Why These Four In Inaugural Playoff?

There are bowl games to be played. Three or so today, a couple of minor bowls before the big stuff on January 1. And then there are a half dozen or so bowl games after Thursday before the national championship game on Jan. 12.

There are those in the college football world who think there are too many bowl games, as if there was a law that a college football fan has to watch them all. Historically, a bowl game has been a reward for a good season.

Having so many bowls may mean that “reward for a good season” is a stretch. Unquestionably, though, there is a thin line between the teams that made it into the inaugural College Football Playoff and some teams that are relegated to lesser bowls.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, that the CFP Selection Committee voted in name teams for this first four-team playoff. The feature game is in the Sugar Bowl at 7:30 p.m. CST Thursday when Alabama, ranked first in the nation, takes on Ohio State, the fourth-seeded team, in the Sugar Bowl.

These are two of the most revered names in college football, stretching back many decades.

The other semifinal is in the Rose Bowl, Oregon and Florida State relative newcomers to the big stage, but nevertheless big national names today.

Incidentally, in New Orleans it does not really seem like the Sugar Bowl. Rather, it has the feel of what it is, a semifinal game for the national championship. Even when the Sugar Bowl was the site of the national championship game before and during the BCS era, it still felt like the Sugar Bowl, albeit a very big Sugar Bowl.

Anyone with a sense of college football could say the start of the playoff era in college football is off on a good foot because of the teams.

And so we have heard a new word relative (no, not that word) to college football.

Branding.

Did that selection committee fall victim to being human, aware (subconsciously or not) of the teams that the playoff needed to be truly historic?

Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer said what almost everyone – particularly those in the Big 12 – are thinking. He said, “Probably.”

Alabama Coach Nick Saban is rarely succinct and wasn’t in answer to the question as to whether branding helped those Chosen Four.

“All I can say is I think that all four teams that are in this certainly earned their way…by how they played, what they did, the accomplishments they were able to make over an entire body of work, and how they finished the season probably had something to do with that.”

True enough. And he mentioned conference championships. Alabama (12-1) is champion of the Southeastern Conference, Ohio State (12-1) is champion of the Big Ten, Oregon (12-1) champion of the Pac-12, and FSU (13-0 and last year’s national champion) champion of he Atlantic Coast Conference.

“So,” Saban continued, “I have no opinion about who should or who shouldn't have. I don't see all those teams play. I don't know. I think that we have a system and however flawed that system may be we can criticize it.

“But it is what it is, and I think that you know that in terms of what your team has to do to be able to get in a game like this, the kind of teams you need to play, the kind of competition you need to succeed against it. And I think all the four teams that are in this were able to do that.

“That's not to say that other teams did not do it.

“But there's no debate to me that the best teams, four of the best teams in the country, got into this.”


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