College Football's Run of National Championship Duds Show Why Playoff Is Needed
I love you, college football. I love you to a socially unacceptable degree. That being said, why haven’t you given me a national title game worth a damn since 2006? What have I done to deserve this?
It's been a week after the debacle that was the Alabama vs. Notre Dame National Championship Game, and I find myself wanting more. The NFL playoffs aren't helping, either. They've been absolutely captivating thus far, and the BCS National Championship feels like a distant memory no one really wants to discuss.
You were drunk. I was drunk. The end.
To say college football’s final showcase was unsatisfying would be an insult to the word “unsatisfying.” Unfortunately for us, it’s a familiar feeling.
The anticipation of the “big game” has been mainly that in recent memory—anticipation, hype, storylines, thousands of “heavyweight fight” columns and a ridiculous break in the action about three weeks too long. The buildup is tremendous, but the games that have followed have been anything but.
To borrow a scientific term used frequently on playgrounds across the country, they have really, really sucked.
Since Texas toppled USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl—the final game before the official BCS National Championship became its own bowl—the crystal-football deciders have been nothing short of a massive disappointment. SEC fans, of course, feel otherwise, and the Southeastern Conference's run of national championships has come without much competition in the final game of the season.
This is the part where you begin to chant “S-E-C,” especially with the scoreboard as is. Your cumulative score of the past seven seasons: SEC 225, Everybody Else 106.
The average margin of victory in these games has been greater than two touchdowns, and three out of the past seven seasons have featured games with a final deficit of at least three touchdowns. The one bright spot in an otherwise uneventful run came in 2011, where Auburn edged Oregon 22-19.
Even this game, however, was guilty of being completely and utterly underwhelming. The two best offenses met up with two of college football’s most explosive players ready for takeoff...and they dazzled us by going scoreless in the first quarter. It was close until the very end, certainly, but it still didn’t come close to matching our expectations.
They have been complete and utter duds, which is unfortunate. The end of the season comes and goes with a whisper. The suspense of the regular season—where one misstep can be the only thing it takes—gives way for 60 minutes of “meh.”
In the case of 2013, 60 minutes of “meh” led to days of discussion regarding a player’s girlfriend and an announcer who couldn’t stop himself from commenting on her appearance (and then some) when the camera panned on her for the 1,456th time that game. The game itself? What game?
When there’s nothing going on between the white lines, this is the aftermath.
Seven years of blowouts in the biggest showcase, in a flawed postseason system bursting with substantial errors, hasn’t stopped the game from growing at an exponential rate. In fact, despite these lopsided affairs set up by a foreign supercomputer, college football is thriving.
You could point to many reasons for these blowouts, and the response will likely vary depending on the source.
The layoff between the final conference championship game and the national championship certainly plays a role, although this should be an equal obstacle for both sides. It’s not the only factor, but a month without football and limited bowl practices undoubtedly contributes to the sloppy play.
And then there’s the SEC—and at this point you can start up those “S-E-C” chants again—which has been the game’s most dominant conference since this streak of seven consecutive national titles began. It’s no coincidence that this run of greatness coincides with a run of bad title games.
This is not to give the already boosted egos yet another significant bump, but look at the results. It’s hard to argue with the dominance and scoreboards. A lot of this comes down to one conference simply being that much better than everyone else.
And then there’s the simple truth, the cliché, if you will, that anything can happen in a one-game setting. The “anything” of late has been points for one team and not a lot of points for the other, and thus a run of seven consecutive blowouts (with a small break in the middle) was formed.
The “why” isn’t nearly as important as what happens next, and thankfully help is on the horizon. The 2014 season to be exact.
I have had many issues with the new playoff system in the making that will debut in the 2014-15 season, aka BCS 2.0, but adding four teams into a bracket at the end of the year is not one of them. This is a welcomed change that will hopefully grow down the road.
There will be heated discussions about how we get to those four teams—and those won’t really heat up until we’re thrown right into it—but a four-team playoff will add a new layer of excitement to a scenario that desperately needs it. It will also give us better championship games, at least that is the hope.
Will a playoff help create better BCS National Championship Games?
Instead of having one game to anticipate and lean on, we will have three. The semifinal games that take place on New Year’s Eve and Day will be a table setter, one final test for the teams involved to see who is worthy. The championship game that follows a week later will feature the best teams that have been put through yet another gauntlet that goes beyond the regular season and winning your conference.
This by no means guarantees close and exciting final games. The SEC could very well dominate both semifinal games and give us a national championship that once again falls short of what we want to see. It’s impossible to predict the shape of teams or even conferences in the future to produce more competitive outcomes, but a foundation for improvement is in place.
Also, to use recess logic once again: The more playoff games you have, the more chances you have for there to be a couple of memorable ones along the way. I'm not one for patting the NFL on the back unless forced, but a successful weekend of postseason play certainly reminds us of college football's biggest hole.
It's OK to like something the NFL does, I promise.
Although SEC fans have loved the past 420 minutes of national championship play, the rest of the country simply wants to see a good a game. Perhaps this will finally come as a fond farewell from the BCS before we pull the plug and move into our shiny new digs. Perhaps another double-digit beatdown courtesy of Alabama is on the way.
Regardless, help is on the way in 2014. Much has yet to be determined, and there will be plenty of disagreements getting to that point. But this is a welcomed change, especially when it comes to giving the game a final showcase it deserves.
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