Tell me again what multiple of four you’d like to see invited to a college football playoff?

I only ask because four isn’t working. It’s a pointless exercise that takes the starch out of two bowl games and satisfies nobody.

Since the start of the college football playoff, the average margin of victory has been 22 points. Three touchdowns, give or take.

And of course that includes last year’s magical Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma, a 54-48, double-overtime win by the Bulldogs that set the table for another overtime classic in the final.

Talk about the ultimate statistical outlier. Remove that one from the six-year picture and you could say Saturday’s semifinal couplet – Clemson’s 30-3 thrashing of Notre Dame, and Alabama’s 45-34 dismissal of Oklahoma – were better than average.

Eight would simply throw a couple bigger mismatches into the mix and drag out the process, giving more credence to the cries of those who complain either that these gentlemen don’t go class or don’t get paid. Sixteen is simply silly.

This annual discussion is fueled by casual fans and purported experts alike. They see a 24-team party at the “championship subdivision level” or a 68-team basketball tournament that includes every conference champion and his brother.

So they wring their hands and arrive at the mistaken conclusion that either one is the same animal. It’s because they’ve all watched “Rudy” or the “One Shining Moment” highlight reel too many times.

Believing this Notre Dame program is equivalent to your granddaddy’s favorite team doesn’t make it so. Speculating that Central Florida has a snowball’s chance in Orlando against a legitimate, Power Five league champion doesn’t make it so. Dreaming that an Arena League offense from the Big 12 or a package with eight tight ends from the Big 10 can serve as the great equalizer against Alabama certainly doesn’t make it so.

Alabama and Clemson have by-and-large been the best teams in college football since this latest attempt to satisfy everyone started. They will remain so until Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney decide to go and do something else for fun. Their geographical advantages, coupled with their national cache, are too great.

This isn’t basketball, where you only need seven or eight players, and where a bunch of kids with crew cuts and a team nun can rise up and crash the party by taking advantage of the parity Duke and Kentucky’s hoarding of McDonald’s All-Americans has created.

Also, thanks to our absurd culture that thrives on artificial disrespect and proclaims victory in a debate because it yelled the loudest, the idea that somebody got snubbed will never go away.

When the people in charge tried to pick the two best teams, there was a hue and cry on behalf of the odd team out. Now that it has expanded to four, many can’t wait for the blowouts so they can hashtag ’til it hurts and defend the honor of five and six.

Eight teams would leave us apoplectic over the ninth’s plight. I know this because I’ve listened to Kentucky fans curse Florida for getting a better bowl game even after the Wildcats finally beat the Gators for the first time since the Reagan administration.

On and on it goes. Logic and a cursory glance at the quality of late December college football should tell you it wouldn’t make the games any closer. You’ll still be sick to death of Alabama and Clemson when it’s over, and all it will have accomplished is making Saturdays in September, October and November miles less meaningful.

Not to mention that easing the qualifications for getting into the playoff field will only subject us to more foolishness thanks to old men in blazers who think Notre Dame, Michigan and Nebraska are still relevant.

Nowhere in sports is the nostalgia for how it used to be thicker and more damaging than in college football. It’s the only way Notre Dame could schedule Navy, Wake Forest, Ball State and Slippery Rock and get invited to this thing over Georgia and Ohio State in the first place. The Fighting Irish would have gone 8-4 or 7-5 in the SEC. I’m sorry if you feel triggered by the truth.

You’ll notice the people who romanticize the FCS system fail to mention North Dakota State is about to waltz through it and hoist a trophy for the seventh time in the past eight years. They also gloss over the countless programs who found that arrangement so exciting they chose to move up to mid-major purgatory, go 7-5 and play the Piggly Wiggly Bowl in a two-thirds-empty stadium.

Two’s plenty in major college football. Play it Jan. 2 or 3 every year, so the New Year’s Day games feel quasi-meaningful for the first time in forever, and call it good.

The rest is just artificial excitement and debate for debate’s sake, followed by games that typically fail to satisfy everyone’s expectations.

Sounds like 21st century college and pro sports in a nutshell, actually.

* Kalle Oakes spent 27 years in the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Keep in touch with him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.


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