Boring CFP needs to make changes

January 6, 2019

None of us saw this coming five years ago. We were excited about the 2014 College Football Playoffs. We liked the idea of deciding the national championship on the playing field instead of with computer rankings.

So, we watched Oregon lambast Florida State, 59-20, and, then, sat on the edge of our seats as Ohio State out-lasted Alabama, 42-35.

The championship game was a 42-20 blowout in favor of the Buckeyes, but even that was all right.

Who would have guessed that four years later this compelling concept, this exciting playoff would be mundane and actually boring?

No one. Yet, this is indeed the case.

That’s because the College Football Playoff has become an exercise in redundancy. Same old, same old. Year-in, year-out.

Alabama has been in all five playoffs. Clemson has been in four of five. Oklahoma has made three appearances, followed by Ohio State with two. Notre Dame, Georgia, Michigan State, Washington, Oregon and Florida State have one appearance apiece.

This is where the problems arise.

There have been 20 open slots in the CFP during its five years of existence. Yet, just 10 different schools have filled those opening.

That .500 average is, well, very average. It’s not what we expected from the brave new world of the College Football Playoff. Perhaps, it would have been more revolutionary if Aldous Huxley were the executive director instead of Bill Hancock.

What’s even worse, Alabama and Clemson will square off for the national championship at 8 p.m. Monday for the third time in the last four seasons.

In fact, the Tigers and Crimson Tide have played each other in four consecutive college football playoffs. So, basically, every year in the CFP it’s Alabama vs. Clemson.

Granted, the Tigers and Tide often have been the best two teams. There is no doubt that’s the case this year. But does that make it any more exciting? Does it make it any less of a “Same Place, Next Year” scenario?

No. And that’s the problem.

The College Football Playoff has lost its pizzazz. It can’t begin to compete with March Madness in collegiate basketball.

Want to know why? The CFP doesn’t feature anyone that can capture our imagination. It’s simply Big Dog vs. Big Dog. But March Madness? There are the Loyola Chicagos of the world. The underdogs that do capture our imagination.

That’s what the CFP is missing. And there’s only one way to fix the discrepancy — an eight-team playoff. Take the final 2018 CFP committee’s rankings and do the bracket.

Who wouldn’t have watched an Alabama vs. UCF first-round matchup? The television ratings would have been off the chart. The rest of the first-round would have featured Clemson vs. Michigan, Notre Dame vs. Ohio State and Oklahoma vs. Georgia. Those would have been very interesting games.

More important, it would have added some diversity and freshness to a CFP system that has grown stale and predictable. The problem is the CFP will remain in its current boring state until the status quo receives a shake-up. The blame rests with Hancock and his committee.

Their heads are so firmly in the clouds — or, perhaps, somewhere lower — they actually believe the CFP championship game is the Super Bowl of college football.

It’s not even close. Tickets for the Alabama vs. Clemson game are available on StubHub for only $150. There will be empty seats in Santa Clara, California.

It’s time for change.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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