The Columbus Dispatch

College Football Playoff has blowout fatigue and no easy fix

- Dan Wolken

The semifinals of the College Football Playoff brought a familiar problem back into the discourse for fans who have grown weary of the blowouts and mismatches that seem to be endemic to the sport's postseason.

It can't be considered a coincidenc­e at this point: Of the 16 semifinal games in CFP history, just three have been close. After Alabama and Georgia advanced Friday in games that were comfortabl­y in hand by the fourth quarter, the average scoring differenti­al in semifinals stands at exactly 21 points.

You could make the argument this is exactly what the playoff was designed to do. As much as fans and administra­tors in other conference­s might roll their eyes at an all-sec matchup, further regionaliz­ing a sport that has become heavily tilted toward the Southeast over the last decade, this year's playoff unquestion­ably identified the two best teams. If you can strip away all regional bias, it's the only matchup that would give us the possibilit­y of a memorable championsh­ip game on Jan. 10 in Indianapol­is.

But the trend of uncompetit­ive semifinals isn't great news for the sport or its television partner on what is hyped up all season to be the showcase day. Not only is it a drag on television ratings, which have not produced blockbuste­r numbers, but it creates apathy when fans do not see college football as a competitiv­e enterprise except for a very small handful of teams.

Every other American sport gets more exciting and attractive to casual viewers in the postseason. College football, which arguably has the best regular season of any sport, somehow gets worse.

This conversati­on is happening at a time when the sport's leaders are still haggling over the details of playoff expansion, which will end up likely being 12 teams.

The push to include more teams in the playoff was an obvious outcome as soon as it went to four, as the math told us that at least one power conference was going to be left out every year. The SEC'S dominance, Notre Dame making the playoff twice and Cincinnati getting in from the American Athletic Conference

this year has only increased the angst of leagues like the Pac-12 (two appearance­s in eight years) and the Big 12 (four appearance­s, all by Oklahoma).

For their own relevance and financial security as future television negotiatio­ns loom, it's absolutely crucial for those leagues to have a playoff that regularly includes them.

There's no real debate anymore about expansion. It's going to happen. What isn't discussed is the possibilit­y that a bigger playoff will suck some of the drama from the regular season while failing to actually solve the problem we saw Friday night.

Putting more teams in the playoff is easy. Creating more competitiv­e equity across college football, though, is a more difficult conversati­on.

Some will argue that the landscape looks much different if the current Alabama run had petered out the way most college football dynasties do rather than extend to a possible seventh title in 13 years. .

But for most of its history, college football has been a sport ruled by a small group of elite programs that rise and fall every few years. What we don't have anymore are the outliers from the poll era like BYU in 1984 clinching a national title by beating 6-6 Michigan in the Holiday Bowl or 1990 when the topranked teams were all obligated to different bowl games, leaving Georgia Tech and Colorado to share the championsh­ip.

 ?? JASEN VINLOVE/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Georgia quarterbac­k Stetson Bennett (13) throws oranges as teammate Derion Kendrick (11) is interviewe­d by ESPN after defeating Michigan.
JASEN VINLOVE/USA TODAY SPORTS Georgia quarterbac­k Stetson Bennett (13) throws oranges as teammate Derion Kendrick (11) is interviewe­d by ESPN after defeating Michigan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States