College Football Playoff Thoughts and Reflections

Stewart Mandel has been taking to Twitter over the last day or so after the New Year's Day bowls were completed to defend the four-team playoff and argue against its expansion.

What's interesting about the arguments he's making and the arguments of his detractors are making is that they are both treating this year's bowl season as some sort of be-all, end-all for their points.

For example, Mandel points to the record-breaking ratings of the non-playoff Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl to demonstrate that we don't need more than four teams in the playoff; people still care about the so-called "meaningless" bowls. But were the ratings also tremendous every year since we've had the playoff? Will they continue to be tremendous?

One tweeter responded to this by saying as well as the Rose Bowl did ratings-wise, they still didn't do as well as the SEC Championship Game, to which Mandel replied, "Yep. And some people want them to give that up so we can have 1 vs. 8."

Mandel, you just got done flexing about how people still care about the the non-playoff games. Now you seem to be saying that those huge ratings are in fact so fragile that they will be destroyed if we move from a four team playoff to an eight.

Yes, I am a proponent of an expanded playoff. But it's actually not so much of a debate as it is an inevitability. I don't know how long it will take, but is there a single playoff system, college or pros, that doesn't expand? College football will be no different.

And those who claim an expanded playoff will ruin the regular season should explain to me why that continues not to be the case in college basketball.

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Another thing Mandel points out, correctly I believe, is how happy the playoff committee must be with themselves right now, since the teams ranked 5-9 in the final college playoff rankings all lost (save Ohio State).

Very clearly, Clemson and Alabama are far out in front of the rest of college football this year. But not only has 5-0 lost, but so has 3 and 4, in their playoff games. Who is the third best team in college football? Fourth? Fifth?

I suspect the third best is still Georgia. I don't know how motivated they were against Texas and I'm still giving a lot of weight to their fight against 'Bama. Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Notre Dame are almost impossible to rank against each other, but I shall try.

The beef I have with Oklahoma is that four of their wins were by one possession, and that includes lowly Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, although the Cowboys may end up ranked.

Ohio State, however, also won four games by one possession, including two against unranked opponents (Nebraska and Maryland), and of course, got blown out by Purdue. I don't think I can give this one to the Buckeyes.

Notre Dame had five one-possession wins, and three of those were against unranked opponents (USC, Vanderbilt, and ... get this: 4-8 Ball State). Their best win at this point is against Syracuse. Their win over Michigan has lost a lot of luster given how the Wolverines finished the season.

Ultimately, the rankings shake out like this for me:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Georgia
4. Oklahoma
5. Ohio State
6. Notre Dame

... with a thick line separating the top six from the rest of the pack.

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I think I'll be taking Clemson at +180 in the National Championship Game. Clemson has not been challenged in the slightest since September, they have absolutely nothing to lose, and Alabama ... are they not starting to look a bit weary from wearing from the eternal target on their back?

I close this column on a note of sadness. We are about to start our long college football-free darkness. Here's to late August 2019.

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