Opinion | Abolish the College Football Playoff

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Photo courtesy of Michael Li/Flickr

The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy on display at the College Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 31, 2017. Columnist Dan Kibler argues that people should put more emphasis on bowl games rather than the College Football Playoffs.

By Dan Kibler, Columnist

The College Football Playoff has a talent gap issue, and everybody has the wrong idea of how to fix it. 

College football is one of the best American traditions out there, and there truly is something special about seeing a group of young men compete and represent a university, with the community coming together to enjoy it. 

This tradition is even better when it’s an entertaining game that is competitive up to the last minute — if you watched Tennessee beat Alabama a while back, you know what I’m talking about.

However, there is a drop in the number of games like this actually available, as even on the biggest stage, more and more games turn into blowouts.

The playoff system currently used to decide national championships was designed to allow the “Cinderella” story to have a shot, but we have seen time and time again that it just isn’t what it’s all sold out to be.

Last year, the Cincinnati Bearcats got into the College Football Playoff after going 13-0. Everybody deep down knew that they didn’t belong there, but they let them in anyway. They were to face Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide in the semifinal.

Alabama went on to do Alabama things, which meant a brutal beatdown on national television, ending 27-6. 

This isn’t meant to clown on Group of Five schools, either, as the Michigan Wolverines, after finally beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten, got eviscerated by Kirby Smart and Georgia 34-11

Turns out, Alabama and Georgia really were the two best teams in football, and the other two schools were just lucky to be in the playoff. 

Unlike its springtime counterpart in college basketball and the wonders of March Madness, “Cinderella” stories aren’t the same. An unexpected team going on an improbable run in college football isn’t the same as in basketball. 

The neat thing about basketball is that it takes fewer people to field a team, so there is naturally a wider margin of error, so luck can get you much further. We all remember classic teams like 2018 Loyola and Sister Jean, and Doug Edert’s mustache leading lowly Saint Peter over #2 Kentucky to the Elite Eight in 2022.

That’s fun and great to watch when it happens in March. It doesn’t happen in the fall outside of conference championships and the epic regular season runs.

The thing is that in college football, the best recruits go to the best programs, and those best programs aren’t limited to five starters like in basketball. You need at least 22 people to field a starting offense and defense. This means the top ten programs can suck up the best recruits while everybody else has to do with whatever is left because everybody can find a way to reasonably contribute.

Of course, name, image and likeness have a chance to equalize this through monetary incentives and boosters, but paying players hasn’t totally worked out (ask Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M). For the time being, we’re stuck with this system of the rich getting richer. 

Most people who are paid to talk about college football think there should be a massive playoff system close to March Madness, and the people in charge tend to agree, as the College Football Playoff Committee has voted to expand past the 4-Team system implemented in 2014.

However, perhaps we shouldn’t. We should get rid of the Playoff entirely, and put more meaning behind bowl games.

Remember when the Rose Bowl meant something? If you do, you’re probably too old to be reading a college newspaper. A school going to one of these big-name bowls used to be a giant deal to even the blue bloods. Now it’s just a reminder that you didn’t get in the playoffs. 

Yes, the Bowl Championship System had the tendency to turn into a complete mess. Instead, perhaps we should just have bowl games and then have a final AP or Coaches’ rating like it’s the 40s.

However, the idea that an 8-team or even a 12-team playoff wouldn’t immediately turn into a series of public executions by whatever teams were in the top three is absurd.

We should stop thinking the Cinderella story can happen on a national championship stage in modern college football. Cinderellas happen in the regular season, and should get rewarded with a trip to a meaningful bowl game, without feeling the sting of being “left out of the dance.” 

Make Bowl Season great again. Ditch the College Football Playoff.

 

Dan is a junior in LAS.

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