While there were plenty of big sporting events over the holidays, including the New Year’s Six bowl games, the game everyone has been waiting for though will be happening while this paper is printing.
Alabama vs. Clemson in the national championship game, their third meeting in the big game, their fourth overall in the past four seasons. Saban vs. Swinney. Tagovailoa vs. Lawrence. One team will leave undefeated — and the first division one college football team to win 15 games in a season. As much as people may be sick of seeing the piercing glare of Nick Saban’s face and the smirk of Dabo Swinney, the success of Clemson and Alabama over the past four years may be the obvious reason as to why the playoff can’t be expanded to eight teams.
The Tide and the Tigers have dominated the college football world in a way no other program has. The semi-finals this year were ultimately disappointing — Notre Dame clearly didn’t belong — but would it have been justified to keep an undefeated 12-0 team out? Maybe, maybe not. Oklahoma fought back in the second half, but even Lincoln Riley’s team isn’t cut out to compete with the likes of Alabama and Clemson for four quarters yet.
What Alabama and Clemson have managed to do is create a dominance on both sides of the ball, consistently, for the past four years — and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be slowing down anytime soon. Georgia likely should have been given the fourth spot in the playoff over Oklahoma (despite the fact that Oklahoma would have been a better choice than Notre Dame). However, after seeing the Bulldogs fall at the hands of Texas in the Sugar Bowl, it just proves the point that no program has been able to replicate what Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have created at their respective schools.
So, while everyone may want the playoff to expand to eight teams to include the likes of Georgia, Ohio State, UCF, LSU and whoever else — there is no justification to expand the playoff to eight teams when only two teams have been able to compete consistently — and the majority of their opponents have fallen way short of the hype.
The first year of the playoff, Oregon beat Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl semi-final. Ohio State beat Alabama 42-35. In the championship, Ohio State beat Oregon 42-20. In the second year, Alabama beat Michigan State 38-0, and Clemson beat Oklahoma 37-17. The first meeting between Alabama and Clemson that year was a 45-40 Tide win. The third year, the semi-final between Clemson and Ohio State was a 31-0 beat down by the Tigers. In the opposite semi-final, Alabama beat Washington 24-7.
The bottom line is teams like Georgia and Ohio State, even Oklahoma to an extent, have shown in some years they are capable of competing with Alabama and Clemson, but not consistently.
While everyone is watching the national championship, I hope college football fans appreciate the competitiveness the two programs have managed to live up to and sustain for the past four years. One day, maybe there will be more who can replicate that type of dominance, but for now, we’re watching something that’s hard to come by.