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The College Football Playoff: More reruns than ‘Seinfeld’

It was the same old, same old in the College Football Playoff. Will the powers-that-be ever realize there has to be a better, more interesting formula?

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24.

Chris O’Meara, Associated Press

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

The College Football Playoff championship game, that is.


Who were you rooting for, the Rockefellers or the Vanderbilts?

Apple or Microsoft?

Alabama vs. Ohio State — who wanted to see that game, even if they were the best teams?

At least it was close. The game was over by halftime, if not sooner (final score: 52-24). It was 30 minutes of garbage time. They could’ve canceled the second half. DeVonta Smith looked like he was playing catch in the back yard against his kid brothers. Ohio State caught a break when Smith couldn’t play the second half because of a dislocated finger; otherwise, he scores six touchdowns instead of three.

The game was so lopsided that there were times when Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, the TV announcers, seemed to be at a loss for something to say. What were they going to talk about, the game?

So, we endured an entire football season — one that was plagued (so to speak) with COVID-19 stops and starts and protocols and masks and empty stadiums and all that hassle — and in the end, there they were again — Alabama and Nick Saban. Ugh. Honey, we’ve already seen this show!!

COVID-19 could stop anyone, but not Saban and the Tide. They played a 12-game schedule and won the national championship, business as usual. If you were only paying attention to Alabama you’d have never known there was a pandemic.

So the rich get richer. An appearance in the CFP, plus the championship game, means a big payout and exposure, which means blue-chip recruits and first-rate facilities and, egad, more championships.

The game underscored again the need for more parity. College football has to do something to promote more competition, whether it’s by cutting the scholarship limit to distribute talent to more teams, or expand the playoff in a way that creates a path to the championship for more conferences. As everyone knows, half of the 130 schools are eliminated from championship contention before the season even begins. What is this, the NBA?

But nothing changes, because the powers-that-be are making too much money.

As noted here previously, four schools have claimed 20 of the 28 berths in the CFP since it was created seven years ago — Clemson and Alabama (six each), and Ohio State and Oklahoma (4 each). Clemson and Alabama have qualified for six of the seven playoffs. Alabama has won six national championships in 13 years and has appeared in five of the last six championship games. The CFP has featured more reruns than “Seinfeld.”

It’s the same teams rotating through the CFP (and, before that, the BCS), which was supposed to fix college football, but has fixed very little. The Group of Five conferences are ignored. So are teams from the West (the West being schools west of Kansas, totaling 27 schools). 

In the seven-year history of the CFP, two teams from the West have been invited to the playoff — Oregon in 2014, Washington in 2016. That’s two out of a potential 28 berths. It’s not much better if you consider teams west of the Mississippi.

The Bowl Championship Series, the CFP’s predecessor, was represented in the championship game by just two schools from the West during its 16-year run — USC in 2004 and 2005, and Oregon in 2010. 

The Bowl Alliance, the BCS’s predecessor, invited no teams from the West to appear in the championship game during its four-year run.

Same story, different name.

According to a USA Today report, the New Year’s Six bowls (which include the semifinals of the CFP) and the CFP national championship paid a total of $549 million to conferences and schools in 2018-19. The irony is that CFP officials resist an expanded playoff even though it would mean more money — more games, more TV and sponsorships, more gate receipts. It also would prop up the dying bowl tradition, the vast majority of bowls being so meaningless that even star players are opting out of them.

Meanwhile, Alabama and Ohio State have won 24 national championships between them. Bear Bryant and Saban both won six national championships at Alabama.

By the way, according to USA Today (as well as other media outlets), the two best recruiting classes that were signed last month were collected by Alabama and Ohio State.