.
Condoleezza Rice faced world-changing events as U.S. secretary of state. Is it too much asking to see her top 25 ballot this week?
My point is the CFP's point. Sure, it will all eventually work itself out. So what's the big deal? These aren't world-changing events.
Once a week, chairman Kirby Hocutt emerges to tell us something similar to "it was really close between the No. 4 and No. 5 teams," or "the committee deliberated hard about Boise State."
Worse, we've been conditioned to accept this one-voice approach. Trust us, say these accomplished politicians, academicians, administrators and coaches.
Perhaps. But Tuesday night promises to be the most controversial weekly rankings in the CFP's short history. With three of the top four losing on the same day for the first time in 31 years, there are all sorts of possibilities.
With three weeks to go until pick 'em day, there are only two undefeated teams. Nine others have one loss. Six of those nine are in Power Five conferences.
All of it includes the real possibility of at least one team that doesn't win its conference playing for the national championship.
You might remember the Tigers beat the Cardinals fair and square on Oct. 1. As a football culture, we are conditioned to the transitive property of poll rankings. That means, everything else being equal, if Team A beats Team B then Team A must be ranked higher.
The CFP has taught us a different way of looking at the entire poll-voting process. It can rank Louisville ahead of Clemson, and I have no problem with that.
Louisville has been playing better than Clemson lately. The Cardinals lost by six against the Tigers in Clemson and were driving for the winning score when they basically ran out of time. That's reason enough.
The transitive property does not/should not necessarily apply. We're told each weekly ranking is new and unique unto itself. That's refreshing and enlightening.
But the bottom line endures: The committee can do whatever it wants. Bottomer line: Because of that, the committee needs to do a better job of showing us just what the heck it is thinking.
If the CFP is going to insist on this overwrought, overproduced and -- frankly -- overhyped weekly process, it owes us better.
It especially owes us more objectivity. Voting totals are a start. That's a nice bridge to what will eventually become an eight-team bracket.
While it's probably a long way off, an eight-team playoff pulls back the curtain on the current secrecy. All the Power Five conference champs get in. Leave three other spots open for at-large teams.
With eight, there's no haggling about teams that don't win their conference ... because all Power Five winners are included.
For now, the committee's charge is to pick the four best teams. That's it. The conflict comes with there being four playoff spots, meaning at least one Power Five league is left out.
The resulting fallout no one planned on: The Big 12 has almost imploded upon itself after not getting in two years ago. This season, it could become the first Power Five league to miss the playoff twice.
Imagine the upheaval if/when the mighty Big Ten or SEC gets left out. That's when the certainty of eight teams will trump the current subjectivity.
Eight teams assures that the best teams play for the national championship. As long we embrace a four-team bracket, there could be a national discussion in any given year the best four teams wouldn't be included.
Not saying this is the case at all, but none of us want Big Ten honk (and Wisconsin athletic director) Barry Alvarez being an overbearing personality in the room. Worse, we don't want the perception that Alvarez could have that much sway on the committee.
But that's what a lack of transparency gets you -- questions, speculation.
I've been through the mock selection process. It reflected a balanced, informed, diverse discussion among peers. I've also been to homeowners association meetings where some yahoo owns the room because he's upset at the shrubbery.
See where this is heading? In the short term, there needs to be more information. It would be great to know -- if it's the case -- how much Louisville is ahead of Clemson this week.
Never mind that, if Clemson wins out, the issue is moot. But Hocutt can't/won't even say that much. Apparently, we the masses can't be trusted with such sensitive information.
The CFP's is the most secretive process and it isn't even close. During the wire-service era, we had a point value (voting totals) attached to the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll. In the BCS, we had numbers each week from the computers and human polls, flawed as they might have been.
Almost half the NCAA Tournament field -- 32 conference champion automatic qualifiers -- are decided for the men's basketball committee before it gets serious about assembling the bracket each March.
What we continue to experience each week with the CFP is a contrived reality show with reduced accountability. That's fine reality programming if you're watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta.
But what about when you're evaluating the Cardinals of Louisville?