Utah knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl a couple of days ago, lifting their record to 13-0. Shouldn’t that give them a claim as college football’s national champions? Or how about Texas who beat Oklahoma who is playing for the title against Florida?
I’m somewhat of a traditionalist – okay, a little mix of iconoclast and traditionalist – so I’ve never had a dog in the we-must-have-a-playoff-for-Division-I-college-football fight. I can see both sides of the debate.
The arguments against a D-I college football (CFB) playoff include –
- the bowl system generates more income for schools and communities than a playoff would
- a little controversy keeps interest level high
- the bowl system is a reward to the kids – and allows many schools to claim some form of a championship
- college football is healthy so why mess with something that’s already working
- college football is about tradition and the bowls with their parades and pageantry are definitely traditional
- extra games associated with a playoff would cut into student-athletes’ academic studies
There is an answer for and to every point above. I’m oversimplifying but here’s the quick responses in corresponding order: playoffs would generate NFL type of dollars; controversy is not good when the ‘best team’ gets ripped off due to system rules; you can still keep some form of the bowl system but some of the bowls would go away (and need to go away); sure CFB is healthy but so is basketball and people absolutely love March Madness and filling in their brackets; again, you can keep some of the bowls as part of the playoff system; hey, if athletes from the lower divisions of CFB can do a playoffs and handle the academic work load at some rigorous universities, why can’t the D-I kids?
Like I said, I have no dog in this fight – something Michael Vick wishes he could have said – so you pick the answers you like best and you won’t get me worked up. As you can tell with the associated arguments above, most solutions try to incorporate traditional bowls into the playoff equation. And this is where I have a problem. In fact, I would go so far as to say, dump the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) completely and return to stand-alone bowls with a vote at the end of the year or go strictly with a playoff for the top eight teams. But don’t mix the two.
Bowls were never set up to determine a national champion. Bowls were about rewarding kids with travel, gifts, and a televised game and giving alums and fans a warm weather place to go for a vacation. As a result the bowls have always favored warm weather schools and penalized cold weather schools.
Warm weather schools can recruit and play a style of football that doesn’t have to change as the leaves fall off of trees. (Texas Tech needs to bring their passing attack to Madison, Wisconsin, in late November to test my theory.) Warm weather schools often travel less distance (and many times stay in-state) for a near home field advantage in bowl season. (USC’s last home game every year is the Rose Bowl! Of course, if the mighty Trojans would stop getting upset by 30-point underdogs they would have to play for a championship instead of relying on ESPN to crown them as best-ever each year.) The pundits discuss and explore home field issues, including weather conditions, in-depth and ad nauseum in the NFL – no one wants to go to Green Bay in December I’ve heard – but college analysts conveniently ignore that reality.
Oh, you’re a Buckeye fan and are just making excuses. Let’s face it, the best football is played in the SEC and Big 12 South! Weather is a non-issue.
Uh oh. The topic of discussion just changed! And yes, I confess, I am defending my much-maligned Buckeyes and the Big 10 and its quality of football as evidenced by the last few bowl seasons. Realistically, I can accept that the Big 10 is down the past two or three years and the SEC is up based on year-end results – but there’s an even more telling statistic that argues against the kind of disparity being argued. It’s number of players in the NFL. The score card reads:
SEC – 263 players / 137 starters
ACC – 238 players / 121 starters
Big Ten – 234 players / 105 starters
Pac-10 – 183 players / 70 starters
Big 12 – 176 players / 72 starters
Big East – 84 players / 33 starters
So admittedly there is a power shift toward the southeast USA, but not to the degree it’s been propagated by fans who claim if you ain’t cheating you ain’t really trying.
But back to the question: Is it time for a college football playoff? I’m all for the top eight teams forming a bracket to set up a Super Bowl type climax to the CFB season – because we all know how great SB games are most years! (Sarcasm font on.) But not if all games are played in warm weather sites.
After all, since weather is just an excuse, shouldn’t Gator, Trojan, Sooner, Tiger, and Seminole fans get to experience football the way it was meant to be played … outdoors in December in Ann Arbor, Columbus, Happy Valley or other northern climes?
That’s a thought that warms my heart!