It was back in 2007 when the Southeastern Conference football coaches and athletic directors authorized commissioner Mike Slive to take a proposal to the NCAA calling for a four-team playoff to determine the national champion. The proposal was withdrawn before it ever got to a vote before the full membership because there was so much opposition in the committee room.
So what happened to get us to where we are today, a four-team playoff that will send the winners to a January 12 national championship game?
It’s a pretty simple answer and it has everything to do with money. The current bowl system will generate approximately $50 million each for the power five conferences. The four-team playoff will generate a guaranteed $470 million from ESPN and additional revenues will push the final tally to more than $500 million this year alone.
That is a lot of money to be dispersed to the power conferences and that’s precisely why the playoff will expand. It’s predicted adding one more tier will more than double the revenue. Already Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney is calling for an eight-team format. That won’t happen next year, but figure two more years, three at the most, and we’ll see the expanded playoff with a third tier because the college presidents and athletic directors figure will need the additional money to add another non-revenue women’s sport to keep the Title IX folks happy.
The Sugar Bowl is a dilemma. Do you cheer for the Buckeyes? You do remember how obnoxious all those Ohio State folks were in Arizona back in Jnauary of 2007, don’t you? And the coach is Urban Meyer. That’s still a sore subject for a lot of you. But then there’s Alabama and while Alabama is an SEC team, it’s Nick Saban. He’s 91-15 as Alabama’s head coach. Do you really want him to win another national championship this year and make it all the more difficult for an SEC team not named Alabama to win it all? You can’t pull for a tie since there is no such thing as a tie game in college football anymore so the only answer is to hope they engage in a game to end all games which will drain both of them to the point they can’t function in the championship game.
Unless, of course, Florida State beats Oregon. That changes everything. Would Alabama have the best chance to beat the Seminoles? How about Ohio State?If it’s Ohio State-Florida State, which is the easiest to live with: Florida State as the two-time national champ or Ohio State and Urban Meyer?
It is a dilemma, but as one of my best friends told me when I talked to him on the phone Thursday morning, “I’ve always looked good in green. Go Ducks. Quack!
Alabama is a 9-point favorite but is that because the oddsmakers think Bama is a better football team top to bottom or is it because Ohio State is playing its third string quarterback?
Alabama is the SEC champ, which normally would stand for something but given the way TCU manhandled Ole Miss and Georgia Tech ran at will against Mississippi State, you have to wonder if the SEC is all its cracked up to be this year? Is Alabama simply the best team in a down year in the league or would Alabama be the best team in any league?
Then there is Ohio State. The Buckeyes looked like a bad team from another planet the way they lost to an average Virginia Tech team way back when but they looked like a team that could beat anyone in the country when they stuck it to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game and that was with their third string quarterback (Cardale Jones). If the Buckeyes can be that good minus two Heisman Trophy candidates (Braxton Miller, who missed the whole season with a shoulder injury, and J.T. Barrett, who broke an ankle against Michigan) then are they good enough to beat Alabama?
Alabama O-line vs. Ohio State D-line: This is where the game is going to be decided. Alabama’s offensive line gave up only 13 sacks all season, allowing Blake Sims the time he needed to find Amari Cooper. Cooper is difficult to cover anyway, but give Sims all the time he needs and he becomes impossible. Ohio State has 40 sacks on the season and 13.5 of them came from former St. Thomas Aquinas star Joey Bosa. If Alabama can’t contain Bosa, then Ohio State is going to have a really good chance to win this game.
Prediction: Alabama wins it but it will be a white knuckler.
Las Vegas has established Oregon as a 9-point favorite but most of the pundits are going with Florida State, which comes into the game the nation’s only unbeaten team with a 29-game winning streak.
Big, physical teams have given Oregon fits in the past. The Ducks lost to Auburn in the 2010 national championship game, to LSU in the 2011 season opener, and to Stanford in 2012 and 2013. What did all those games have in common? The more physical team won the game. Oregon has beefed up and done its best to become more of a physical presence, but are the Ducks up to the challenge of Florida State, which is every bit as physical as those teams Oregon lost to in the past but a whole lot faster?
The Seminoles have spent the 2014 season avoiding one loss after another. They’ve won seven of their 13 games by six or fewer points and in nearly every one of those wins, they had to come from behind in the second half. Are they simply a very lucky team that has benefitted from a not so tough schedule or are they so good that they can simply flip the switch and win games after playing bored for the first three quarters?
Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston: This is a battle of the last two Heisman Trophy winners. Winston has thrown 17 interceptions, nearly all of them in the first half. In the fourth quarter, he’s been almost perfect and seems to have the ability to come up with the big play to win games when the Seminoles need it the most. For Florida State to win, Winston can’t throw a lot of first half picks because Oregon is so good offensively that it will take advantage. Winston has dug the Seminoles out of plenty of holes this year, but can he do it one more time? Mariota has thrown only two interceptions all season and he has the lowest percentage of interceptions thrown in a career in NCAA history. He’s got to avoid the interceptions and he’s going to have to do something with his feet. He has run for 669 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. He has to come up with positive yards when he tucks and runs or else the Ducks can’t win.
Prediction: At some point the Florida State winning streak is going to come to an end. It might as well be tonight.
Matt Hayes, the fine college football editor at The Sporting News summed up the feelings of probably half the college football fans in the country when he wrote this:
“If we were honest with ourselves, if we were completely introspective and uniquely retrospective, it would fall off the lips so much easier.
“Nick Saban and Urban Meyer: It’s a shame they both can’t lose.”
Former Gator co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is expected to remain on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan. There is speculation that Harbaugh will name Mattison co-coordinator along with D.J. Durkin … The rift between Les Miles and John Chavis apparently was more than a rumor. Chavis laughed off a $30,000 a year raise and took the Texas A&M job. His buyout dropped to X when the clock struck midnight. It shouldn’t take Miles long to name his replacement from a pool that includes Manny Diaz (Louisiana Tech), Ed Orgeron (former HBC at Ole Miss), Kevin Steele (Alabama linebackers) and former Southern Cal DC Clancy Pendergrast. Pendergrast is the favorite … It’s 50-50 whether or not Kyle Whittingham will be the head coach at Utah by week’s end. Whittingham is upset with tight fisted athletic director Chris Hill over the inability to pay his assistant coaches enough money to keep them in Salt Lake City. Particularly upsetting to Whittingham is losing defensive coordinator Kilani Sitake to Oregon State …
Who are your winners in today’s semifinal games?
Since it’s a new year, a Jimmy Buffett song seems most appropriate. One of my favorite songs is “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About” because it resonates with me. My mom wanted me to be a Baptist preacher. My dad wanted me to be a lawyer. Instead, I became a writer, coached basketball for awhile, taught English at a high school in Taiwan, English and religion at a university in Korea, went into and out of business several times and became a writer again. Maybe your journey to where you are today wasn’t quite this complicated, but I hope you have had a good time getting there. Happy new year.