We do this autopsy every stinking year around this time, after the four teams picked for the CFB Playoff are announced to a world just waiting to rip them apart with negativity no matter what the result.
Through three years of this thing, the committee has mostly gotten it right, at least in the sense that you look at it and say, “yeah, I can see how they came to that argument,” and then you move your outrage goggles onto something else.
But every year, no matter what, you can count on the “8 or more team playoff” crowd to come parking their Birkenstocks on your coffee table, never to be content even when two made sense or four made sense.
Thus is the world we live in, where the answer to everything is, “just give more people opportunities whether they deserve it or not! All of the feels!”
The truth is, this year, it became clear that not only is four teams enough, sometimes it’s too many.
If this were the BCS, a real case could be made that the final two should have been Alabama and Clemson, the only two of the four teams in the playoffs with conference championships and significant out of conference wins.
If you’re going to four, yeah, then I concede this year was the year you had to consider a non-conference champ. And yeah, last year, four teams was just enough. After all, there should be some sort of actual strife to getting in the playoff, not just “I won an okay Power 5 conference.”
After Alabama and Clemson (and I don’t care how they were ranked. If this were the BCS, OSU wasn’t getting in), you could have made a case of inclusion or exclusion of any of Washington (terrible OOC), Ohio State (didn’t win division; lost to eventual conference champ); or Penn State (39-point loss to division rival with same record, 2-losses, one OOC).
But the annual outrage over needing this thing to go to 8 teams needs to stop.
At one point, it was, “we need a championship game with all conferences as potential participants.”
Thus, along came the BCS. We were happy for what, maybe a year or two?
Then it was, “we need more teams!!!!”
Thus, along came the CFB Playoff, and we were happy for what, a year or two?
At some point, the levy of interest is going to start to break a bit. Even if it’s really good food, there is only so much of it you can pile onto a single plate before it starts to spill over, become a mess, and will eventually get too cold to even enjoy.
The NFL has seen a steep ratings drop this season for a lot of reasons, but in part because the novelty of it wears off a bit when you have games three days a week, one of which is consistently sloppy, and then start shoving through morning games.
Alan Jackson wasn’t so prescient when he said, “too much of a good thing … is a good thing.”
If we had an 8-team playoff this year, we’d have been rendered victims of rematch games almost assuredly. You’d be looking at three Big Ten teams from the same division. Why should Michigan have to re-validate it’s thrashing of Penn State?
Why should Ohio State have to re-validate it’s tooth and nail rivalry win over Michigan? Or their blowout over Oklahoma?
Or how about Penn State … who … if it gets them in, fine I’m sure they’d say, but why should they need to defeat Ohio State again?
What if Southern Cal got in? Why should Alabama have to revisit their bludgeoning of them to start off the season?
All of those above games become meaningless unless you explain-flog yourself into thinking that venue location or potential home games (no way that logistics works, by the way) is your “reward” for clawing out a win against a rival, who now gets a second chance they don’t deserve.
At the point of 8 teams, especially in a season like this, says to players, fans, and yes, even you media who just want more fish in the kettle, “the regular season simply doesn’t matter as much as it used to.”
You absolutely cannot make a claim that it matters more, or the same amount when you’re rendering results as useless to keeping teams in and out of the playoffs.
What we got is exactly what we should have wanted, which is a regular season that acted like the playoffs in so many ways, directly.
Ohio State’s destruction of Oklahoma kept them out, in part. A playoff within a regular season. The Buckeyes’ win over Michigan was a de facto playoff game, where the loser was going to have little to no shot at getting in.
That’s what happened. The Game and a great OOC matchup (which is encouraged, by the way) became playoff games.
In a way, Alabama’s destruction of USC was, too. So was Michigan’s win over Colorado, and the Pac-12 Championship was a playoff for one team, Washington.
This is the way the system should work, encouraging elite OOC matchups that act as default playoff games, making the regular season still as important as ever while acting as an elimination joust each Saturday to keep interest at a high.
People can clamor for 8 teams all they want, but they don’t understand the damage it’d do to the sport, one that, if the NFL can see a drop in popularity, so can it.
It’s like a restaurant that only exists out of state and you only can get the food when you go visit your relatives there. In theory, yeah, having it on the street corner from your house would be great. But eventually, and really, in not a very long period of time, the novelty would wear off.
It’d go from “I HAVE TO GO EAT THERE” to “eh, let’s just grab something from Wendy’s, I don’t feel like that place right now.”
If the folks stumping for 8 teams, college football’s version of controlled socialism, get their way, they should beware that the novelty and the interest will wear off.
Teams shouldn’t need to re-validate wins. If that’s the case, just put everyone in a giant bracket and start this thing in September, eh?
Too much of a good thing is indeed not a good thing, and if 2016’s college football season has taught us anything, it is that.