Forget the NFL for a moment (especially since we went 0-2 on our predictions yesterday, right?). The sport of college football continues to be an official joke. The NCAA crowned its real football champion yesterday, the North Dakota State Bison, a team that won its seventh NCAA title in eight seasons.
That’s a real dynasty, because the Football Championship Subdivision hosts a 24-team tournament every year, ensuring that the team that wins is a real champion that has played its way to a legit title. What you see elsewhere involving the “big schools” is not legitimate at all.
Sure, Alabama and Clemson may be the best two teams in the country, but they have not had to prove it in the same way North Dakota State has, repeatedly. Alabama beat Oklahoma, 45-34, in one semifinal on the Football Bowl Subdivision level, while Clemson dropped Notre Dame, 30-3, in the other.
That’s all those two teams had to beat in order to get a shot at a “championship”? Yes, that’s all. A four-team tourney, especially when the third and fourth teams are not worthy, does not come close to equally the legitimacy of a 24-team tournament.
A lot of critics claimed Georgia should have been in the Final Four, but the Bulldogs laid an egg in their bowl game, losing to Big XII runner up Texas. Ohio State was left out of the playoff for topical reasons (i.e., political reasons, probably, just like last year), but when the Buckeyes handily beat the Pacific-12 Conference champion Washington Huskies in the Rose Bowl, they proved themselves worthy of consideration post de facto.
And that’s the issue: The Huskies also were arguably better than Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Georgia. We know the Buckeyes were. Central Florida, undefeated for two straight seasons, barely lost its bowl game despite playing without its injured starting quarterback. Other teams like Florida and Washington State that ended with a bowl game win maybe deserved a shot, too.
That’s why this “championship game” is again meaningless, when the two teams that play in it did not have to face a gauntlet of teams on the way there. Imagine a 24-team tournament for the FBS, just like the FCS hosts. This is what it may have looked like, again using the as-legit-as-it-can-be Associated Press rankings to determine the bracket, with some adjustments for conference champions getting automatic byes in the first round:
First-round byes would go the Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Washington, to begin with, as champs of the Power 5 conferences. Notre Dame’s perfect regular season as an independent would get it a bye as well, followed by UCF and Fresno State as the highest-ranked conference winners remaining.
Using the AP poll rankings, the seeds would be, in order, Alabama (1), Clemson (2), Notre Dame (3), Oklahoma (4), Ohio State (5), UCF (6), Washington (7), and Fresno State (8).
The next 16 teams, in order, getting at-large bids and playing in the first round would be Georgia (9), Michigan (10), Florida (11), LSU (12), Washington State (13), Penn State (14), Texas (15), West Virginia (16), Kentucky (17), Syracuse (18), Mississippi State (19), Utah (20), Texas A&M (21), Army (22), Boise State (23), and Missouri (24).
Maybe the committee fudges some seedings to avoid as many conference-play rematches in the first round as possible, or maybe they do not follow the NCAA basketball committee’s lead in that regard. Either way, it’s no cupcake walk to the title game anymore.
First-round highlights would include Boise State at Michigan, Army at Florida, Texas A&M at LSU, Utah at Washington State, etc. The winners would advance to the top-8 seeds’ home fields for a quarterfinal matchup.
Once the Elite Eight is established, then neutral-site games would be in play. Yes, fans would get less notice for travel, but that’s life. The fans still will go to games, just like they go to the Sweet 16 in basketball and the Final Four as well.
Legitimacy is earned, not handed to the same teams every year based on fan-generated revenue and “faux” committee analysis. Until the FBS joins the modern world, it will continue to generate fake titles that no one with a brain takes seriously.
Sadly, until fans stop giving the CFP money, nothing will change. That’s why you shouldn’t bother watching the “title” game on Monday night. We know we won’t be.