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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Home Stretch

We are but hours from 2014, and in less than two weeks, the 2014-15 college football season will close as a new champion is crowned. In the first year of the College Football Playoff, let's start at the end.

For starters, I think they got the four teams right, though I can acknowledge it was but one of a few possible "right"s. Like it or not, TCU and Baylor were shorted at least in part by the fact that 12-1 > 11-1. I've heard it stated that the story would have been different had the team been Texas or Oklahoma instead of TCU or Baylor, but I'm not certain it would have been - after all, either of those names would still be evaluated against fellow blueblood Ohio State, and interestingly enough, they wouldn't have the benefit of victories over both of those names, as both TCU and Baylor do. That said, it will be interesting to see how the Big 12 will react. The obvious calls are to allow a championship game with just ten teams, or to expand. A lesser thought-of petition would be to simply allow them to play 13 games, a mechanism that already exists for teams that play Hawaii during a season. Of course, getting either in place by the start of next season would be a tall task.

The most stink when the final rankings came out in early December came about the fact that TCU was #3, won convincingly, and then "dropped" out of the top four. I think most folks have seen around this by now, but it bears noting: The laws of physics as we previously knew them do not apply to the new rankings. While inertia would have kept such a team in place in all previous systems, the College Football Playoff simply doesn't work like that. Perhaps this was the best illustration we could have received.

While this shouldn't have been a factor, I will note, as a fan, that the two semifinals are as fine as we could have asked for. The Rose Bowl boasts a pair of Heisman winners, while the Sugar Bowl pits SEC vs. Big Ten, Meyer vs. Saban, and two of the sport's most storied programs. A few of the early polls were without Sudler Trophy-winning bands in the final four, but all has worked itself out, and with Alabama and Ohio State meeting, at least one will find its way into the championship game. And while I couldn't ask for better games, I could allow for either of the following amendments to the seeding: The first is that while measures to select the best four teams should be preserved, they could then seed based on record. Which is to say, the idea of an undefeated FSU team being a #3 just doesn't sit right with me. The other would be, against once selecting the best four, to seed geographically. This would have put Alabama and Florida State in the geographically advantageous Sugar Bowl this year, with the unintended side effect of preserving a Big Ten/Pac-12 Rose Bowl. In other years, it could help to prevent one conference from dominating a championship game, ensuring, say, two SEC schools meet in a semifinal rather than advancing to the championship, preserving regional interest in the season's final game.

Finally: The New Years Six concept, culminating in the national semifinals, has restored the integrity to New Years Day. My friendly amendment for this year would be to swap the Cotton Bowl and Citrus Bowl, making the non NY6 bowls - Outback and Citrus - a clear undercard to the other three, and allowing for two hours of Rose Parade prior to the start of the Cotton Bowl, which would still, under normal circumstances, end in enough time for the Rose Bowl to begin unimpeded at 5pm. The parade would, in effect, be the halftime between the bowls on New Years Eve and those on New Years Day. And as I've bellowed about in year's past, it's not that I don't believe there's a place for bowls like the GoDaddy and Birmingham Bowls; I'd just rather not see them in the new year.

The new system has created a lot more excitement and intrigue to the regular and post seasons. And unlike others, I refuse to engage in conversations about expanding the playoff before the first one has even played out. Happy new year, everyone!
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