2020 has been a hell of a year.
It’s obviously impossible to measure how much folks have lost over the last 10 or so months; jobs, businesses, livelihoods, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost as the world struggles to cope with the devastating impact of the global pandemic.
As people, we tend to often look for silver linings, any inkling of hope that we can cling to to get us through the darkest times. And that’s been true this year, helping us appreciate the little moments, be thankful for what we have, and value relationships more.
All good things.
It’s also helped us live in the moment more, get creative with how we do business, and put a factory reset on some things that needed change.
But, on the other side of that, it’s also been a missed opportunity for some things that desperately needed a factory reset.
Like the College Football Playoffs.
I have railed against this stupid institution since it began (maybe it had something to do with 2014, who can say), that somehow has been WORSE than the BCS. Last year, almost exactly a year ago, in fact, I wrote another Midweek Musing spouting off about this stupid institution that changes its policies annually to “whatever works for Alabama and Ohio State”. It seems even more accurate this year, with the Big Ten getting involved as well, changing their own self-imposed rules about conference championship participation eligibility to ensure the Buckeyes get a spot despite playing just five games.
It’s just dumb.
And this year, more than any other, was the year to say “screw it” and actually reward some teams that found ways to get games in, that adjusted on the fly, and won.
I can respect and appreciate what the Pac 12 and Big 10 did, deciding to stay on the sidelines a bit until other programs got a few games under their belt and made sure that college football could continue in a manner that was safe for the players, the coaches, and the dozens of support staff that would be subjected to exposure of a much higher rate than the average citizen. As a teacher working in a school doing synchronous in-person and online school, I can speak to not having a choice to stay home and protect yourself without losing your career, and a lot of those people had to make the same decision — play/work or face unemployment and the loss of everything you worked toward. It’s no small sacrifice, believe me. It’s also no small sacrifice for the thousands of 18-22 year olds that aren’t even playing the game, but working as journalists, social media, training staff, etc, and had to make all the same personal and social sacrifices without getting to strap on the pads and play a game on Saturdays. Even Patterson mentioned that last week, in appreciation.
All that to say — good for you, other conferences, I applaud you doing what you felt was right for your student-athletes. Really.
But to say that one team’s five game season was as grueling as another team’s 10 game? You can’t even compare them.
So when you see Ohio State being rewarded for one nice win at home over Indiana, while Coastal Carolina can’t even sniff the top four? Ludicrous. And when you factor in that the Chanticleers went out of their way to prove themselves, scheduling a highly-ranked BYU program when both program’s had a hole in the schedule open up... why wouldn’t you give them a shot, in this epically dumb, stupid year where we really don’t know anything about any teams anyway?
Oh and don’t even get me start on “logic” like this:
Gary Barta just faulted Cincinnati for having not played since Nov. 21 while others around them have played "2 or 3 games."— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 16, 2020
Ohio State has played 1 game since Nov. 21. But said they didn't consider moving them.
Or how “head to head matters”:
Barta says there was a lot of discussion about moving Florida below Georgia, in part bc of how much better UGA has been with JT Daniels. But head to head result prevailed.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 16, 2020
Also, noted UF didn't have Kyle Pitts last week.
... to a committee that has Texas ranked, Oklahoma State ranked, and TCU... well, not.
And then there is #5 Texas A&M. Aggie fans are all fired up on social media talking about how their 7-1 season (heavily asterisked 7-1 season) justifies their $75 million dollar investment in Jimbo Fisher. But let’s examine that a bit. They got absolutely trounced by Alabama, and their one quality win — over Florida (at home, by three points) looks a little less shiny after the Gators got exposed by a really bad LSU team. The combined record of the teams they beat to get those seven wins? 25-35 (a hearty winning percentage of .416). And that includes a win over Lamar, who has not played another game all season. Please tell me what the Aggies would be doing to Texas if they were bragging about having that season, this year, in the Big 12?! Hell, even their “second best win”, over Auburn, doesn’t mean much, since the Tigers promptly paid Gus Malzahn about $22 million to go away shortly thereafter.
Yet, they’re in the conversation.
There are eight undefeated teams in college football this year.
Alabama and Notre Dame, sitting at #1 and #2 respectively, both have 10-0 records. #12 Coastal is 11-0 with wins over two ranked opponents (these clowns dropped the Chants three spots this week, for some stupid reason), and #9 Cincinnati is 8-0 (also down three spots this week, punished for not playing a game in two weeks, while Ohio State... well, you know), with their best win being over... SMU? Though they matchup with #20 Tulsa this weekend in the AAC Championship game, a win that could, theoretically, vault them into the fringes of the magical top four. Although Tuesday’s results made it pretty clear that the committee has zero interest in putting the Bearcats in the Final Four.
Are the Chants as good as Ohio State? Probably not. Would they beat them on a neutral field? Probably not.
But in 2020... do we really care?
Time and time again, the powers that be have kept the little guys out. Whether it was TCU/Baylor in 2014, 13-0 Western Michigan in 2016, 12-0 UCF in 2017 and 2018 (they did it TWICE!), or Memphis and Boise State a season ago, who never got higher than the mid-teens despite just one loss, the committee has shown that there is no room for error if you don’t have the right name on your jersey, and even playing error free football might not be enough for you if they don’t think the world will want to watch you.
All well and good until you see that the last minute BYU-Coastal game was one of the most watched games of 2020, and it wasn’t even available on a major network. Coastal Carolina’s 22-17 win over BYU scored a total audience of over 1.4 million across both linear and digital television platforms, averaged more than 1.2 million viewers from start to finish. It’s the most watched game on ESPNU of the last five years.
College Football fans will watch good College Football games. No matter what the jersey says.
If I was in charge? Here’s what I would do, assuming the favorites win their conference title games.
Notre Dame would be my #1 team. With wins over Clemson (even without Trevor Lawrence, that team is STACKED), an underrated Boston College team, and a top 15 Tarheels squad, they probably have the most impressive resume in 2020. Alabama is probably two; with wins over two ranked opponents (but does anyone actually think Georgia is good?) and a 9-0 record, okay, well, you’re in I guess.
From there? Let’s have some fun. I would put Coastal third and Cincy fourth; sure, they might slaughtered, but you’re telling me you wouldn’t want to watch those two programs and their two brilliants head coaches match wits with Brian Kelly and Nick Saban with three weeks to prepare?
I absolutely would.
But, instead, we are going to get another season of another boring-ass playoff with four teams that have made appearances in the playoffs old hat. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, should they remain the top four, will have taken 18 of the 28 slots that have been available over the soon to be seven years of the CFP’s existence. The ten remaining slots have gone to seven programs, meaning that only 11 schools have had the opportunity to play for a national championship in the last seven years.
Do you not think that’s a problem?
For comparison’s sake, ten schools played for titles over the last seven years of the BCS — and of those ten, Texas is the only program to not have been invited to both (LOL).
We haven’t fixed a damn thing.
And by the looks of things, it doesn’t seem that the folks making the decisions have any desire to do so.
And that’s the shame of it all.
I will watch Cincinnati and Iowa State in a NY6 game. I will watch whatever bowl game Coastal Carolina takes part in. I will watch TCU, of course, and probably another handful of non-descript games that promise to be fun because I have no stake in them.
But I won’t watch the College Football Playoff this year. And I don’t know when the next time I will (unless Gary Patterson is back on the coaches’ call, of course). I just don’t care anymore.
So now I want to know, do you?