I know, I am more noted for my passionate opinions on sports. Love the Yankees. Hate the SEC. Consider Alabama and Nick Satan an abomination against all that is decent and good in America. There. But as the college bowl season draws down (I know there is one big game still out there, and perhaps a few others I am not aware of), I would try to make some reasonable reflections on what we have seen.
1. This year, there were probably only TWO teams that deserved to be in the College Football Playoff.
It would appear that Clemson and Alabama are the two best teams in the nation this year and that the gap between 2 and 3 is pretty substantial. We can spill a lot of blood discussing who should be ranked #3 through #8, whether Notre Dame or OU or OSU or UCF or Georgia (Ohio State was the only one of those teams to win a bowl game) deserved to be #3 and #4, and who got the shaft from the committee. But the two best teams are in the championship. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt about that.
2. We should not make policy based on this year.
I’ve heard several people say that we should not expand the playoffs because of this year’s clear supremacy of Alabama and Clemson. I do not think that follows. Not every year is like this year. Frankly, I think the one team that COULD have given the top 2 teams a game is Ohio State – if they played the way they are capable of playing, which they almost never do. I am not even saying they should have gotten in ahead of Notre Dame or OU – as much of a Big 10 homer as I am, I don’t think they deserved to get in this year. But I think that on their best day, they could probably outplay every other team except for 1 and 2.
3. An 8-team playoff is probably best.
Many have suggested a 16 team playoff, but I think an 8 team playoff is sufficient. Is there a team ranked 6 or 7 who could conceivably win 3 games and take the title? There has been. The year Ohio State won it all, TCU had a good case to get in ahead of them and dominated their bowl game. They might have been the best team in the nation, and they didn’t even get to compete. It wouldn’t happen often, but a 5-8 seed could step up and win it all every few years. Would a 12 seed or a 15 seed do that? I doubt it. Maybe once in a generation. Hoosiers anyone?
Personally, I want to see this thing taken out of the hands of the secret, unaccountable committee. Put the winners of the Power-5 conferences in, and give a spot to the highest-rated champion of a non-power 5 conference (UCF). Then, add 2 wildcards (power rankings) and go. Actually, in a perfect world, we could have 8 conferences and each conference would get a bid. You’d have to win your conference to get in. No wildcards. Make the regular season MEAN something.
All that is simply to say, I think an 8-team playoff is probably the sweet spot. Teams 9-16 are not likely contenders, but teams 5-8 could be, under the right circumstances. A lot of people thought (prior to their bowl game) that Georgia was a legitimate contender this year.
4. Notre Dame should get in a conference.
My biggest frustration with the whole system is the changing standard of judgment. One year, the secret and unaccountable committee skips over a conference champion because they think someone else is better. The next year, a conference champion is given priority. The standard seems to be their “feelings.” Notre Dame was a study in “it all depends on how you look at it” this year. They were undefeated, yes, but their schedule was filled with cupcakes. Does anyone believe they’d have survived the SEC, Big-10, or ACC undefeated? I think they’d have had one or two losses, at least, in each of those conferences. They were good this year, but they were not worthy of inclusion in the tourney.
That’s my opinion. I hate that so much in college football is a matter of opinion. I hate the Red Sox, but I have to grudgingly admit that they won it all this year. They deserved it. They had the best record, beat the good guys in Pinstripes, and won the Series. I can hate it, but they won. But in college football, so much is about people’s opinions and feelings. Does the fact that Notre Dame survived a weak schedule undefeated mean more than Ohio State winning the Big-10 with 1 loss?
I think ND should get in a conference and win their way through a conference, earning a spot in the tourney.
5. Ohio State is the most confusing team in college football the last 2 years.
OSU would have and should have been in the CFP the last two years except for the fact that they laid one giant stinker on the field each year. Last year, they came to Kinnick and my Hawkeyes put a 55-24 beatdown on them that was not as close as the score indicated. I love my Hawkeyes, but we were not a great team last year. Had you said, OSU beat us 55-24, I’d have said, “Not that bad, it could have been worse.” Ohio State looked like a Division III school. This year, they did the same thing in a game at Purdue. Honestly, I haven’t seen such poor tackling ever. It looked like OSU thought it was a game of two-hand touch. “Why didn’t he stop running? I touched him!”
I watched games (not many) where OSU looked good. Really good. But against Purdue, they didn’t just look bad, but historically pathetic. So much so that a Big-10 partisan such as myself agreed they didn’t deserve to get into the dance. I think they are a better team (most of the time) than Notre Dame or Oklahoma (again, opinions-opinions-opinions) but the stinker they dropped at Purdue made it very fair for them to be left behind at tourney time.
How can a team have that much talent and every year play one game THAT bad? (In fairness, they played a couple other subpar games, but won them.)
6. UCF should get some respect.
No, I do not think they deserved a spot in the tourney. No, I don’t think they’d be undefeated in a Power-5 conference (probably not even in the Pac-12, which barely qualifies as a Power-5).
Still, it is time we started giving them some respect. Last year, they beat Auburn in a bowl, and this year, without their starting quarterback (a pretty important piece) they gave LSU all they could handle.
UCF is for real. Genuinely a top-12 or top-15 team. Maybe top-10. No, they aren’t national championship caliber, but they are pretty good.
7. Power-5 Conference parity is a reality.
Every one of the Power-5 conferences is within one game of 500 in the bowl season. No conference has dominated and even the Pac-12, generally the weak-sister, has 3 wins this year. The SEC is 6-5, the ACC is 5-5, the Big 10 is 5-4, the Big 12 is 4-3, and the Pac 12 is 3-4. So many of the bowl games came down to the wire and games could have gone one way or the other.
Anyone who claims absolute supremacy of one conference over the others is doing so without the benefit of the facts. What we have is the superiority of two teams – that is pretty clear, and behind them, we have a lot of teams that can win or lose on a particular day. If we replayed all the bowl games this year, the results might be very different, but I am guessing we would continue to have general parity, behind the two leaders of the pack.
Final observation: I expect Alabama to win on Monday night because I am a pessimist, but I think the Clemson Tigers have a shot. If their D-line can give Tua even a fraction of the harassment they gave ND, they can make America happy and slay the dragon.
Factoid: The national champion this year will have a believer at QB. I understand that Tua is a believer and I have read the testimony of Trevor Lawrence who articulates a clear faith as well. Our Lord is probably gonna get mentioned at the end of the game.