College Football Has a Championship Problem That is Tough, but Not Unsolvable

By Johnny Ginter on December 29, 2018 at 11:57 pm

Okay. That was bad.

"That" being... well, all of it. The whole damn College Football Playoff semifinal. Notre Dame got smoked by Clemson, largely because they couldn't get anything going against the Tigers offensively (and I credit that to the entirety of South Bend, Indiana being karmically cursed for the Fighting Irish continuing to employ an evil dumpy grape in a polo shirt).

The Oklahoma Sooners lost by 42 points to the Alabama Crimson Tide because the Sooners have literally the worst defense since the invention of the forward pass. And here's the thing; I don't know if Oklahoma actually lost by 42 points because I'm writing this article with like 12 minutes left in the second quarter. Still, I know they lost, because I have functioning eyeballs and a semi-functioning brain and I don't need to wait several more hours to start Angry Writing.

If you're reading this, you probably spent several incredibly tedious hours watching two super garbage college football games thinking "HOLY HELL, WHY WAS OHIO STATE LEFT OUT OF THIS ENORMOUS SHITSHOW?" and if that was the case, you were thinking correctly. But maybe for the wrong reason!

Which is what I want to briefly explore before I watch Buckeye football for another three and a half hours, wash my hands of college football completely, and enjoy the true sport of kings: men's indoor volleyball. And basketball I guess, which is also fun.

The truth is that the Buckeyes probably weren't going to beat either Clemson or Alabama, but that's largely irrelevant because neither did Oklahoma or Notre Dame. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that, but I'm not here trying to make the argument that obviously Ohio State deserved a spot in the four-team playoff because of some clear superiority of Ohio State's body of work vis a vis Oklahoma or Notre Dame (well, okay, maybe Notre Dame). Purdue sucks, so if you lose to Purdue it's established that no matter what your accomplishments later in the season, you have some genetic suckitude imprinted in your DNA from that loss that could rear its head at any time.

I get it. The Buckeyes weren't owed a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.

So change the playoff.

College football's greatest asset, the thing that makes it better and more interesting than the NFL, is unpredictability. A four team playoff kills that and makes explicit what has always been implicit, which is that there are expressed haves and have-nots in college football. A four team playoff locks in the exact same handful of teams in a perpetual motion machine consisting of preseason polls, crappy out of conference opponents, and the eventual heat death of each season as it devolves into a coin flip after the prerequisite conference championships.

Consider this: since the College Football Playoff was implemented five seasons ago, there have been 20 total available spots. Only 10 different teams have occupied those spots. This'll be the third time in five seasons we'll have an Alabama-Clemson matchup in the championship game (Alabama will have played in four of the five games).

Unless you're an Alabama fan, that is a mind-numbingly boring result. Nick Saban deserves props for building a seemingly unbeatable death machine, but if I'm going to be forced to watch it swallow the rest of college football whole, I'd at least want to see it happen in new and interesting ways.

Some suggestions: include all Power Five champions, plus three at-large teams (no one cares about the argument between 8th and 9th versus 4th and 5th). Delete one useless game from the schedule, make the first round at the higher ranked team's home field, and be done with it.

This isn't likely going to to play out exactly like that (southern teams really, really, really, really do not want to play in the north, especially for a Game That Matters in December), but something has to change.

If you're mad about Ohio State being left out, you should be. Not just because it is now blindingly obvious that Oklahoma and Notre Dame didn't deserve to be on the field with the Tide and the Tigers, but because if the Buckeyes are being left out of the mix on a regular basis, God knows that there's no way in hell a team like UCF or even Washington State will ever get in.

That may make some kind of sense in a world run by cold, lifeless robots that insist on cementing an outcome in advance which ensures that "the best team" wins, but college football is supposed to be more fun than that.

In 2018, Ohio State should've been a part of the College Football Playoff, along with three other interesting and deserving teams.

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