We’re here. The playoff that many have clamored for for the majority of a decade is just two days away. The BCS era is dead, and the playoff era has already begun with much drama, angst and emotion.
Sorry, Big 12 fans. Maybe Baylor will schedule more than the Mickey Mouse Playhouse in the non-conference schedule. Maybe TCU won’t give up 24 points in the fourth quarter next time.
Over the next couple of days, I’m going to enjoy it.
We’ve got two incredible matchups with what the vast majority can agree are the three best teams in Oregon, Florida State and Alabama, and then a fourth incredibly resilient team on its third quarterback of the season in Ohio State. Four different conferences are represented. Three of the most storied programs in college football history, FSU, ’Bama and OSU, are involved, with the new-age power Oregon crashing the traditional black and white party with a splash of green.
It’s almost exactly what everybody wanted.
I mean, who really wanted to see Alabama and Florida State just gifted a title game appearance against each other? That’s the matchup had the BCS still been in effect.
Now, Oregon and Ohio State get a crack.
And, boy, New Year’s Day will be better than, well, maybe Christmas for some of us. Not saying that’s necessarily me, but…
OK, it’s me.
Still, not long after the four-team playoff was announced was there clamoring for an eight-team playoff, or 16 even. And I was on the fence about it. I definitely knew I wanted a playoff, but I was not sure what number was the perfect amount of teams to include.
I thought eight, at first, because I did not like the idea of a power-five conference guaranteed to be left out of the mega event. And on years when maybe two teams are clearly deserving from the same conference (i.e. 2011 season with Alabama and LSU), now at least two power-five conferences would be left out.
That just doesn’t sit well.
This season is not the greatest example of that being a downfall of the four-team playoff because TCU and Baylor sort of tied in the one conference that delivered the laughable “one true” champion slogan, so both got left out. But there will be seasons when all five conferences have clear best teams, and the committee will have to sort that out somehow. It won’t be easy. Though, it’s likely no season will be.
But on the other hand, this season may be the perfect example of why eight teams in the playoff may be too much — creating a more NCAA Basketball Tournament feel with Cinderella teams than the actual best teams.
The No. 8-ranked team in the final committee rankings was Michigan State, a team that had more-or-less been blown out by two of the top four teams in the rankings, Oregon and Ohio State. The Spartans are clearly inferior.
The No. 7-ranked team is Mississippi State, which lost handily to Alabama, regardless of the misleading final score of 25-20. That game was not that close.
So would we really want Michigan State or Mississippi State pulling football’s version of UConn and getting “hot” in the postseason to steal a national championship? I guess beating three quality opponents would take some of the sting off of it, but then the regular season really would become less important, as many warned with the four-team playoff but were so, so wrong.
Am I becoming the crotchety old pro-establishment snob — who I railed against previously — in my old age?
Perhaps this season would have been a perfect scenario for a six-team playoff, with the top two teams in Alabama and Oregon earning first round byes. That would have pitted No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 6 TCU and No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Baylor.
That looks appealing — at first.
But one of the worst parts of the January bowls as it is is how long teams wait between the final game of the regular season and the bowl game, leaving some teams out of sync — and perhaps that bye would actually handicap the top two seeds. Alabama and Oregon would have to wait nearly four weeks between playing, while the winners of the first round games would have knocked all the rust off in the first round game.
It’s a possibility worth exploring.
Now, many will say that the four-team playoff structure is already set for the next 12 years — but don’t buy into it. When money is on the line, believe you-me, there are always ways out of those agreements for expansion, and therefore more money.
But don’t jump head-first into the idea just yet. Maybe, just maybe, four teams really is the perfect number for the playoff.
Then again, the 16-team bracket that Sports Editor Brett Marshall drew up when ranting about how Baylor and TCU were left out of the playoff was kind of fun:
1. Alabama vs. 16. Arizona State
2. Oregon vs. 15. Missouri
3. Florida State vs. 14. UCLA
4. Ohio State vs. 13 Georgia
5. Baylor vs. 12 Georgia Tech
6. TCU vs. 10 Arizona
7. Mississippi State vs. 11. Kansas State
8. Michigan State vs. 9 Ole Miss
I might be getting on board now.
(Note: Seedings are variation of final CFP committee rankings in attempt to avoid conference matchups in first round).
Sports reporter J. Levi Burnfin can be emailed at