The “College Football Playoff” and It’s Unquenched Search for Satisfaction

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I write this post at 17-0, Clemson over Ohio State with 7:40 to go in the 3rd quarter. I am not sure this College Football Playoff is working the way everybody thought it would.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am amongst the most shocked it hasn’t caught fire. I said many years ago on the radio, that a true college football playoff, even with just 4 or 8 teams “would quickly catch and surpass March Madness in popularity and hype.”

Wrong. Very wrong. And I am now not even sure that adding more teams will fix it.

I mean, I guess a four-team playoff is better than the old BCS. Right? It has to be? No? I’m not sure. What IS college football anyway? What makes it fun? What makes it tick? What satisfies the hard-core fan (e.g. anybody who attended a relevant D1 football school) and also the casual fan (everybody else).

I’m in the casual fan group, having attended the “Harvard of the West” UC Santa Barbara. We had a fledgling club football team that went D3 for about 3 seasons before co-ed ultimate frisbee took over the stadium and the program folded. (Not an exaggeration).

I love college football Saturdays in front of my three TV’s. I love “virtual tailgating” via College GameDay. I love seeing Jordan-Hare basked in glorious fall sunshine in crystalline 1080p HD from CBS, with Uncle Verne in the booth. I love the wacky plays, the spectacle of 20 year olds drunk on wine coolers crying with a temporary logo tattoo on their cheeks. I love the rivalries, the tradition, and the “Trophy Games.” (Old Oaken Bucket!)

But I don’t give two shits if Clemson beats Ohio State right now. And I’ll likely never care. Plus, with Alabama being so utterly dominant now, it’s no longer “wow, awesome, cool…. such a dynasty!” It’s more like UConn women’s basketball stupid. That’s enough Nick Saban, that’s enough.

The push is for more teams in. Okay, I get it. Lots of ways to skin that cat too. Five conference winners, and 3 at large. You sweep up everybody relevant. You can play some early rounds on campus for more juice. Fill up early December with games. Money money money.

I suppose. But what if the general public doesn’t WANT that much college football? Especially if it’s a more sanitized, neutral site, snack-chip-endorsed, dome-version of the game? If I don’t care already about THIS game, then why would I care about say.. Penn State vs. Oklahoma?

Already, I am sorta dreading having to watch Jalen Hurts – bless his freshman heart – struggle to operate a basic passing scheme for one more game.

The college game is a far, far, cry from the pro game. This is not a debate. Teams are not nearly as equal in talent, and the amount of mistakes and sloppy play is often absurd. Therefore it’s just not as delicious or digestible to the non-hardcore-fan as the NFL playoffs.

And if you want to make the college game look and feel like the pro playoffs… well.. the difference in product quality will only become more stark.

Look, I have no answers. And no dog in the fight. I still watched both of these turd games at home on New Year’s Eve, because I am anti-social and like drinking and blogging alone.

Can we do eight teams? Sure. Would it make things “better?” That’s still very debatable. I think the smart move would be to sit tight for two more seasons of this format. Take good notes. Ask a lot of hard questions. And when you are ready to tear things up for an expansion (I’m just assuming going BACK to the old BCS way is a non-starter, although it’s not an insane idea, IMHO) just make sure you have a good answer to the most important question.

Why?

14 COMMENTS

  1. Although it is kind of…meh…..it is pure. More pure than the NFL. All these bowl games, as meaningless as they are, somehow remain (at least somewhat) fun to watch. This little slice of greatness we have on college campuses 3-4 months of the year. Not scripted, pure, emotional – something you don’t see in the NFL. NFL is a business, its a different passion. Even when NFL teams lose a big game they are laughing 2 minutes after the game swapping jerseys and high-fiving the other teams. College will for sure get more corporate and watered down, but man i sure just don’t want to lose the raw passion/emotion of the college game. Sometimes less is more. Miss you in the mornings czabe but the other guys are holding it down alright – Happy New Year.

  2. You pretty much summed up everything I was thinking (and some things I should have been thinking) with this post. I love Wild Card weekend in the NFL. This duo of games made me wonder if College Football should even exist.

  3. Rivalry…I think is what made College Football exciting.

    And the current track meet nature of the games makes it hard to believe the best teams win.

  4. Been telling people this for years.

    CFB singular distinguishing trait is the importance of the regular season. This playoff detracts more than it adds.

  5. The old pre-BCS system was better. Winning the conference was the goal, a berth in one of the big four bowls the hoped for reward. For the Big 10 schools a trip to Pasadena was the Holy Grail. Competing for the national “championship” was gravy. More people had more fun. Now the playoff system can have teams’ seasons feeling ruined before the conference even starts. On another note, the clown costumes, like Tennessee’s yesterday aren’t helping.

  6. If these games were more exciting tonight, would that of changed your mind at all? It just seems if a football game isnt 35-34 with a game winning drive, nobody is satisfied anymore. Every game can’t be great. And no, you may not care who won tonight…if you arent a fan of the school or have money on the game, nobody really does. But that’s the same thing that happens in any sport when it isn’t your team. There is no right answer for the playoff….4,6,8 teams, I don’t think it really matters. All we really care about is exciting and suspenseful games. Its the world we live in.

