Dye-Gest: Bowls and the Playoff

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye gives his take on the bowl scene and college football playoff.

Deshaun Watson (above) is a key player for Clemson's title hopes.


After watching a lot of college football throughout the bowl season it’s my opinion that two of the best teams in the country weren’t involved in the playoff. From what I saw Stanford and Ohio State belonged in the final four group along with Alabama and Clemson.

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If we had an eight-team playoff both Ohio State and Stanford would have been in the mix and in contention to win the national title. Michigan State, which made the playoff, was highly over-matched and so was Oklahoma.

People got a false impression of Oklahoma. I didn’t realize it, but three of Oklahoma’s wins that came in the later part of the year were against opponents playing second string quarterbacks.

Most of the Southeastern Conference teams played well in their bowl games. The most noticeable exception was Florida. In my opinion the Gators have a long way to go physically to catch up to where they normally are. The Gators not only lost their bowl game, they were dominated by Michigan.

The SEC won eight of its 10 postseason appearances with Texas A&M the other team that didn’t wrap up its season with a victory. The Aggies had a chance to win their game vs. Louisville, but were a bit out of sync like they had been much of the season. The Aggies have got quarterback problems and it showed in the bowl game.

Watching the bowl games, something that really stood out to me was the quality of athletes most of the Southeastern Conference teams put on the field, especially on the defensive and offensive fronts. Also, watching the play at linebacker and in the secondary, the athletic ability of SEC teams was quite noticeable.

I believe strong line play and the overall athletic ability of the defenses had a lot to do with why the league bounced back from last year’s disappointing showing in the bowl season. That certainly was a big part of the winning formula for Coach Gus Malzahn’s Auburn team, which defeated Memphis by three touchdowns in the Birmingham Bowl. Auburn dominated play at the line of scrimmage and pulled away in the second half for a victory.

With the national championship game matching Alabama and Clemson coming up on Monday night in Arizona, I think the potential is there for it to be a more competitive contest than the semi-final games. I think Alabama is probably the best all-around team in the country and should be favored to win, but I also think that Clemson may be equipped better than any team out there this season to defeat the Tide and there several reasons for that.

First, and perhaps foremost, is that Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has the talent to cause Alabama’s defense problems with his ability to make big plays with his arm and feet. If he gets hot in the championship game the Tigers are going to be difficult to handle, especially considering Watson’s team has other skill people who are big-play threats.

I also think Clemson matches up reasonably well with Alabama at the line of scrimmage. Like every offensive line the Tide has faced this year, Clemson’s group is going to be challenged because Alabama has a lot of talent and a lot of depth up front so the Tide coaches are able to keep their group fresh all the time and it shows. Clemson looks like an SEC team on its defensive front so those players will offer a challenge to Alabama’s offensive linemen.

My takeaway from feasting on football over the holidays is that an eight-team playoff would be better than the four-team format and despite preseason predictions that the SEC might not be the top league in college football, that was not the case.

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