For years, college football fans clamored for and loudly demanded a playoff. Many purists and pundits wanted things to stay at the status quo, to allow the bowl system to continue and let those who traditionally held the power to keep their grip tight on the nation’s most popular collegiate sport. But, finally, things changed.
The powers in charge of college football could no longer ignore the clamor of fans, many who hold grudges of their teams not being given the opportunity to compete for the title on the field. The NCAA worked with the Bowl Committee to come up with a four-game playoff in order to determine the ultimate national championship matchup. The four biggest bowl games would rotate ownership of the two playoff games, and a final game would be added to the schedule.
Most everyone was happy with the setup, though many fans wanted an additional week and an eight-team tournament. Still, it was a start, and now the NCAA, sponsors, and fans have all been given an opportunity to see what would happen with the new format. The answer? Great games and a new, hotter devotion to college football.
Viewership of the games, hosted on ESPN, is up again this year, as the semifinals once again topped their ratings from the previous year. While viewership improved by 14 percent over last year, it was down when compared to two seasons ago. Likely to blame? Only one of the two games really looked to be a “good one.” Everyone outside of the Pacific Northwest expected Alabama to annihilate Washington, which they did, 24-7, in a game that was not even as close as the score makes it seem.
The bigger of the two draws was the later game, Clemson v. Ohio State. Fans expected this game to be “better” … or, at least, closer. It was not. The Tigers blanked the Buckeyes, embarrassing Ohio State, 31-0.
This might be something the Bowl Committee and the NCAA need to fix. Alabama shut out Michigan State last season, proving that the matchups are not quite as epic as the planners hoped. Is there really that much of a talent and execution gap between the 1 and 4 seeds? If so, would another team have fared better against either Alabama or Clemson?
Most agree, this year at least, probably not. There’s no doubt this season that the Tigers and the Tide are the two best teams in college football. All the consternation among the fans this year was who would qualify as the 3 and 4 seeds. Not exactly a strong argument for the playoff system.
Then again, it doesn’t take much to look back and wonder what may have been if there had not been a playoff in place, say, back in 2015. In that year, the semifinal game between the 1-seed Alabama and the 4-seed, Ohio State. That game was an instant classic definitely the game of the year. Oregon and Florida State matched up in the other semifinal that year, a much-ballyhooed battle of the quarterbacks, Winston and Mariota, who eventually went one-two in the NFL draft. Oregon whipped FSU before getting whipped in turn by eventual champion Ohio State.
That year showed the real promise in the playoff. A four-seed won it all. In 2016, the top two seeds went to the final game, and what a game it was. While this offers much of an argument for the playoff, nobody is complaining about the prospect of more great college football.