I think we all thought the new college football playoff was a nice change for the sport, but man, did anyone seeing it being this successful?
In its first year of existence, the playoff created incredible debates, drama, and, ultimately, great television. And, fitting as it is, the four seed, which hadn’t been ranked in the top four all year until the final rankings came out, won the whole thing with their third string quarterback. To borrow a clichéd line, “Hollywood couldn’t have written a script like this.”
What Ohio State did was nothing short of miraculous. After losing to Virginia Tech in the second week of the season, everyone wrote off the Buckeyes, saying they had no chance to get into the final four. It also hurt the Big Ten’s chances of making it into the college football playoff, as no other team seemed to be a legitimate title contender at the time.
Yet, as the weeks went on, Ohio State just kept on winning. J.T. Barrett, who was already replacing injured quarterback Braxton Miller, was getting better every week, and the Buckeyes started slowly climbing in the rankings. They were sixth in the country when, in the final game of the season against Michigan, Barrett was injured, making third string quarterback Cardale Jones the man in charge. Even after beating Michigan, not many people gave Ohio State a chance to make it into the playoff. No way a team with its third string quarterback playing can win, right?
Once again, everyone was proven wrong, as Jones went out and thrashed Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game, leap frogging themselves over Baylor and TCU in the final standings to get into the final four. Their reward? Alabama. There’s no way a third string QB can beat Alabama, right?
I will be honest in saying I thought Alabama was going to beat Ohio State. The Crimson Tide looked unstoppable, and even went up 21-6 on the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl. Jones and Ohio State, though, showed why they deserved to be there, rallying to defeat the top ranked team. It was a huge upset and put them in the title game against the second-ranked Oregon Ducks. Okay, they’ve made it this far, but there’s no way they’re going to stop Marcus Mariota and the high-flying Ducks, right? You can see where I’m going with this.
The Ducks didn’t play bad last night, but they just didn’t make enough big plays. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, made those big plays, and despite having four turnovers, were able to win the game by 22 points. How many people honestly saw that coming last night? I don’t think many did.
A lot of the players on Ohio State deserve credit for this run. Ezekiel Elliott ran circles around both Alabama and Oregon, rushing for 476 yards and six touchdowns combined in the two games. The defense was also able to hold Oregon to only 20 points, something that hadn’t been done since October. In fact, Oregon had scored at least 42 points in all of their games since their loss to Arizona, so to hold them to half of that number is remarkable.
The man that deserves the most credit, though, is Urban Meyer. I don’t know if any other coach in college football could have handled all the changes at quarterback like Meyer did. He had his players buy into the underdog role all year, too, which led to their incredible run here in January. Meyer didn’t want the way he left Florida to be his lasting impression, and he has come back with authority at Ohio State. This national title reaffirms that he is one of the best coaches, regardless of sport, in the world today.
So now that the dust has settled and we have our national champion, the question becomes this: what’s next?
In all honesty, the system worked this year. They took the four best teams in the country and decided it on the field, something the BCS never did. The committee was right for taking Ohio State over Baylor and TCU, as we all just saw what the Buckeyes did. So should the playoff expand to eight teams then to allow more teams a chance to win the title?
As of now, I would say no to expansion. Part of the uniqueness of this playoff was that it was only four teams, so one of the “power 5” conferences wasn’t going to get a spot. This made teams want to win that much more, as they didn’t want to be in the conference that was left out of the playoff.
It provided a different type of feel for the conference title games as well. Could you imagine if Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, or Ohio State had lost their conference title games? The amounts of pressure on those teams to not only win, but look good doing it, added a whole another level to the chaos.
This playoff caused more debates in one year then the BCS did in its 16 years of existence. After every week, the question was always raised: “Who’s in your final four?” Every week we saw a different top four released. Everyone had their opinion on who they thought should be in it, and it created an incredible buzz around college football.
People watched, too. The two semi-final games were the two highest rated television events in cable history. That was until last night, when the title game topped both of those games. It was the highest rated show in ESPN history, and viewership was up 25% from last year’s game between Florida State and Auburn.
Everyone is saying that the playoff will expand eventually, but does it really need to? Adding four more teams to the mix will water it down and make it less important to win your conference. You’d also start seeing two-loss teams getting in, which might make some people upset. All four teams this year were either undefeated or had one loss, making them the truly elite teams in the country.
We live in an era now where we want to get everyone involved and make everyone happy, but in all honesty, this system is perfect the way it is right now. College football hasn’t had this much buzz around it in a long time, and all of it is due to this new playoff. I tip my cap to you, NCAA. Job well done.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the other blogs I’ve posted, and stay tuned as I go more in-depth on all the things going on in the sports world. This is Game of Sports.