NCAA Football; The Solution to the Playoffs; and the Application of Traditional Notions of Fair Play and Substantial Justice in CFP Era

*OPINION* Losing should not punch you a ticket to the playoffs, but that is exactly what happened this year…..

“We, the University of Southern California, are humbled by the offer to play in the conference championship game for December 2, 2022.  We respectfully decline and graciously accept the invitation to play in the College Football Playoffs.  We would suggest our record shows we are conference champions, but cannot willingly accept another game which could result in our being uninvited to the CFP by an unexpected loss.”   

….had USC done this?  They would be gearing up for the playoffs.  Now? They are uninvited and a team that got destroyed by their rival, at home, is on their way….Injustice manifests itself with the pigskin.

Now, scene 2, which is still on the horizon – unjustly so….. The most cherished rivalry in all of sports, is the Michigan Wolverines versus Ohio State University. A game that means so much to so many, and as of now, it means the birth or death of a playoff bid and the entrance or denial of the B1G Ten Championship game.   However, now that USC has lost and the world seems to be embracing this insane notion that USC should be PUNISHED for playing in their conference championship game, Ohio State can now say – “we will get you next time we play….this season.”  MADNESS.  Absolute.  Madness.  Not only did they lose, but now, the most meaningful and celebrated rivalry in all of sports becomes a warmup round. We have lost our ever-loving-minds people.

The idea of an expanded playoffs completely guts the significance of the regular season (and the practical, every-season realities, of the meaning of the rivalry game and its de facto championship significance -all beyond bragging rights).  This season, we see this in the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry.   Michigan won last year in Ann Arbor after nearly a millennia without a victory; now for the last year we heard about how Ohio State had “the flu” last year, how it was bad weather and cold, how Stroud’s middle toe had a boo-boo, etc., and that this year would be different.  A lot of hype – come The Game, Michigan is down its Heisman-favorite running back and several other key players, the weather is perfect, and all indicators pointed to Ohio State making good on its talk…by the fourth quarter, the blood bath was nearly complete and the 2022 rivalry game should forever be remembers as Michigan MURDERING Ohio State, at home, in perfect weather, without a group of key players, when both teams were undefeated at number 2 and 3.   In other words, the “Blue Flu” a/k/a Michigan Wolverines not only beat down the Buckeyes, they did it on foreign turf with their best weapon sidelined.  A win for the history books that put Ohio State on the sidelines for the rest of the year – AS.  IT.  SHOULD.      But no, here we are, headed to the playoffs and the Urban Myers of the world are arguing Ohio State should be in the playoffs (ironic, given his previous statements proclaiming a team should not be permitted to play for the championship without winning its conference)…   Excuse me?  Grab your carcass and get off the field, Ohio State.  You were already murdered and you watched the conference championship at home.   

Football is like more of a war-like game.  Imagine, if you will, the Revolutionary War ended and freedom prevailed – the good guys won…….but then there was a redo a month later.  The battle was over, the new country born and history was forev…..never mind, that second war a month later goes to the British and America never becomes what it was to be….because the regular season game meant NOTHING (comparatively).  This is football. This is fight to win, there is no do-over in football; there is no – see you in a week, especially in conference play. The idea that Michigan and Ohio State can now say to itself upon a loss – “its ok, we can play them again in a month” – is a disgrace to history and the meaning of The Game.

 This year highlights 2 things:

  1. First, this will repeat itself often with expanded playoffs.  This is not basketball – this is not a game where you are allowed, nor should you be allowed, to have a let-down game, or let a team slip passed you – and still have victory in your eyes.  Football is not a skill art game where a refined 3 point shot comes and goes.  This is war.  A war-like game, and war is fought rain or shine, sick or not – VICTORY TAKE ALL.  Michigan won The Game in 2022 and to the spoils go to The Victors.  Or do they?  Now, with the insanity of this year and forever after with expanded playoffs – this war at the end of November is nothing but a warmup and buildup for a second meeting in the same year.  Pathetic.   
  2. Second, if you do not win your conference, you should NOT be playing for a national championship.  (Thanks Urban)

Period.   USC should have refused to play in the conference championship. They are now punished for doing what is right.  Had they refused, they would be in the playoff.  So what is the solution?  Its is NOT an expanded playoff…

So what is the solution?  The answer is seen, and my argument proven by way of Ohio State this year… order to save the value of the real rivalries and preserve the meaningfulness of the regular season.  We must implement the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.  That is to say – the regular season is DO or DIE, no matter what.  To that end, the solution is as follows:

The final 4 teams are selected as CFP ranking #1-4, at the end of regular season play.  Period.  The official final 4 teams are selected, ironclad, prior to conference championship games being played.  No exceptions.  This prevents a loss in a conference championship knocking someone out and allowing a team that sat in the stands to go to the playoffs in their place.  AND it also facilitates teams that are not in B1G Ten of SEC from having a shot.  

I am subjective, I am a Michigan fan (all candor).  That said, I do not think any self respecting Ohio State fan would suggest they are national champions when they got beat by over 20 points, at home, against their number 1 rival, after talking trash all year.  

To save what makes college football different, these changes need to be made.  Without them, we have the teams doing everything right, fighting for a conference championship and then getting punished and passed over by a team that didn’t make it to their regional dance.  

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