I have a confession to make: I am bored of the college football playoff.
I didn’t want to watch in 2014, with that wound raw and my bitterness nearly all-encompassing. But, the lure of something that we had been pining for for so long finally coming to fruition made it must-see TV. And while the Oregon-FSU matchup was a joke, the Ohio State-Alabama game was a classic - though I still contend to this day TCU would have won as well. The championship game was a blowout, the only really bad finale of the four so far.
In 2015, we were treated to a pair of shellackings (who else forgot that Michigan State made it that season?) but a good final, as the two teams making back-to-back appearances treated us to a fun one.
By year three, we were down to just one first time entrant - who promptly embarrassed themselves - as did Ohio State after their single year hiatus.
Last season, three of the four were repeat offenders, and Bama made it despite not even playing in their conference championship game (a 13th data point that was used against TCU just a few seasons prior), and the two SEC teams were a total turnoff, despite Georgia giving us a highly entertaining Rose Bowl against OU and an epic choke-job against the Tide with a Natty on the line.
Now, here we are in year three, looking at three of the four teams being returners, with only Notre Dame a rookie to the final four. Bama is in once again, making them 5/5, Clemson has made it four straight, while Oklahoma returns in the second year of a back-to-back.
Once the final four was announced, so too, were the betting lines. Notre Dame-Clemson opened at 11.5, despite the Tigers looking decidedly average for most of the year in a pretty abhorrently bad conference (and starting a true freshman QB), and the Tide are favored by two touchdowns over the Sooners - who looked sharp down the stretch on offense and will get their best wide receiver back for round one.
Two double-digit favorites among the two games that supposedly feature the best four teams? This is really the best we could do?
I watched the Rose Bowl last year, but only the coaches film room channel - the draw of Gary Patterson dropping knowledge was too much to pass up, and the results were overwhelmingly positive, nationwide. Most people tuned into the National Championship game by the second half, as the story of a freshman coming off the bench and leading his team to a win is the kind of thing that makes us love sports. But, how many truly good games have there been in the first four years, the kind that make fans from other schools, other conferences, and other sports, tune in?
This year’s iteration, in my opinion, will be more of the same. Sure, Kyler Murray could have the kind of game that keeps Nick Saban up at night, running all over a Bama D that isn’t used to seeing an offense of this caliber on a weekly basis. Or, maybe Notre Dame’s dream season continues as a freshman QB finally realizes the weight of the moment.
But, more than likely, we will get a pair of blowouts before Bama-Clemson round three, and all try and talk ourselves into caring about a game we have seen before - twice.
I, for one, don’t want to see the playoff expand to 16 teams; in a year like 2018, where we had one elite team, a few really good ones, and a bunch of hot garbage that showed up on Saturdays occasionally, it especially doesn’t make sense. Would you really want to see a three-loss West Virginia team play Bama? Or the two biggest frauds in college football, Florida and Michigan, face off for the umpteenth time? Oh... wait...
Even eight seems a bit much in this down year, as you would be hard-pressed to convince me that either those Wolverines or the Buckeyes are deserving of playing a final round - though, the prospect of UCF getting their shot is intriguing. And if you had just six, well, that would be more of the same sameness. But, if you changed the system to six teams - each Power Five conference champion and a Group of Six bid, now you have made winning your league matter once again, and given the little guys a shot to at least get a piece of the pie. Give the top two seeds a bye - and base it on SOS even, if you want - and let the remaining four teams play round one on the higher seeds home field, with the profits being split 60/40 between the two schools. Keep your antiquated bowl ties in tact for round two and the championship game to keep the suits happy. This year, that would mean UCF playing at Notre Dame and Washington traveling to Oklahoma in the first round, at least one of which would certainly move the needle nationwide. How about UCF’s high flying offense facing off against Bama in 2017 to determine the one true champion? Even SC and Georgia in Athens would have been fun a season ago.
I don’t pretend that there is a perfect fix, but man, it would be a lot more fun if you brought some of these games to the fans, instead of completely pricing them out, and at least left some kind of opening for a TCU, a UCF, or any ‘non-blue blood’ top feel like they had a shot.
But, for now... if you don’t have the right symbol on your helmet or booster’s wallets in your coffers, it seems pretty obvious you’ll be watching the playoffs from home. And seeing the same teams play in it annually.