The Heat Death of the College Football Playoffs and How to Avoid It

By Johnny Ginter on May 25, 2018 at 10:21 am
The Buckeyes head out of the tunnel at Ohio Stadium

If you follow the NBA playoffs, you know that this year has been... fine. There have been a lot of bad series plagued by a lot of bad basketball, but more to the point, the whole thing has had an air of being completely preordained since it began: at the beginning of the season, there were realistically four to six teams with a shot at making the finals, and lo and behold, the four teams that are left are among those teams.

Obviously there's been some variation along the way. The Cavs of, say, December do not really look anything like the Cavs of late May, and the fact that Boston is one win within reaching the NBA finals after losing their two best players is pretty remarkable. LeBron is doing insane things at 33 that no human should really consider possible. That's neat.

But beyond that, is there anything really surprising about what's transpired? Is anyone really enraptured by the Rockets (the best team by record during the season), going up 3-2 in a series against the Warriors (the third best team by record during the season) after a really terrible game that saw horrendous shooting from both teams?

The problem isn't that both teams are among the best in the NBA, the problem is that both teams are among the best in the NBA and every game is devolving into a contest to see who can win the game in the least entertaining way possible. Per Deadspin:

So this is my plea to the Warriors: Please just be the Warriors again. Maybe it won’t work, be it because Klay Thompson is hiding an injury or because Andre Iguodala isn’t there to help grease possessions, but the current state of things isn’t working out, for the Warriors or for anyone watching this series. Last night’s game featured some of the biggest stars in the NBA and came down to the final possession, and yet it felt like watching a traffic jam.

Yeah man. And college football has to take steps to avoid the same fate.

The most recent iteration of the College Football Playoff featured two SEC teams, in part because you could make a semi-reasonable argument for including two SEC teams, but also in part because the playoff committee has never really wavered in their desire to see teams in the playoff that help reinforce the status quo.

I'm not really here to rehash every argument about whether UCF should've been included in the playoff or not on the basis of their talent (though, for the record, they should've), but rather to point out that the 2018 College Football Playoff sucked and was bad. Not the games themselves: this was a playoff that featured two overtime games, a crazy second-half comeback on the part of the eventual national runners-up, and an unknown quarterback leading an historic program to the title.

But the matchups were bad, and boring, and smacked of the kind of artifice that you see in a ship in a bottle. It looked awesome, but every single piece of it felt like it had been constructed months before in a lab somewhere. And while I would've loved for Ohio State and Urban Meyer to have been a part of that playoff, I think that most Ohio State fans understand that the Buckeyes probably weren't a solution to that particular problem.

So: universal entropy. The heat death of the universe is one model of the eventual death of existence when, at some point trillions to the trillionth power of years into the future, all protons and electrons and whatnot stop moving do to all of the energy in the universe having been expended. Then all of everything will settle into a cold, dark death for all of eternity until something happens for some reason, at some point. Maybe.

Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about it, which I personally think is kind of dumb, but your mileage may vary.

Anyway, here's a chart:

Thing get real out in space

My point is that if college football wants to avoid the eventual fate of the universe and the current fate of the NBA, it needs to look at the NHL (which, holy crap, has had an absolutely bonkers playoffs between the Golden Knights and the Capitals finally breaking through), or hell, even Major League Baseball. Energy has to be injected into the proceedings to stave off the dark and the cold, and while I would love for the Buckeyes to be in the playoffs every year, I also don't want college football to slowly die due to dissipating cosmic forces.

And that requires the UCFs of the world to be able to so supernova when given the opportunity.

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