Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Set up the dominoes

So, you thought Ohio State was out of it?

Silly you.

This is the College Football Playoff, aka the CFP, which also stands for "Considering Fordham, Perhaps." Not that Fordham is even eligible for the CFP, being an FCS school, but, hey. These days, you never know.

Which brings us back to Ohio State.

Last seen losing at home to Michigan State's backup quarterback, the Buckeyes seemed firmly out of the CFP, at least if you're one of those people who think "Firmly" is what the "F" stands for. It's not, of course. And so when the Buckeyes finally played like the reigning national champs last week, whipping rival Michigan 42-14, suddenly a lot of people were saying, "Hey, they're one of the top four teams in the country!" because, you know, they played like it for one game out of 12.

So there they sit at No. 6 in the latest CFP rankings, and the scenario exists by which they could still get in. If North Carolina knocks off Clemson in the ACC title game ... or if Florida somehow beats Alabama in the SEC title game ... or if USC turns the tables on Stanford and avenges its earlier loss in the Pac-12 title game ...

Well, you know. Stuff could happen. Not Fordham, of course, but, again, you never know with these guys.

The whole scenario, curiously, gives the lie to what a lot of playoff detractors used to say, which is that a playoff would diminish the value of the college football regular season. Yet Ohio State is out of the mix right now precisely because of what happened in the regular season, or at least most of it. The Buckeyes didn't play like a top-four team when it really counted, and so now their only hope is that a whole stack of dominoes fall on Saturday.

If they don't, here we'll go again with the grumbling. Pundits will pundit that the CFP isn't really the best four teams. They'll say it's just the old BCS in a newer party dress, with flawed human beings making flawed value judgments. And they'll be right in a sense.

The only solution to this is a fairly simple one, but also one college football roundly rejected: An eight-team playoff. The champions of the Power Five conferences all get automatic bids. Three other teams -- also from the Power Five, perhaps, or from the independent ranks -- get at-large bids. That's how college hoops does it, and by and large it works.

To be sure, there'll still be arguments about the three at-large teams. But at least five slots will be beyond dispute, because they'll have proved it definitively on the field. And that's something, right?

Even if Fordham won't like it.

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