Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can You Hear The Hallelujah Chorus In The Background?

It's official:

A four-team playoff for college football has been formally approved by a presidential oversight committee, a dramatic change for the sport that will begin in 2014 and continue through the 2025 season. The four teams will be chosen by a selection committee, the semifinals will be held at current bowl sites and the national championship game will be awarded to the highest bidder.


They're still hacking through the details of how teams will be selected and all that, and it's subject to approval by the NCAA and a bunch of other red tape, but the key is that it's actually happening.  Personally, I'd like to see an 8-team playoff, with all of the major conference champions and a couple of at-large spots awarded purely on the basis of final rankings, but this is a fantastic first step.  Once the playoff door was opened, a world of possibilities opened up, and it's just a matter of time until things settle in.  Not that there won't be controversy, of course.  It's athletics, so there will always be controversy.  But, the point is that most of the idiocies of the current BCS ranking system will be minimized by giving more teams a chance at proving their ability on the field at the end (depending on the selection process, of course...let's hope they get that right, too).

One note that I heard recently that's worth repeating.  For all these years, one of the big points of resistance to a playoff system is the claim that it would have supposedly rendered the regular season meaningless.  That's got to be one of the least intelligent arguments I've heard for retaining the old fuddy-duddy bowl system!  The reality is precisely the opposite.  Right now, if you are a team with championship aspirations, you cannot lose.  If you get national press love and can make a compelling case, you can sometimes get away with one loss to another championship caliber team, but two losses essentially guarantees you a trip to one of a thousand ridiculously named pud bowls with mediocre attendance and even less TV viewership.  How meaningful is your regular season if you start off 0-2?  Or, take another scenario that we see often - a loss in September hurts a team less than a loss in November because it's less fresh in everyone's mind and everyone assumes a certain level of improvement through the year.  With a playoff, you can suffer a couple of setbacks at any point in the year and still have an even shot at getting into the big dance.  Every game genuinely does matter.

Unlike some years, where we have the championship game played twice, and where the one in the regular season really didn't matter.  Ahem.

Anyway, I'm guessing it's just a matter of time until more teams are allowed in.  Whether it's four, eight, or 65 teams that get 'in', the team(s) sitting just outside the cutoff will always bellyache about deserving to be in.  But, that bellyaching will get less and less relevant the further you get from the top.  Team #3 will usually have a legitimate argument for being 'in', Team #5 isn't really that far-fetched and is likely to at least make some waves, Team #9 has a very slim outside shot if all the right magic happens at the right time...but Team #17 needs to just go home and start prepping for next year.  There's a reason they're ranked #17, you know?  After all, if you can't get that close to the top four or eight based on your regular season ranking, do you really deserve a shot for the title?  No.

I'm confident that it'll happen in the next couple years.  For now, I'll happily take the four team playoff as the first baby steps into an awesome new world of college football.

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