The shadow of Jeff Long, chair of the college football playoff selection committee, is cast upon a backdrop, as he speaks to the media about the first NCAA College Football Playoff rankings. (Tim Sharp/AP)

So we’ve finally rid ourselves of the belittled Bowl Championship Series, in which two football schools were handpicked to play for the national title, and gifted ourselves the beloved College Football Playoff, in which four schools will be handpicked to play for the national title.

Now, that’s progress.

Of course, there’s one small caveat:

The new system, like the old system, IS RIGGED.

Frankly, in some ways, it’s rigged even worse.

And when I say “rigged,” I don’t mean rigged, like, say, a stacked deck; I mean rigged even worse than a stacked deck.

How do you explain the fact that there are 128 Division I football schools supposedly competing for the national title, yet half of them have ZERO chance of advancing to the new playoff, even if they went 12-0 and won every game by 49-3?

If America is a tale of two nations — the haves and have-nots — then college football is a sanitized Saturday version of our tried-and-true oligarchy.

There are five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) that rule the roost and five conferences (American Athletic, Mountain West, Mid-American, Conference USA, Sun Belt) that clean after the roosters. The big boys are known as the Power Five, or as I like to call them, the “I Got Mine You Better Get Yours” Five. Their little sisters are known as the “group of five,” or as I like to call them, the “I Got a Hand Out Under the Bridge” Five.

The Power Five get all the TV exposure and most of the TV money; they are locked in to the four-team playoff. The group of five is on the outside looking in, probably on big-screen TVs.

There are 64 schools in the Power Five, plus Notre Dame, with a shot at the national title; the other 63 Division I football schools are playing for frequent flier points.

Conference USA? Seems like a misnomer since none of its teams have a chance to play for the national championship.

At the moment, Marshall is 8-0 — and unranked in the College Football Playoff committee’s top 25. Heck, Marshall could string together unbeaten seasons until the cows come home, and those cows have a better chance of playing for a national title than the Thundering Herd — well, that’s assuming the cows can block and tackle and can also pass the rigorous academic standards of the likes of Alabama and Auburn.

Frankly, the national championship in college football is pretty much decided the old-fashioned, American way — through money and connections.

If we decided the presidency this way, Donald Trump would have a good chance to make it to the White House every four years.

Oh, did I mention the other “improvement” from the BCS to the College Football Playoff? With the BCS, computers had a hand in determining the best teams. With the College Football Playoff, the computers are gone — rather, it’s a panel of “experts” who bring a briefcase full of conflicts of interest.

Conflicts of interest? What conflicts of interest?

By design, the 13-member panel includes an athletic director from each of the Power Five conferences. So Arkansas, Wisconsin, USC, West Virginia and Clemson are represented; however, each of those athletic directors will leave the room when his school (but not his conference) is being discussed.

That’s a fail-safe system if I’ve ever heard of one!

It’s a big, big country — 316 million people at last count, plus at least that many “SportsCenter” and ESPNews anchors — so I would think you could actually find a handful of individuals with no current ties to schools under consideration for the college football playoff.

Of course, there are no members of the College Football Playoff selection committee with ties to group-of-five conferences, because, well, those schools have NO SHOT at being selected.

Anyway, if it were up to me, I would simply allow Jameis Winston to transfer to North Carolina — his sexual assault charges, petty thievery and public obscenities at Florida State likely would be wiped off the slate in a new locale, and as a Tar Heel, I assume he would just enroll in phantom classes, making UNC an easy choice for the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Maryland captains refused to shake hands with Penn State captains during the coin toss and got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Are your fellow Terps germaphobic? (Steve Simon; Falls Church)

A. The correct term is “mysophobic,” and my fellow Terps have no idea what that word, among many others, means.

Q. If Gregg Popovich isn’t the best coach in the NBA, then who is? And please give us some analytics to prove your argument. (Ryan Johnson; Provo, Utah)

A. I’d go with the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau — if it’s a game of cat-and-mouse and he’s coaching the mouse, my money’s on the mouse.

Q. Does the NFL’s bye week violate any work release programs? (Randy Long; Liberty Lake, Wash.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!