When the LSU Tigers — one of the four winningest programs in college football over the past two decades — are the closest thing to a Cinderella story in the College Football Playoff, you know something must change.
The change is simple: Give us an eight-team playoff, or even better, a 12-team gauntlet with byes, just like the NFL.
As it stands, after all the drama and suspense of college football’s 12-game regular season. we’re robbed of a truly exciting CFP. Instead, it’ll be like watching billionaires battle for who is richest.
When the matchups were unveiled on Sunday afternoon, it was No. 1 LSU (13-0) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) and No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) vs. No. 3 Clemson (13-0) . Really it was Goliath vs. Goliath on one side, and Goliath vs. Goliath on the other.
There is not a David among the four, and as a result, little reason to care.
Power 5 commissioners don’t seem to notice. They’re fine making their millions. It’s the fans who lose in the current set-up.
“There’s a lot that’s right about the four-team playoff,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said before Saturday’s title game between Oklahoma and Baylor. “I think one of the things we’ve found is that it’s harder to be on the outside looking in when it was just two teams. We’re halfway through it, and it’s a good time to take a look at it. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions on it. I think we’ll take a look at what’s right about it and take a look at ways it might be improved.”
Here’s one way to improve it: Expand it.
LSU and Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma have survived a gauntlet to get this far, but now four of the most storied programs of the last two decades once more will duke it out for supremacy without a sniff of surprise. It’s not as if Tigers (X2), Buckeyes and Sooners don’t deserve to be there – they are the best teams in the country, and they have proven so throughout the year. If anything, this is the clearest, cleanest top four in the six-year history of the CFP.
For the casual football fan, though, whose star among them is worth hitching to? Rooting for any of these four teams is like rooting for the bully. It’s madness.
And speaking of Madness, what makes March matter are Cinderellas dressed to their finest, 15s knocking off a 2s that could’ve been 1s. Teams with funky mascots from a state you’ve never heard of, finding the only combination it takes to topple a Tom Izzo or a Tony Bennett. Tiny guards getting hot at just the right time.
Where is Cinderella supposed to go in college football? The Alamo Bowl, where Utah will play? Guess it will find a glass slipper in San Antonio.
There is no upstart here, ready to knock off a favorite.
Is Oklahoma — with a Heisman candidate at quarterback — really an underdog? You feel sorry for Clemson, pitted against the Buckeyes? The No. 3 Tigers are favored over Ohio State!
LSU and Ed Orgeron make for a fun story, but the boys from the Bayou are 200-59 since 2000, with national championships in 2003 and 2007. They haven’t exactly been paupers. Yes, we were spared yet another Alabama-Clemson matchup, but there still has yet to be a true outsider break through the muck.
This is not to say that the also-rans who fell by the wayside got jilted in any way. There are four slots, and the four who made it deserved it.
We, the fans, got jilted.
We were robbed of a chance to see Utah, despite its malfunction in the Pac-12 title game and still one of the best squads in the land, given a shot at one of the big boys. Or what if a Baylor or an Oregon put a run together? Maybe Notre Dame or Alabama gets hot in late December, or could it be Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida or Penn State?
Now we’ll have to settle for four behemoths slugging it out. No suspense, no flair.
Cinderella, enjoy San Antonio.