NCAA football more exhilarating with playoffs

I like to picture college football and college basketball as brethren sports. The NCAA’s two successful children, functioning differently yet comparably successfully. The problem is this: One brother is maximizing his potential while the other — college football — is not.

College football serves the same purpose every year: an appetizer. With the kickoff of the college season coming a week before that of the NFL, it provides a taste of football (that actually counts for something) that fans haven’t experienced since February when a Super Bowl champion was crowned.

Then the NFL season begins, and every other brand of football becomes slightly less necessary. Though in college, where one loss can take a team out of title contention, the regular season is arguably more important than the postseason.

College football needs playoffs. Is this even an argument anymore?

Proponents of the bowl system present flighty, paper-thin arguments, that in the end can be summed up by saying “change is scary.”

The regular season would lose importance? Yeah, because that’s how it’s worked for college basketball or the NFL.

Academics would be interfered with? Yes, but that’s what happens when you’re a student-athlete playing for a title contender. You work with that, that’s part of the commitment you make.

An eight-team or four-team playoff is all proponents are asking for, something to build up to the championship game. In college football, when you lose an early nonconference game it can potentially take you out of title contention, an unfairly severe penalty. Regular-season losses would still be heavy setbacks, as there are fewer than 10 teams in the playoff.

Meanwhile, imagine the atmosphere of a college football playoff game. Take the fanatics of March Madness, and combine that intensity with the fanatics you see in NFL stadiums in January.

There’s something inherently exhilarating about fighting to advance that you can’t replicate with a non-championship BCS bowl. Winning a BCS game is absolutely something to be proud of, but there’s a deep-down unsavory dissatisfaction of not getting the chance to prove that you can be the nation’s best.

It would make the title game more of a grand finale. Instead of two teams given the chance to win it, give four or eight teams a chance to win it. That would rope in more fans, who had reason to watch other games besides their own team’s bowl game.

The bowl system would not die. Playoff games could be named after bowl games, you know, sort of like how the game before the Super Bowl is called the conference championship game. It’s not awfully complex. Beyond the playoff teams, keep the bowl system the exact same. It makes a great novelty for teams who were successful but not good enough to compete for a title (that’s us, U of I!).

If the NCAA wants to keep student-athletes academically focused, then why do they allow 120 players on the roster?

Of the 114 players currently listed on the Illini’s football roster, 55 are freshmen (20 redshirts). At least half of those players will be off the roster by their senior year (I’m inferring this, as there are only 17 seniors on the Illini). Of those who stick it through, not all will see the field.

If the NCAA enforced a tighter roster limit, then it would force more players to find colleges where they can play at, perhaps improving the NCAA’s practically non-existent element of parity. If Notre Dame’s third-string quarterback would be starting for Villanova, then shouldn’t he be? Maybe college football would have fewer embarrassing 55-7 rompings and we’d have more Appalachian State-beating-Michigan’s.

If nothing else, the bottom 60 who never play would probably get better grades.

College football should try to be more like college basketball: less lopsided, more climactic and less corrupt. Spread out the massive talent pool and give more chances to more teams — for the small schools to take down the juggernauts, and for more than two teams to vie for a title.

Now there’s an idea that makes dollars and sense.

_Eliot Sill is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @EliotTweet._