Fans have hope that the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 9, lives up to last year’s game, when Clemson University and the University of Alabama played an instant classic in the Crimson Tide’s 45-40 victory.
A thrilling championship game for two years in a row can mask the problems with the college-football playoffs. In the three years since the games started, just two have been close. That excludes Monday’s title game, of course.
In year one, the University of Oregon pounded Florida State University 59-20 in one semifinal. Ohio State University outlasted Alabama 42-35 in the other semifinal, and that was the only close game that year.
The first championship game under the new playoffs produced a stinker when Ohio State blasted Oregon 42-20 and took the title. Two blowouts in the first three games didn’t produce the drama everyone hoped for with the playoffs.
A first-year misstep or two wouldn’t be shocking in the first year of a new playoff. That is, until year two. Both semifinal games then ended in a rout, as Clemson spanked the University of Oklahoma 37-17, and Alabama smoked Michigan State 38-0.
So the national title game between the Tide and Tigers was one for the ages, but in the first two years, four of the six playoff games ended in blowouts.
This year saw both semifinals end with little drama, as they were over before the fourth quarter. Alabama took care of the University of Washington 24-7, and Clemson destroyed Ohio State 31-0.
That means six of the eight playoff games have produced little or no drama in the second half. The playoff committee’s job is to pick the four best teams for the playoffs and not produce drama on the field. That is the job of the four teams.
Even so, with six of the eight games being blowouts, is there a problem with the playoffs? And if there is a problem, how can it be fixed for future playoffs?
One fix would be adding more teams. That might not fix the blowouts but would produce more chances for drama.
A six-team playoff in year one would have added Baylor University as the fifth seed and Texas Christian University as the sixth seed. Baylor blew a huge fourth quarter lead to Michigan State in a 42-41 loss, but TCU blew out No. 9 University of Mississippi 42-3.
If the playoff doubled, Mississippi State University would have been a seventh seed, and Michigan State would have been the eighth seed. MSU ended up losing 49-34 to No. 12 Georgia Institute of Technology.
In year two of the playoff, No.6 Stanford University upset No. 5 University of Iowa 45-16, but No. 7 Ohio State took down No. 8 University of Notre Dame 44-28.
Again, even adding teams to the playoff might not produce more drama if the scores above are any indication. Except for Michigan State’s comeback against Baylor, the other games weren’t close.
This year, teams out of the top eight defeated the fifth- and sixth-ranked teams. No. 5 Pennsylvania State University dropped a 52-49 thriller to No. 9 the University of Southern California, and No. 6 University of Michigan lost 33-32 after the Wolverines’ rally came up short against Florida State.
Seventh-ranked Oklahoma took care of No. 14 Auburn University with a score of 35-19, and No. 8 University of Wisconsin defeated No. 15 Western Michigan University 24-16. As you can see, most of the recent bowl games, which are called the New Year’s Six, have produced few close games.
Adding more teams to the playoff is a better start to producing closer games and a close national championship game. The best teams should rise to the top, and then the teams in the other New Year’s Six bowls would have more motivation.
Secondly, the committee has to change the way it views the teams. The ones that start slowly but finish strong have to be rewarded differently, and teams that play weak schedules must be held more accountable.
Finally, the committee gives too much weight to certain conferences every year. The SEC and Big Ten tend to get more of the benefit of the doubt than the ACC, Big 12 or Pac 12.
Alabama has held up its end, but the last two years, the Big Ten has been outscored 69-0 combined in its last two semifinal games. Are the Big Ten teams playing a strong schedule, and is the conference as strong as it is assumed?
That is a question that must be answered yearly, but the old way of ranking teams and looking at college football has to change. The blue bloods of the sports can’t be given the benefit of the doubt because of the history they have in the sport.
No matter what, something needs to be done because six out of eight games being blowouts doesn’t make sense if the four best teams are playing each other.