So we're here. A magnificent Saturday in the fall filled with a collection of college football games crying for some sort of alliterative handle that only ESPN can deliver.
Selection Saturday. Showdown Saturday. Sit-down Saturday night. You pick.
But the decision on the moniker is nowhere near as meaningful as today's stakes.
The slate is pure and the palette colorful. For the nation's eyes and the hunt for the BCS, the UCLA-Stanford game offers top-15 foes and would be enough on most weekends to command top billing. Not today. Not when Florida State and Clemson meet in Death Valley in a top-five showdown that will give us an early leader in the chase for the final BCS championship as we know it.
The Seminoles and the Tigers are playing an elimination game for all intents and purposes. The winner will be right in the top three when this year's first BCS poll is announced Sunday. The loser faces a nearly impossible climb back into the national-title mix. If that seems somewhat over the top, well, that's the beauty of the college football campaign. The best regular season in sports is filled with a weekly dose of drama that could frame, reframe or defame a team's title hopes. That's the business they have chosen.
With that pure intensity and the intense purity, the magic that is the college football regular season is matched only by the circus that is its postseason. The best regular season of them all has the worst way to determine a champion, and in some ways these items are dependent on each other. Would this Florida State-Clemson game have the same feel this time next year when the four-team playoff is incorporated to crown a champ? More than likely, but games that feel like national semifinals do not have the same weight when there actually are national semifinals.
We heard a bunch this week about the 13-person committee that will charged with picking the four teams, especially the fact that Condi Rice, the former Secretary of State, will be in the room. (This was met with a fair amount of criticism, especially by former Auburn coach Pat Dye. Uh, Coach, if we're going to trust Ms. Rice to make decisions involving things like war and stuff, we believe she can have a voice on whether the Louisville Cardinals' joke-tastic schedule deserves a seat at the table. Thanks, though.) The 13 names seem fine. Great. Yea, 13, which we all know is greater than 12. But that's not the big question. The questions will be how those 13 decide which four teams will play in the college football playoff. And of course for how long.
Let's spin this forward, while spinning it current. There is a potential world-class logjam on the BCS horizon that would not be addressed by a four-team format. The BCS standings will be released Sunday, and there could be six major college programs finish unbeaten in Alabama, Oregon (or UCLA, after the two play next week), the FSU/Clemson winner (or Miami), Ohio State, Baylor and Louisville. Yes, Missouri could too, but c'mon, the equations to get the Tigers into the BCS are so far-fetched and drawn out that Stephen Hawking asked for a Goody's Powder.
So if we have six unbeatens this year, Alabama and Oregon would play for the title. If those six finished unbeaten next year with a four-team playoff, who gets left out? Louisville for sure because of its TSSAA-type schedule, but you could make a hard argument that Baylor deserves in more than Ohio State.
In the future, when there are people making the picks rather than computer rankings, what would happen if the 13-person committee was charged with picking between a one-loss major conference champ or an unbeaten Louisville for that fourth spot? The computer says one thing; the people could say another.
And how long before the field becomes eight, because in truth the hard feelings of frustration left on No. 3's doorstep under the current plan only moved back two spots to No. 5? Condi Rice is the least of the worries about the new playoff set-up. Its main goal, however, should be to protect the beauty of the regular season that offers national spectacles almost every Saturday rather than just in semifinals.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org