There is an old joke regarding soccer. They say it is a game that has 22 people run around for 90 minutes and then Germany wins.
College football in the age of the so-called definitive play-off system has rewritten the joke. The sport is one where hundreds of teams play 12 or 13 games and Alabama plays for the National Championship. I admit that most of this dominance is testimony to the awesome machine that is Crimson Tide football. I do not want to detract from their skill or their éclat in any way. And during those seasons where they finish as they should, on top of their conference, winners of their championship game and ranked among the top four then by all means they deserve their place at the table.
Nor do I want to suggest that this year’s Alabama squad is not one of the very best teams in college football. Their defensive victory over Clemson was comprehensive. If they can do the same to Georgia then perhaps they deserve the National Championship. But there is no scenario where you can convince me that they deserve to be playing there.
The regular season must stand for something. But the third and fourth seeded teams are playing for the title. Conference championship must stand for something. But one of the final teams did not even make their conference championship. Why insist that the regular season be played at all, except as a money maker for the schools. Schedule eleven fluff opponents plus a couple of rivalry games to keep the fan base happy and then choose four teams by reputation to play in the play-off. No, three teams, for one of those spots is already etched in stone for the foreseeable future.
College basketball has both suffered and benefited from inclusiveness over the years. Teams are hampered or unfairly helped by position on pre-season polls. Losses are weighted differently by the reputation of the school. Who cares about a February game against a mid-pack opponent when you know your conference will get four or six teams into the dance? Who cares about a conference tournament when even a first-round upset can’t knock the front-runner out of their high seed at the NCAA? The Tournament is a separate season and has diminished the regular season to a mere speck of light.
College football is at risk of becoming college basketball when a team that does not win its conference, does not even play in its conference championship and finishes ranked outside the top four in all but the Play-off poll is playing for the National Championship. The games mean something. Rivalries mean something. Conferences mean something. I think the Play-off committee needs to look up the word “definitive.” Spoiler: the definition does not include the word Alabama.