We’ve now determined that four is not the magic number. Neither is three, despite what Schoolhouse Rock taught us. Eight seems like far too many, six would include some pesky byes. Two might work but when we had two, under the old BCS system, we hated two.
The point, small as it may be, is there is no perfect format for a College Football Playoff. What works (or seems like it would work) in some years is a bad fit in others.
Instead, this is the time for another small point about the issue of selecting teams based on “winning their conference.”
Did anyone watch Oklahoma and say “yes, that’s a team that would have been a contender in the SEC?” LSU literally toyed with the Sooners. On four other occasions the Tigers faced SEC opponents that fared better. What, at any point along the way, did Oklahoma prove anything more than Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia did this year, other than beating Baylor a couple of times? Leaving Alabama out of the conversation for the moment, do you think Auburn, Florida or Georgia would have taken the deal that put Oklahoma into the playoffs? That deal was a mulligan for losing to Kansas State if you can beat Baylor twice. Of course they would.
In the national climate of SEC fatigue, or hostility, there’s a strong rush to argue that the SEC enhances its status by playing within the league with high ratings. Still — and it is just one game — but does it makes sense to disqualify teams for losing to LSU in competitive games? Georgia in the SEC Championship Game wasn’t compelling but was apparently good enough that the Playoff Selection Committee kept Georgia in consideration until the end. You disqualify those teams — any of whom would have had a strong at-large argument without the LSU loss — in order to include a team that Joe Burrow and the Tigers absolutely boat-raced.
So what of Alabama? No one will ever know what a healthy Tua Tagovailoa might have meant. No one will ever know if a win over Auburn might have put the Crimson Tide in the field ahead of the Sooners although the tenor of this year’s debate indicated that it probably would not. The best thing to do is probably to accept that the LSU loss was a quarterfinal game for Alabama and move on to another year. The system has benefited Alabama in the past. It didn’t this year but this wasn’t the hill to die on in debating a decision.
The fact is, though, that not all leagues are created equal. The SEC was better at the top than the Big 12 (Baylor) or the ACC (Virginia) or the PAC-12 (Utah). Yes, it was bad at the bottom with Arkansas and Vanderbilt but all leagues are bad at the bottom and only the Big Ten could argue that it had five solid fans at the top as well.
The bowls aren’t a decisive proof, either. But LSU’s 63rd point on Saturday night made a pretty strong argument not just for the Tigers, who look unstoppable, but for the league that will now play for the national title for the 13th time in 14 years.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt
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