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In case you haven’t heard … which would make you either tone deaf to sports altogether, living under a rock, cryogencially frozen for the last five years, or a goth teen … college football now has this playoff thing. It starts this year, and as it gets rolled out, it will be under the scope more now than it probably ever will.
Is it a better system? Did it get the results we wanted? Would it have guarded against all those issues the BCS raised? Is it diluting the regular season? Is it creating more arguments? And all of that.
So when looking at this upcoming defining year, what are the best, worst, and more realistic scenarios? You only get one chance to make a first impression, and it’s always everlasting. You always know what she wore on the first date, but not the fifth. You go out to eat and the waitress looks like she got maybe 3 hours a week, hair pulled back, bags under her eyes … no matter how cute she looks next time, she’s already ruined it that first time by showing her floor.
This is the CFB Playoff putting on a skirt and trying to impress us all this year before we get to know it.
Best Case Scenario:
A non-SEC college football blue blood wins, all conference champs make up the playoff, and a non-Power 5 one-loss team nearly qualifies.
Here’s why … the BCS gave us the now entrenched conference (Richard) measuring contest, and the biggest concern you hear about this new system is whether or not pre-conceived conference strength biases will play a role in getting teams into the playoff over those from more perceived but not necessarily proven “weaker” conferences. We’re talking about a Texas, Michigan, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Notre Dame, type of team winning, one that draws the ire and opinion of those with no dog in the fight because of their historical standing.
By doing this, the system looks like it does what everyone hopes it does: includes four teams regardless of conference that look like the best teams with an opinion-driving program forcing everyone to have an opinion and take notice. An SEC team winning would only fuel the perception that there needs to be less focus on the four best teams as they seem and more focus on making sure one conference (one that seems to have the media perception on its side) is well-represented, because in college football, the media likes to pretend that last year equals this year and next year and so on.
Multiple SEC teams get in the playoff, and the SEC runner-up or multi-loss SEC Championship Game winner wins title.
Look at it this way … Alabama goes 12-0, loses to 9-3 Missouri in the SEC title game, both get in, both reach the finals, and Missouri wins again. The narrative following it would be brutal, that basically the two SEC title game participants need to get in automatically and consideration should be given to a third team, further driving a very unproven but taken-too-often-as-fact story line that it’s one conference and everyone else, which is not even close to being accurate.
The playoff at this point would be on the crux of losing people’s credibility from other regions if it’s perceived that the same teams will get the same benefits every year, almost like New England or Pittsburgh starting out with three more wins at the beginning of the season because they’ve been so good for so long in the NFL. It really is that absurd to take past performance and relay it to the current season. Worse yet, if fans feel like their team isn’t getting a fair shake regardless of the outcome of games, people will tune out. People tuned out for the Alabama-LSU BCS title game rematch (myself included). If the system is deemed to be unfair, you lose interest. Sorry, it happens.
Healthy debate, four conference champs get in, one of them wins (like Florida State).
The CFB playoff committee has to be very conscious that its members are under the scope. It’s their first day of work, so make sure the clothes are ironed, look halfway decent, put on just enough make up to hide being out until 1 a.m. last night, and away we go.
Warts will be discovered as time goes on, just as with getting to know anyone or anything more in-depth, but the onus will be on the system to look all-inclusive, representative of every region in college football, and something that leaves a good taste in people’s mouths about the post season process. Make no mistake, this is the beginning of the end for decent college football regular seasons. Those who care about the sport see this, those more worried about having what they feel is a “legitimate” champion are not concerned with it because they see trees, but not the forest and all that lives in it.
This isn’t to say there won’t be gross problems with the four teams in the playoff down the road, nor does it mean we won’t eventually hear the “what about us?” mid-major rallying-cry lawsuit threatening, but if it starts out looking pretty good in yoga pants, it’ll at least have bought itself some time before we start finding all of the leaks and whine about moving onto something else.