We have been living forever with a flawed system for choosing a champion in college football. You don't have to look any farther back than Sunday to the Super Bowl Game to see that a postseason tournament can work in football just like it does in basketball, baseball and other sports. There is an immense amount of interest in the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl is one of the most watched events there is.
It would have been a great three-game series if LSU had played Stanford and Alabama played Oklahoma State to start the four-team playoff. If that still would have produced a rematch of Alabama vs. LSU at least the game would have produced a more legitimate champion in the eyes of college football coaches and fans around the country.
I know one of the arguments for not changing the system is that college football is very popular and if it isn't broken don't try to fix. However, I believe there is also underlying frustration out there about the system and a four-team playoff would eliminate a good bit of that.
I also think it would generate a tremendous amount of discussion and debate around the country about which four teams are going to make it into the playoffs. If we went to that system it wouldn't matter who went into the tournament ranked number one. As long as your team is in the top four you would be right where you need to be. I really believe it would create a huge amount of fan interest around the country.
Critics of adding another game before choosing a champion have made the argument it would put too much strain on the athletes physically and would disrupt their academic schedule. However, that hasn't been a problem in other college sports, including ones like basketball and baseball that play a lot more games than football and where the athletes involved spend a lot more time away from their campuses than the athletes do in football.
I hope the college presidents will come up with a four-team playoff. You can call it what you want to call it--national championship plus-one or whatever, but there needs to be a playoff because it is certainly a better plan that what we are doing now in college football. I am hopeful that it is something we may see in the not too distant future.
From the mailbag:
Is it possible for a team to run a HUNH and still have a good defense?
Yes, I think it is possible to run the hurry-up, no-huddle and still be strong on defense, but I think that in doing so you have got to have plenty of quality depth on defense. That is because there is no doubt that when your offense is on the field a short period of time like happens with the hurry-up offense, it wears down the defense by continuously going back on the field after such short rest periods. However, if you have got quality depth, then you can keep the defensive players rested.
When I was a position coach I felt like I could get my linebackers to play at a very high level for up to 60 plays a game. When you get past that number there is no question in my mind that the quality of play is going down, even for well conditioned and well prepared players. After 60 plays, with all of the collisions involved and the intensity it takes to play college football at the highest level, fatigue is going to be a factor and the players aren't going to be as quick and fast as they were to start the game.
In the total of 60 plays I am also counting ones on special teams. That reminds me of one of the most phenomenal performances I have ever seen at Auburn when Neiko Thorpe, who was a cornerback at the time, was on the field for something like 140 plays counting special teams in Auburn's overtime Outback Bowl victory over Northwestern. That game that lasted somewhere around four hours and on the final play Neiko was the guy who made the read and the tackle on Northwestern's trick play that would have won the game for the Wildcats if the Auburn defensive back hadn't been at the right place at the right time.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.