Lincicome: Who needs a college football playoff drama when every Saturday provides it

  • The trophy for the College Football Playoff championship NCAA college football game is displayed along Ocean Drive, in Miami Beach, Florida.

    The trophy for the College Football Playoff championship NCAA college football game is displayed along Ocean Drive, in Miami Beach, Florida. Associated Press/Jan. 7, 2021

 
Updated 11/12/2021 2:10 PM

Prudently the nabobs who will determine the college football playoffs (four teams, no visitors) wait until the season is half over before letting anyone know what they are thinking. And what they are thinking won't matter a bit for another month.

When the world made sense, the best team in college football was whichever one Richard Nixon said it was and nobody had a problem with that, except maybe Penn State, later to face more serious concerns, as did Nixon for that matter.

 

Now we have a weekly ranking cluster of 13, "a dedicated group of high-integrity football experts" according to the official website, though why anyone would admit to such a thing is unclear.

Of the various methods that have been used to discover the best college football team the current one is the most overwrought. The latest rankings were revealed between college basketball openers on the giant scoreboard at Madison Square Garden. Whoa. This has to be a big deal.

The weekly disclosure of rankings means absolutely nothing now, nor next week, nor at any time until the season has sorted itself out, as seasons are supposed to do. We may get a glimpse inside the ranking room, or what did I hear it called, "the power chamber, the epicenter, the capital, the congress."

Whoa, again. That's a lot of things to be just to pass along a list of college football teams. You would think that fixing global warming ought to be the result of so much effort.

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These guardians of the mission determine the self-regard of universities and conferences, judging on criteria as arcane as back loaded schedule strength and as harebrained as time zone disadvantage.

All of this could be done, of course, with a No. 2 pencil and the discarded envelope of a utility bill, which is how I used to do it when I voted in a couple different newspaper polls.

We usually got it right in the end, not counting the odd Brigham Young or splitting the title between Colorado and Georgia Tech when the best team was probably Texas.

Contention is good. Argument is worthwhile. Attention is valuable to the brand. It has been that way since the wire services concocted the weekly rankings in order to have another product to sell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

What has changed is the noise level. And the emphasis. Never has so little meant so much so soon, or as one of those ESPN messengers said during this week's dramatic, and sponsored, reveal show, "It'll eventually sort itself out."

It always has.

There is nothing in sports quite like the reunion of spirit on an autumn weekend. What keeps this alive is the belief that every game matters.

These slighter aims are the soul of college football, or at least that is what we tell ourselves around here.

It does not matter that the athletes who represent the old school are quasi-mercenaries and may not share the entire curriculum with the rooting section. But, then, what does the tuba player have in common with the geology major?

Maybe there should just be a college of athletics, just like there is a college of education and a college of science.

Sports as a profession is certainly as honorable a pursuit as the law. Shakespeare never said, "kill all the linebackers."

But I am not arguing here to redefine the college athlete. That is being done without permission and in another column. It is not to perpetuate the engorged bowl system, doomed in any case. My argument against the playoff system is that it diminishes all the Saturdays leading up to it.

This is college football's special peculiarity, not true of any other game. The whole college season is one long, ever adjusting playoff adventure. A playoff, of however many teams -- plans are roiling for as many as 12 now -- provides certainty. Certainty is overrated.

Folks are as mistrustful as ever, already wringing their hands over unfairness, seeing in unbeaten Cincinnati proof that if there is any way the nabobs can avoid doing what the system is designed to do, they will do it.

And I really don't see how all this convoluted, schedule rank, quality win, power conference gibberish will sort things out any better than the opinion of sports writers, good enough for the task at hand, which is usually made of foam and has one long finger sticking out.

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