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Fri, Jan. 24

Commentary: College football postseason system is great the way it is

Wyoming cheerleaders and Cowboy Joe celebrate a Wyoming touchdown during the NOVA Home Loans in Tucson on Dec. 31. VVN/James Kelley

Wyoming cheerleaders and Cowboy Joe celebrate a Wyoming touchdown during the NOVA Home Loans in Tucson on Dec. 31. VVN/James Kelley

As that old ESPN commercial goes, for college football fans “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

It’s bowl season.

Sure, 40 bowls may be too many, but no one is forcing you to watch company you never heard of bowl featuring a couple 6-6 teams. Most bowls are a delight though.

College football fans are blessed with the best postseason America has to offer. At the top there’s a great system to determine the champion.

How often does the NCAA Division I men’s basketball pit the top two teams? Very rarely.

Then the pros are hampered by their weird conference format. Because some NFL teams played in the AFL in the 1960s we are stuck with Super Bowls that rarely match up the two best teams and the other professional sports have pretty much followed suit.

College football pits what is generally the top four teams in the country against each other. The Cinderellas in the basketball tournament are cool and all but the negative to that is the top four teams never make the Final Four.

Inevitably once the College Football Playoff was announced, people started asking for an eight-team playoff. If that happens they’ll quickly start asking for a 16-team playoff and then 32 and so on.

One common complaint is that teams are left out. Expanding the CFP to eight or 16 teams or whatever won’t alleviate that.

People still complain about being left out of the 68-team basketball tournament.

It just dilutes the product. Right now there’s the playoff, the other New Year’s Six Bowls and then the other bowls. The more you expand the tournament the less those other games matter.

Plus if you make it eight teams the quarterfinals would be a waste of time. The top seeds would just breeze by.

If there were an eight team playoff, Wisconsin, who lost twice to an Ohio State team that got knocked out of the first round of the CFP and by 31 points in the regular season. No. 2 Ohio State would face Baylor, who lost twice to an Oklahoma team that got blown out in their bowl and the Bears lost their bowl game.

A playoff of six teams is not as bad as eight or 16 but giving the top ranked teams byes is a huge advantage. How often have one and two met in the CFP championship game?

Only three out of six times, so the committee’s rankings are not perfect.

Plus five and six this year are Georgia and Oregon. Uga lost in the defacto quarterfinals and Oregon didn’t even reach those, losing to very average ASU team, so they don’t have very compelling résumés.

Instead Oregon and Wisconsin met in an attractive Rose Bowl. If that was just part of a tournament you wouldn’t care as much. How many NCAA tournament games do you remember each year? Five percent?

So far only power five teams have made the CFP but when you pack in the best four their résumés don’t stack up. Sure UCF or Boise State could go undefeated against a soft schedule but no one whines about North Dakota State (15-0) not making the CFP or an undefeated Division II team and so on.

Second tier conferences just don’t offer the same competition. It’s not hard to win one or two games a year against top level opponents.

The massive include every conference champion basketball tournament doesn’t even feature many champions from outside a power conference. The last time a team from outside a major conference won the national title was UNLV in 1990. The last mid major champion before that was UTEP in 1966.

Group of five teams do get to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl every year though, where they have gone 3-3. Winning the Fiesta Bowl is a lot more fun than getting whipping in a semifinal by a football factory.

Since almost all the bowl games are one shots, there’s more at stake than getting a chance to get blown out by a top seed. With 20 champions and a playoff featuring the top teams, everyone’s a winner.

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