Bright future for college football
Wait for “fairer” system is finally over
At this time of year, the sports world is tuned in to football playoffs and this year it doesn’t need to be proven by NFL playoffs. This is the first year where the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is using a playoff system to crown a national football champion, and it seems to be an instant hit.
A 13-member committee this season was in charge of ranking the collegiate teams with the top four at the end of the year, playing in the very first college football playoffs. This year, it was Oregon facing off with Florida State in the Rose Bowl and Ohio State and Alabama playing for the Sugar Bowl. Both bowl games being semifinals.
Although it may be unreasonable for people to hope that the college football playoffs will one day rival the Super Bowl, it is quite the spectacle in itself already. The sports network ESPN is paying close to $500 million a year for the college playoffs. As high as that figure sounds, television ratings are showing it may be worth it. The Sugar Bowl attracted 28.3 million viewers and the Rose Bowl was not far behind with 28.2 million viewers.
It’s expected that the national championship game will record even higher viewership numbers. To put it into context, last year under the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system, the national championship game brought in only 25.6 million viewers.
The playoff systems may have brought college football to the next level. Comparing television ratings to those seen with the NFL, viewership for the wild card games fell short of those that the Rose and Sugar Bowl was able to pull in. 28 million viewers tuned in to watch the Baltimore Ravens’ game against to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers drew 21.7 million viewers.
It’s possible that the first year of the college playoffs couldn’t have gone any better. It allowed for a championship game, which will feature two teams that would have most likely been excluded from the national championship game under the BCS system.
The system the BCS used would have most likely chose Alabama and Florida State to play for the championship game. Alabama would have had the strength that they are in the all-mighty Southeastern Conference (SEC) working in its favor, knocking out Oregon who competes in the perceived weaker Pacific-12 Conference (PAC-12).
Florida State would have been chosen for their perfect regular season record, regardless of the fact they struggled with multiple games, sometimes against unranked opponents.
Oregon dismantling the Seminoles set a Rose Bowl record. They hit these records with putting up big points and covering 59 and yards (639). This shows that a playoff system is the fairest way to decide a national champion.
The playoff system also reveals truths that could only be speculated before, such as the fact that the SEC may no longer be as powerful as it once was. The BCS would never give the opportunity for fans to find out whether a strong team in a weak conference could compete with giants of the SEC and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
Now the sky’s the limit for those that are able to compete in the playoffs, allowing their play to do the talking rather than being dictated to a season-ending, ceremonial bowl game by a questionable ranking system.
Although most may be able to agree that the new playoff system is better than the BCS, there are arguments that it could be better.
With a four-team playoff some are arguing that teams such as Texas Christian University (TCU) should get a shot, seen as they did crush ninth ranked Ole Miss 42-3 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. A similar case could be made for Baylor, the team that hung 48 points on Oklahoma and averaged 48.2 points a game, best in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
The problem with extending the playoffs to an eight team format is teams ranked ninth and tenth at the end of the year will be those complaining that they should be included. What also needs to considered is the amount of games that are being added to the season with larger playoff formats.
More games mean more collisions during the year, increasing the risk of injury. In an era where player safety is a huge concern, is increasing the amount of games to placate one or two excluded teams worth it?
It may come as no surprise that the college football playoffs are having this early success, after all, they have combined one of the most popular American sports (football) with the Final Four bracket. It seems that to fans of collegiate sports it was always a recipe for success delayed by a flawed but traditional system.