Waiting game is here
LSU, Clemson won’t play for nearly 2 weeks
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The matchup is set for a tantalizing College Football Playoff national championship game.
On one side, defending champion Clemson, with its 29-game winning streak. On the other, unbeaten and No. 1 LSU, with its record-setting offense and Heisman Trophy winner.
But first, we interrupt this playoff for a break that is far from ideal.
LSU and Clemson will play the final game of the 2019 college football season on Jan. 13 in New Orleans after winning semifinals last Saturday night.
Heisman winner Joe Burrow and his Tigers routed No. 4 Oklahoma 63-28 at the Peach Bowl. Clemson's No. 3 Tigers beat No. 2 Ohio State 29-23 in a Fiesta Bowl thriller.
The CFP schedule did not end up here by design. It was a correction.
When the College Football Playoff was crafted by the Football Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners in 2012 and ‘13, they decided the semifinals would be played on Dec. 31 two out of every three years. The semifinals would rotate through six bowl games and when they were played at the Rose and Sugar bowls, as they will next season, the games would be on Jan. 1.
That's the perfect spot: a national holiday when most people are off from work, being couch potatoes after ringing in the New Year.
But the conferences that partner with the Rose (Pac-12 and Big Ten) and Sugar (Southeastern and Big 12) bowls chose to lock their showcase games into those Jan. 1 time slots for the 12-year duration of the playoff. Even when they weren't hosting semifinals.
That led to the ill-fated idea to reinvent New Year's Eve as a night to watch college football. It did not work and after one season the plan was scrapped. Future schedules in which the semifinals were planned to be played on Dec. 31 were moved to the closest Saturday, unless New Year's Eve was a Saturday.
This year's schedule became particularly problematic because while the semifinals could be moved up to Dec. 28, the championship game could not be moved from Jan. 13.
CFP officials have said the Superdome in New Orleans was not able to accommodate the switch, which would have provided a more normal eight-day lead-up.
So instead, the teams have extended downtime between games, and two rounds of NFL playoffs will be played in the meantime.
“I know that the schedule, the NFL or whatever, I don't know what all dictates all that stuff, but this year's been a little different because of the way it was laid out and the national championship,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “There's a bye week this year. That's another difference that the teams are going to have to manage in preparation for that because it is a little unique.”
CFP executive director Bill Hancock said he was not concerned about fans losing interest due to the longer-than-usual layoff.
“I don't think so because the championship game is so big and I learned a long time ago not to worry about things you can't control,” he said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after last Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State.