Maybe things will change on Monday night, when unbeaten and unloved Clemson tries to break Alabama’s elephantine stranglehold on college football immortality.
When was the last time a 14-0 team was a seven-point underdog in Las Vegas? Try never.
More on that in a moment.
The larger takeway from this bowl season is that the games have been sorely lacking in the drama department.
For neutral observers, the Tigers’ 37-17 victory over Oklahoma and the Crimson Tide’s 38-0 rout of Michigan State lacked—what’s the word?—the thrill of competitiveness.
That was an unpleasant surprise because going in, the gap between the Final Four didn’t seem to be all that great.
The fact that the college football powers-that-be opted to disrupt New Year’s Eve for these blowouts made things even more deflating. Let’s have a resolution to end that failed Dec. 31 experiment right now.
And then came New Year’s Day, which was more of the one-sided same.
Northwestern’s humbling vs. resurgent Tennessee was one thing. The Wildcats are entitled to turn into pumpkins after 10 wins.
Iowa’s utter flatulence against Stanford was much more ominous. It’s OK to lose. But to turn into the Washington Generals and let the McCaffery kid go Meadowlark Lemon? Who knew?
I must say, nothing against Iowa. But I suspected all along that the Hawkeyes’ 12-0 start had a lot to do with their schedule. And that’s not their fault. Iowa should be congratulated for going 12-0.
The real culprit is the made-for-TV 14-team Big Ten schedule, which allowed Iowa to avoid Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State during the regular season.
At least Notre Dame had a doctor’s note. All things considered, the injured Irish did a nice job of hanging around with Ohio State, although they were never in danger of pulling off a shocker.
And then, of course, there is the big question: Has this bowl season been unappetizing because the playoff has taken the luster off of games that aren’t in the playoff?
That’s the argument I’ve been hearing for the more than two decades that I have been advocating a playoff.
My answer: No, that’s not the reason there were so many boring New Year’s Day games.
What happened was. . . the usual explanations. With long layoffs, some teams get better, some get worse. Where one team gets healthy, another goes stale.
Another explanation: The matchups could have been better. Ohio State-Stanford might have provided a better showdown, particularly if, say, Joey Bosa doesn’t get tossed for targeting.
And Iowa-Notre Dame would have been a more competitive pairing. But no big deal. Matchups are fluid things, especially when TV implications and pecking orders get in the way.
Which leads me to the biggest takeaway: All credit to the keepers of the college football flame for seeing the light and ditching the BCS two-team controversy for the four-team playoff.
But I still believe an eight-teamer is the way to go. It’s very practical. It won’t harm the bowl system, which is basically a ravenous, relentless television mega-series, anyway. The kids can deal with one more game, and so can January.
From a competitive standpoint, this is the second straight year where the Final Four is open to second-guessing.
Last year, eventual champion Ohio State might not have gotten in if it hadn’t stomped on Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Even with the Buckeyes’ margin-of-victory trump card, Baylor/TCU had a right to feel snubbed.
And this year, I’m thinking the Buckeyes and Stanford would have fit very neatly into an eight-team clambake.
Here’s another reason an eight-team playoff would be interesting this year. All credit to Michigan State for reaching the Final Four. But if Sparty doesn’t beat Michigan on the most-improbably play of this entire season, what bowl is Michigan State in?
With eight teams in the hunt, Alabama, which supposedly isn’t up to its usual standards, would have needed to beat two teams to be one win away from its fourth national championship in seven years.
The point is, that’s a better validation.
We could have had a very competitive, eight-team playoff this year. But no worries. The decision-makers will get there sooner than later. All the arguments against it will crumble under another avalanche of cash.
The good news is, college football will be better for it. An eight-team playoff will give some worthy teams an opportunity.
And Ocho Grande will mean more games will have a chance to be dramatic successes. Because there will be more of those T shirts out there that say “Won. Not done.’’
Watch this space. . . I will be going to the Valley of the Sun to see Bama and Clemson duke it out for the national championship on Monday. Word is that the El Nino rains (in the desert?) will relent for the game, which is expected to set records for scalped ticket prices.