As he sulked away from the Ohio Stadium field last season, Chris
Perry longingly watched the Ohio State student body create a
scarlet-and-gray blanket over the Horseshoe turf.
Perry, the last Wolverine off the field, was devastated. That
is, until he took a second to think about what the game really
“Wait a minute … we can still go to the playoffs!” Perry
thought to himself.
“Guys! Guys! Get back on the field! We can still go to the
playoffs! We lost three games in the regular season, but it doesn’t
The Wolverines roared back onto the field and surrounded Perry
in the endzone. While the Buckeyes and their fans on the other side
of the field celebrated an undefeated season and a sure No. 2
overall seed in the playoffs, the Wolverines jumped up and down
with their hands in the air and began chanting, “WE READY! WE
READY! WE READY!”
The Michigan fans who made the trip from Ann Arbor stormed the
field to join the Wolverines, belting out “It’s great to be a
Michigan Wolverine!” at the top of their lungs.
Once down on the field with the Wolverines, who were busy
taunting the Buckeyes with a chant of “WE’LL SEE YOU IN THE
PLAYOFFS,” the fans joined the players in a rousing rendition of
Does this picture make anyone else want to lose their
This tragedy I just described is what would happen if a playoff
were adopted in college football.
Sure, it would be nice for the Wolverines to be able to snooze
through the season – kind of like the Michigan hockey team does
each year – and still have a chance to win the national title.
But imagine what it would do to college football’s regular
season – the best regular season in all of sports.
Tomorrow’s game against Purdue would have no urgency. If
Michigan lost, it would have just three losses on the season. In a
16- or 32-team playoff format, the Wolverines could still make the
playoffs. Some of you are saying, “That’s a good thing!” But as a
Michigan student who demands the Wolverines’ best, I wouldn’t want
them to have a chance to win the national title if they lose again
I’m a college football elitist. I believe it’s the best sport on
earth because each game means so much and only the strong survive.
If you can’t cut it for 12 or 13 straight games, you don’t deserve
to win the national title. Period. That’s why every national
championship run is so phenomenal – it demands perfection.
The college football regular season, for 115 teams, is a battle
of will and endurance. I have no sympathy for teams, like Southern
Cal. last season, that lose two games early in the season, win the
rest of their games and then claim, “We’re the hottest team in the
Sure, you may be hot, but you aren’t the best, and because you
waited six weeks to get hot, you don’t deserve to play for a
national championship. Ohio State was horrendous to watch last
season, but that made its running of the table all the more
magical. The Buckeyes won, and that’s all that should count.
The Bowl Championship Series, as frustrating and controversial
as it is, preserves the one thing that is irreplaceable about
college football: the intensity of the regular season.
Sure, the bowl games other than the national championship game
are almost meaningless now, but they weren’t that meaningful
And yes, the bowl rotation means that a Big Ten team won’t play
in the Rose Bowl every year. But the Big Ten will be represented
three out of four years (unless a Big Ten team plays for the
national title in another BCS bowl like last season). It’s a
compromise I’m willing to make for the good of college football’s
The proponents of a 16- or 32-team playoff better get
comfortable with the BCS or something similar, because a playoff
that big will always be a pipedream. University presidents and
athletic directors will never choose to extend the number of games
played to a number upwards of 15 or 16.
So forget about it.
The BCS is an extremely flawed system. Every year that there
isn’t a controversy about who should be ranked where, it’s escaping
the inevitable. The system is set up to be controversial, but it’s
still better for college football than an 8-, 16- or 32-team
As the years have gone by, I’ve become a proponent of a
four-team playoff to determine the national champion. Using
something resembling the BCS ranking system, the top four teams
play in a No. 1 vs. No. 4, No. 2 vs. No. 3 format.
This plan is not ironed out in my head at all, and I have no
answers as to how it could happen, but it’s the only playoff option
that is remotely feasible within the current framework.
The four-team playoff allows the regular season to retain its
intensity – every team that gets a chance to win the title will
likely be undefeated or have one loss.
And I don’t want to hear “but what about No. 5?” There’s a huge
difference between the bitching of No. 5 – which will likely have
two losses – and No. 3. If you look at the history of the BCS,
three out of five years there has been a No. 3 team that deserved a
shot at the national title.
In 1998, one-loss Ohio State was left out of the picture and
one-loss Florida State played in the title game. In 2000, one-loss
Miami – who beat the Seminoles – missed out on a chance for the
title in favor of Florida State. And in 2001, one-loss Oregon was
passed over by the BCS computers for one-loss Nebraska. Do you even
remember who was ranked No. 5 during those seasons?
Four-team playoff, the BCS or a similar bowl arrangement. It
doesn’t really matter. College football should do whatever it takes
to keep its regular season from becoming meaningless.
J. Brady McCollough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.