Big-time college football won’t earn full legitimacy in anointing a national champion until two things happen: First, the NCAA regains oversight of the tournament organization, and second, that official, NCAA-sanctioned tournament has at least eight teams involved, including all five power-conference champs.
Until then, it’s just a mythical national championship the College Football Playoff hands out now, basically the same thing the Bowl Championship Series gave us from 1998 to 2013. Follow the money, folks.
The newest CFP rankings come out today, but here is our Top 8 projected into that NCAA-sanctioned tournament that should be in existence, in alphabetical order (for now):
1. Alabama (presumed SEC champ)
The Crimson Tide look hard to beat right now, after shutting out their last two opponents—both ranked (and overrated, too). It is hard to see Alabama losing to either The Citadel (!) this week or to Auburn in the Iron Bowl next week.
2. Clemson (presumed ACC champ)
The Tigers should win out readily and clinch a spot in the Final Four for the fourth season in a row. Is the ACC really that weak? Kind of. Clemson should not be held accountable for that, however, and it won’t be.
3. Georgia (at-large berth)
On paper, the Bulldogs rate out as the second-best team in the country right now, but they will have to beat the Tide in the SEC title game to have any shot at the CFP, in truth. If they lose the conference championship, Georgia cannot make the Final Four with two losses.
4. Michigan (at-large berth)
The Wolverines still have to beat Ohio State on the road to reach the B1G title game, and Michigan has not done that since 2000. The biggest fear for the Wolverines is that even if they win out, the SEC could place two teams in the Final Four with a Georgia victory over Alabama in the SEC Championship.
5. Notre Dame (at-large berth)
The Irish should finish undefeated, which would guarantee them a spot in the Final Four. Notre Dame still has to beat an overrated Syracuse team this weekend and USC on the road next weekend, but if the Irish do what they’re capable of doing, all should be well.
6. Ohio State (presumed B1G champ)
You want comparative scores? Michigan beat Michigan State in East Lansing, 21-7, and Ohio State beat Michigan State in East Lansing, 26-6. Throw in the fact, again, that the Buckeyes haven’t lost to the Wolverines at home since 2000, and that’s why we still expect Ohio State to win the conference.
7. Oklahoma (Presumed Big 12 champ)
The Sooners are the same as they have been for a decade-plus now: Good enough to make it to the end but probably not good enough to win it all. The November 23rd game at West Virginia should be fun to watch, though.
8. Washington State (presumed Pac-12 champ)
The Cougars need to hold serve at home the next two weeks against Arizona and Washington, respectively, which they may not be able to do. Even if WSU finishes 12-1, they would not make the CFP, falling in line behind the SEC, ACC, and B1G champs, not mention Notre Dame.
Every other division of NCAA football does have a 16-team tournament, of course, so in reality, why not the Football Bowl Subdivision, too? This would add 12 more teams to the fray, including currently undefeated Central Florida, one-loss West Virginia, one-loss Utah State, etc.
What is college football afraid of in going to a wide-open tournament? Ask yourself that question, every day, and then remember where the money comes from—and where it goes.