  7. The bowls must go. All of them. Including the “bowl” playoff games. The playoff should become an actual playoff with all but the championship being played at home sites. 4 or 8… I don’t care. Everything else should die. Literally no one actually cares about any of them. They are totally and utterly meaningless. Players know it and more importantly, fans know it. I don’t give a crap about viewership numbers. Most of that is wandering eyes just throwing something on the screen when there is no football alternative. If getting rid of them means going to 8 then go to 8. The level of play at the fcs level is so much lower but the 24 team playoff generates a disproportionate amount of buzz within the crowd that cares about that level of football. Imagine something structured more like that with the amount of fans and the level of play in fbs. It would be absurd. Why anyone in college football who has a say gives two craps about keeping bowls is beyond me. Hell how any of these bowls stay solvent is a damn mystery.

  8. Czabe, I was never an advocate of the playoff. It also seemed to be something talking heads on TV and sports radio campaigned for, not fans. And especially by ESPN-got to fill that airtime. I didn’t know a single college fan who wanted this playoff. I didn’t want it, in part because I knew the calls for expansion would start soon. I am in college football country, had season tickets to an SEC team for over 20 years, and live in ACC country. While the chattering classes of sports media mocked the small bowls, I can tell you I cared more about the small bowl my team made it and my friends teams went to, than any of the big two from yesterday. And I cared with a passion. I love the small bowls and their unique oddball names and “traditions”. And the randomness of the scheduling.

    You are due credit for pointing something out I didn’t anticipate and haven’t heard mentioned before. But then, I don’t watch the pregame shows, I don’t need hours of “breaking down” the game, so maybe it has been discussed. [I’ll get started on sports cliches, stop me now…]. You wrote this is now a “more sanitized, neutral site, snack-chip-endorsed, dome-version of the game”. Oh man, you have nailed it, NAILED it. These games bear little resemblance to what happens in an actual college football stadium. At least the smaller bowls and mid-level bowls are more like a regular game.

    Got to end, hope this makes sense. I love that you and Andy are back on the air, it is a great show. Good luck with that and I hope you guys are around a long time.

  9. “……Especially if it’s a more sanitized, neutral site, snack-chip-endorsed, dome-version of the game? ”

    In my opinion you are really on to something here….even in the mighty NFL, only ONE game is played at a neutral site…the Big one…. These semifinal games should be played at the higher seed. Of course, that probably would have made the Clemson OSU game much worse than it was…(and now that I think about it, the other game was basically a home game for Alabama) but at least the games would have a more “college-like” feel…..

  10. The genesis of the playoff was USC 2003 and Auburn 2004. Utah with Urban Meyer and Alex Smith maybe should have had a chance but only a small percentage of people clamored for it. A few near misses since and the playoff was born. But really, all we are talking about is 2 years out of 15 where the BCS might have been wrong. Might have been…

    These blowouts in the playoffs just prove what die hard have known forever: Each year there are only one or two dominant teams with the rare exception (USC/Auburn). So it’s not a shock at all when the #3 and #4 get trounced. Tiers of a Clown my friend.

    I went to a Pac 12 school with a bipolar football history (Washington State) and I love the playoff. The best thing about CFB is every week matters. With the playoff that is still true. An 8 team playoff would ruin that. The goal of the playoff should be to crown the best team, not necessarily create the most intriguing match up (that’s what the other bowls try to do). If dominant teams destroy inferior teams, so be it. I missed the Clemson domination but I actually enjoyed watching Bama dismantle Washington. It was impressive.

    The FCS playoffs are just like any other league/sport. Have a Meh + year and you might get in. LSU might have gotten in if CFB used those standards. How bad would that suck? Keep the 4 team playoff or go back to the BCS.

  11. “The college game is a far, far, cry from the pro game. This is not a debate. Teams are not nearly as equal in talent, and the amount of mistakes and sloppy play is often absurd.”

    Guess you haven’t watched much Cleveland Brown football this year including yesterday’s homage to Red Right 88.

  12. Alabama has exactly 2 non-conf road wins since 2001. Think about that. Penn St 2001 and Hawaii at some point.
    Get them to Ames, Madison, Lincoln, Boulder in December and see if that is fun.
    Outside, in the cold, the way football used to be.

  13. Steve, you are 100% correct about one thing. Unlike college basketball, the JOURNEY of college football is much better than the destination. Not sure what the solution is, but I can tell you what doesn’t help: one super shitty bowl game after another, after another after another….
    (Arkansas St. vs. Central Florida in the Cure Bowl??? Colorado St. vs. Idaho in the Potato Bowl?? Really? A.Y.F.K.M.?)

    Is there a quicker way to get from an exciting regular season and conference championship games to the playoffs? Would it be too outrageous to continue to play exhibition ga…, er, bowl games after the playoffs?

  14. “I still watched both of these turd games at home on New Year’s Eve, because I am anti-social and like drinking and blogging alone”.

    THIS…was perfect. 😂

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