Name two better teams to play for the college football championship. I dare you.
Don’t say Oklahoma or
Top-ranked Alabama and No. 2
That doesn't mean the current system is theoretically the best way to determine a champion. An expanded field — eight contenders, maybe even 16 — might yield a more comprehensive result.
But is the four-team format the best possible solution?
Pleading his case to a small group of reporters in a hallway Sunday morning, Bill Hancock, the head of the CFP, put it this way: "You have to look at the nature of college football."
The evolution of the postseason — from traditional bowls to the
There are compelling reasons for a broader field, which would make room for teams that suffer from bad calls or unlucky breaks during the regular season, not to mention teams that come on strong at the end.
On the flip side, established bowls have fought to keep their relevance and university presidents have publicly fretted about adding more games, reluctant to pull student-athletes away from class.
Given that the NCAA's basketball tournament stretches about three weeks, the latter concern seems questionable. But March Madness might be the best argument against expansion.
Basketball's 68-team bracket has sucked the life out of the regular season. The same could happen in football, which has always been special because each week feels like do-or-die.
"It wouldn't have been the same," Hancock said.
Conference championships could take an even bigger hit.
With an upset loss to Pittsburgh on its record, Clemson knew it had to get past Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.
“Everybody is talking about wanting to expand the playoff and all that,” said Jeff Scott, the
Alabama could have played the Southeastern Conference title game confident that a loss to Florida would not knock it out of playoff contention. The stakes might not have been nearly as high in the Big Ten and the Pac-12.
"The postseason and the regular season are bound together," Hancock said.
Still, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster knows that some fans — a lot of fans — want change. He understands the benefits of a larger bracket.
"It would give a lot of people opportunities," he said. "But also bang a lot of people up."
Foster is talking about the players.
Remember, these aren't professionals who can devote all of their time to training and recuperating. They are young men — many of them teenagers — who ostensibly spend hours each day attending class and studying. A long season can take its toll.
"Right now," Foster said, "I can't imagine playing another game after this."
As it stands, the teams that just missed the playoffs weren't exactly relegated to oblivion. They played in major bowl games before big crowds and national television audiences.
Michigan went to the
Good luck to the
"If the bowls were going to be diminished significantly, it would have started with the BCS," Hancock said. "I don't see it."
The CFP is a quarter of the way through a 12-year contract that contains no language for changing the current parameters. The system's third season concludes with a compelling matchup.
This is a repeat of last year's thrilling final, when a surprise onside kick sparked Alabama's 45-40 victory.
The undefeated Crimson Tide rely on a defense that scored an astounding 11 times off turnovers this season and a quarterback, Jalen Hurts, hoping to disprove the old adage that no team can win it all with a true freshman behind center.
On the other side of the field, Clemson is looking for revenge, led by a star quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who many believe should have won the
"These are the two best teams and, to be honest with you, I don't think there's another team out there that's capable of beating Alabama," Swinney said. "I think we're probably the only team that has a chance."
Granted, just because the CFP got it right this year, that doesn't make it perfect.
But it might just be the best answer for college football.