Well, that settles it: It’s time to expand the College Football Playoff.
Let’s make it a best-of-three.
Clemson whipped Alabama 44-16 Monday night in the CFP title game. A few thousand miles away, Tiger fans celebrated and Tide fans mourned. Here on the West Coast, spectators at Levi’s Stadium got a glimpse of what they were missing all season.
After a promising start, the title game didn’t deliver the kind of drama we spent all bowl season pining for. If Clemson and Alabama couldn’t do it, I guess no one could.
Give these teams another shot, and I have a feeling they’d come up with a thriller. But there was no doubt the best team won, or that the two best teams met for the title.
In college football this year, it was Clemson, Alabama and everyone else. The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 was four touchdowns, but the gap between No. 2 and everyone else was even wider.
These playoff results, coupled with a statement Monday from the CFP board of managers, made it clear that expansion is nowhere on the immediate horizon. We can have a philosophical debate about the best way to structure the football postseason, but there’s no debate about where the balance of power resides.
The margin of Monday’s game notwithstanding, is there any question that Alabama and Clemson are the cream of college football? All you have to do is watch them play other teams — even good teams, like Oklahoma and Notre Dame — to see that they’re on a different plane from everyone else.
This marked the fourth straight year Alabama and Clemson met in the CFP finals or semifinals. They’ve now split the four meetings with a cumulative score of Clemson 125, Alabama 116. In championship trophies, the count is Clemson 2, Alabama 2, everyone else zero.
If you’re sick of watching these two teams butt heads, I have some bad news. Some of the best players in this game — Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa, running back Travis Etienne, Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy — were freshmen or sophomores. It will be an upset if these teams aren’t playing for the title again next season.
Depending on your perspective, Clemson and Alabama represent all that’s right or all that’s wrong with college football. On the one hand, they’re great foils who usually deliver on the big stage.
On the other hand, their campuses exist about 300 miles apart in the southeastern part of the U.S., leaving a huge swath of the country unrepresented in college football’s championship picture.
You can put a championship game in the Bay Area, but you can’t fool anyone into thinking college football passion is equally distributed. The South is king, and fans on the West Coast have to feel as though their teams are falling further and further behind.
After all the talk about empty seats and yucky weather, Monday’s game turned out fine as far as I could tell. Levi’s Stadium looked like any other soulless championship venue on TV, which is the only real concern for the people who schedule these games. You could put one of these things on the moon and still draw a decent overnight rating.
The bigger issue is the Pac-12’s third-class status among the major football conferences. It’s impossible to argue that Washington or any other Pac-12 team belonged on the same field with Alabama or Clemson this season. While an expanded playoff could be entertaining, it’s likely to change absolutely nothing about the sport’s regional disparities.
After a few weeks of expansion chatter, the football season ended with a firm commitment to the status quo. It’s still Clemson and Alabama at the top, with bowl season providing no compelling reason to change.
“As far as expanding the number of teams in the Playoff, it’s way too soon — much too soon — to know if that is even a possibility,” said Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, chairman of the CFP board of managers.
I don’t know if college football’s regional imbalance is a problem, but it’s clearly a trend. The Pac-12 was miles away from relevance this season, and putting the title game in the Pac-12’s backyard only highlighted the disparity.
The sport is going strong at Clemson and Alabama. Everywhere else, it seems to be going south.