How Else Are They Going to Beat Alabama? This May Turn Out To Help Florida’s Playoff Hopes.
I’m resisting the temptation to play the Carnac The Magnificent card, a la Johnny Carson, holding the empty envelope to my head and saying, “I Told You So, I Told You So, I Told You So! …” Then blowing open the envelope to pull out a card that reads: “What is Buddy Martin muttering about the new 12-team college football playoff which he envisioned back in 1990?” That would be boasting. So I won’t. Or…maybe I will!
It took ssooo loooong for the college football brain trusts – well, now there’s a real oxymoron for you! – to wake up and formulate a plan whereby a championship tournament could be played without merely anointing four teams. Not even Carnac could have done that.
It was officially announced Thursday that the model to be presented for approval will include a dozen teams to commence tournament play two weeks after the conference championships, consummating in January. Sadly only the first-round games two weeks before Christmas will be played on-campus. This is the recommendation that will be discussed next week at CFP Management Committee meeting June 17-18.
What we will finally have is this controversial, flawed, but necessary, discombobulated plan to Stop The Nick Saban Freight Train and pull off this heist for the CFB crown jewels, spreading billions of dollars among more teams. Plainly a money grab, but with Name, Likeness and Image costs accelerating the price and the arms race for lavish, absurdly posh facilities – plus the bottom-line losses from the pandemic – athletic directors are madly dialing for dollars.
There is plenty of disagreement about playing up to 17 games, but those who consider themselves guardians of the CFB galaxy are suddenly morally outraged about a number that they really can’t justify or quantify themselves. How many teams should be included in the playoff? How many games are too many for a young athlete’s body? Who died and made these guys chief kinesiologists?
A lot more teams are going to be invited to The Big Dance. All things considered, given that the new proposal revealed on Thursday was created by this Headless Horseman of CFB, I like the new plan, even if it was thousands of days late and billions of dollars short.
I think there are going to be some pluses like a fair and equitable opportunity for neglected conferences. I’m not feeling sorry for the Pac 12, or the a Group of Five team, or saying they will not be qualified -- but at least they have a shot.
Unless you are in Tuscaloosa, Norman, Clemson or Columbus, you might even like the way your team’s chances look. Most likely these four teams will usually make it, but there are more forks in the pie and most likely smaller bites.
Here’s why I’m in favor of the new plan:
—It makes post-season more relevant again and eliminates the “Opt-out” bowls.
—It’s more inclusive of Power Five conference winners and runners up and even offers a glimmer of hope for the hopeless.
—It could tighten the regular season schedule to mean fewer Cupcake games.
—It will eliminate what I call the “Groundhog Day” Syndrome --- the fatigue of seeing the same old teams ... Alabama ... Clemson... Alabama… Ohio State...Oklahoma...Alabama… Although they will all probably still qualify. At least they’ll be playing somebody else in between.
I’m not buying the suggestion that it “waters down” the regular season, any more than March Madness does basketball. If anything it heightens interests and puts a premium on a stronger regular season schedule with intraconference play.
If done correctly, it would make college football more of a national game, could reward some season ticket holders for their loyalty with better value at their home venues and offer access to a smorgasbord of road trips never before experienced. The myopic SEC fans probably need to see Boulder, Colo. or Eugene, Ore., or Happy Valley, Pa. However from all indications, it’s pretty much of a money grab and very few games will be played on campus. These neutral sight games will be the payoff to the bowls who would otherwise be out of business.
The 12-team model invites the six highest ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. Why does it matter? There could be four or five SEC teams included (four would have made it in 2019).
Under this a new format, once again the Pac 12 would not have made it last year.
The top four conference champions will have byes in the first round and the other eight teams will have first-round games on the campuses of the next four highest-ranked teams.
There are some advantages to schools like Florida, as well as other SEC, Big 12 and ACC teams left in the wakes of Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma, outside looking in.
Every conference champion would
have been eligible to be a playoff team. And given what would have been at stake in a playoff game, no doubt fewer Gators would have opted out of the post-season in 2020. No self-respecting agent would ever dare have a player skip a championship round game.
But let’s skip 2020 and apply the playoff formula to 2019 after the bowls.
Just for kicks, let’s say the 2019 Gators were in. They finished No. 9 and would square off vs. No. 8 Wisconsin at one of the best venues in CFB, Camp Randall – but no doubt in the frost or snow? Then, if the Gators beat the Badgers, they would be playing in Athens against the Bulldogs the following week, providing Georgia won.
What I really like is that this revised post-season gives fans more choices. Gator fans would enjoy a visit to South Bend or Norman or Madison for a change instead of Orlando or Atlanta or New Orleans every year or so. Except, perhaps for the frigid weather. Also it probably means so long and thanks to most of the meaningless bowl games which have long ago outlived their usefulness as borderline fraudulent reasons for winter practice.
And, finally, it eliminates the “December Dead Zone” which happens after the passion of post-season conference championships. Instead of the Cricket Celebration Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and Roofclaim.com Boca Raton Bowl – all real and to be played this year.
However they wind up formulating the playoffs for 2023, it will be far better than the Carnac method, whereby the CFB utilized a “mystical and borderline divine way, ascertaining the answers having never before heard the questions."
One final note: If Florida had played in Madison, Wisc. at Camp Randall on Dec. 14, 2019, there was a high of 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring it.