Then came the playoff, with its weekly rankings and its chairperson offering non-explanatory explanations. Come 2024, we’ll have the 12-team playoff, which guarantees three times the blather. This week’s CFP rankings number three SEC teams among the top 12. Two of those – No. 6 Alabama and No. 7 Tennessee – won’t be playing under the retractable roof.
Winning the SEC should always count for something: It Just Means More, right? It did not, however, mean much to Alabama in 2017, when the Tide won the national title after not winning the SEC West, or Georgia last year, when the Bulldogs won it all despite losing the SEC championship by 17 points. For once, Bama didn’t win the game that mattered.
The playoff is a fine thing. Let’s be clear about that. (Let’s also try to forget all those years when voters determined the national title.) The playoff has also rendered non-playoff bowls irrelevant. The CFP plans to hold its first set of quarterfinals in the Fiesta, Peach, Rose and Sugar Bowls. The semis will be in the Cotton and Orange. This still leaves 37 bowls, none of them necessary.
When Georgia took the 1980 national title, it played 12 games. In 2024 plus Januarye 2025, Georgia could play 17 games. The least essential could be the SEC championship. With so many games, wouldn’t being able to skip one become a prize unto itself?
Just as conference hoops tournaments are forgotten the moment the NCAA announces its field for March Madness, Power 5 football titles will pale alongside what comes next. The SEC dragged college football into an era when championships were decided – what a concept! – on the field. Maybe I’m catastrophizing, but I fear Atlanta’s annual Big Dance is about to get small.
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