Monday’s Rose Bowl was a pretty good game, but despite the ebb and flow of the score and final Trojan comeback (Fight On!), I just couldn’t get too excited over it. Sam Darnold looks to be the face of FOOTBALL for many years to come. He was a man among boys and yet less than a year removed from high school. Records were shattered all game long, but for me, this game does not measure up anywhere near the Texas win led by Vince Young (Never met a longhorn I ever liked) over SC for the national title.
Monday’s game meant nothing. It was meaningless. The Rose Bowl was nothing more the one big exciting exhibition game in which the winner received nothing and the loser was not anything more than tired.
This is the end result of the NCAA’s playoff format. Unless you are one of the chosen bowl games selected to host all of two semi final games, none of the other bowl games mean anything other than a few more weeks of practice for the participating teams and money to the schools and conferences participating
Most fans say the answer is to expand the playoffs to eight, twelve, or even sixteen games and use the bowl games as playoff games. This is not the answer either. Expanding the NCAA playoffs will only turn the regular season into a meaningless affair like it has done in the NFL. The more teams that make it into the playoffs will result in more mediocre teams qualifying, a much less sense of urgency when you drop a conference game, and lower ratings in the regular season because games will matter less. While four seems too few, do we need to see the playoffs expand to the point of the NCAA Basketball tournament?
Let’s look at what has happened to the NCAA basketball season. No one really cares anymore when Duke squares off against North Carolina because both are going to the NCAA tournament. Being a conference champion means nothing anymore. Does anyone beside me remember when UCLA was the only PAC 8 team to move on to the NCAA tournament while number 2 USC stayed home because conferences were only allowed one team in the tournament?
There is a solution to all of this that will keep the bowl system in place while making the games more meaningful, but it means breaking with tradition. Move the bowl games from the end of the season to the start of the season. Huh?
With the NCAA placing a greater emphasis on quality wins when ranking teams, games like yesterday’s Rose Bowl become far more meaningful when bumped up to Labor Day weekend and serve as the kickoff to the NCAA season. In this system, this year the playoffs would remain as they were seeded and next year we would get to watch USC square off against Penn State in a season opening game that would carry a lot more urgency for both teams.
Labor Day weekend already serves as the kickoff to the NCAA season and it has pushed for more quality “Kickoff Classics” pitting two highly ranked teams against each other played at neutral sites. The problem is, there is no tradition to these games so why not move all the bowl games up to replace them? Doing this provides one other option for the NCAA: expanding their playoffs to ALL conference winners or whoever are the top 16 teams in the nation, based on some computer format no one understands.
Now we have ALL of December to watch weekly as 16 schools are whittled down to 8, and then 4, and finally the last two on a weekly basis. In fact, this system makes so much sense it is used in all other NCAA sports except Division I football. In basketball, it is so successful that now, the first half of the season is nothing but tip off classic tournaments that allow schools to see how they match up early against some of the other top programs.
The playoffs are here to stay. The bowl games are not going anywhere either. However, if they cannot be used to expand what the fans want, then it is time they are moved so they become more important to the fans while still allowing the schools and conferences to profit from them.
Until then, USC 52 and Penn State 49 was just another game about nothing and that is a shame.
Top photo: Matt Boermeester kicks the winning field goal for USC (YouTube)
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.