The Spread, Week Sixteen: Bowl Movement

It’s bowl season and maybe that excites you, but I find it pretty anti-climatic. Instead of watching good teams face off week after week with everything on the line in a battle to be the last one standing, we get a giant pile of one-off matchups, most of which we wouldn’t watch if they weren’t the only options.

Arizona vs. Nevada? Toledo vs. Utah State? Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky?


Sure, come January we get… um… a bunch of Big Ten losses and hopefully a Northern Illinois upset over Florida State (otherwise, that game will be terrible). Kansas State vs. Oregon and Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M should be good, but they don’t mean anything. Alabama vs. Notre Dame for the title is fine, but don’t we deserve better?

Yeah, I know, the playoff is coming and I hate to complain about that, because it’s a great first step. But as progress goes, it’s pretty conservative. If you consider the BCS a two-team playoff, then this new thing adds a single round to that. And it’s become clear that the playoff is not the priority for anyone involved. More attention and resources have been directed toward re-structuring the bowl system that surrounds it and inflating conferences until no one even knows who they’re supposed to hate anymore. And then there’s the fact that this first step was designed in a way that makes it impossible to take a second step until 2026.

All to ensure that we get more Air Force vs. Rice. And Iowa State vs. Tulsa. And East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.

Why not scrap the bowls entirely and replace them with a 32-team extravaganza that would instantly become the sports event of the year? Don’t think there’s enough time for that? If it started this Saturday (just like the bowls do) and allowed 6 days between rounds, the title game would be on January 8, just one day later than currently scheduled.

As for intriguing games on opening weekend, do you think you might tune in to Nebraska @ Oklahoma? (Did I mention my playoff would have its games hosted by the higher-seeded team? Of course it would.) How about Texas @ Stanford or Northwestern @ Clemson? Could the Alvarez-helmed Badgers pull off a shocker at LSU? Can trendy Cinderella pick Northern Illinois off Michigan at home for a shot at Alabama? Or will Rutgers upend the Tide themselves?

Will there be mismatches and blowouts in this playoff? Of course, but they will be blowouts by teams we care about. And there will be some upsets too, because that’s what happens. Why is college football the only sport that has to worry about whether its champion was the “best” team? What does that even mean? Pick any national champion in the BCS era, and you can find someone who will argue convincingly that they weren’t the best team that season. This obsession with the national champ “deserving it” is costing us an entertaining post-season full of exciting games featuring teams that would never play each other otherwise. And every single game would matter.

We could have that every December.

Or do you prefer Minnesota vs. Texas Tech?


  1. Scenarios like this are tantalizing but oh-so-out-of-reach. Everything makes sense on paper. I’m sure the logistics aren’t that hard to figure out. CFB fans would sport month-long chubbies akin to Steve Martin’s Christmas wish oh so long ago. But we get that other stuff.

    And we’ll probably watch.


  2. Of course we’ll watch, because we love college football and there’s no other option. It’s unrealistic to expect fans to tune out to “send a message.”

    And we’re never going to get this, but I wanted people to see what we’re missing. I’m looking forward to the upcoming playoff system because it’s more fair than the BCS and that should always be the goal. I’m still hoping to see an 8-team playoff in my lifetime but I can’t imagine anything beyond that will happen without a major landscape shift.

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