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FSU, Bama, Expansion, & The Consequences of Controlled Anarchy

As a child, I could never stand when the reason given for a requirement, punishment, or anything else for that matter was "Because I said so." I always felt that if that was the best response someone could conjure up when being questioned, it almost proved that they were clearly in the wrong. Unfortunately, it just so happens that my favorite sport, College Football, is built upon the decaying foundation of "Because I said so."

When the College Football Playoff Committee revealed their fourth finalist, Alabama, today and left out an undefeated ACC champion that scheduled the highest leverage non-conference game of the season (against LSU on a neutral) that all but proved something that many of us fans have known for a while now, their are no rules.

The exclusion of the unbeaten Seminoles is a conference and money issue being disguised as an injury issue. Going into week 11 of the College Football season, things were shaping up in a way that was all but guaranteed to put the Committee in a pickle. It was becoming more and more inevitable that all 5 power conferences would have a champion with no more than one loss and at a minimum one signature win. The Committee needed Florida state, Texas, or the Pac 12 to stumble on their way to the finish line in order to absolve them of any difficult decisions. Despite many attempts, I'm looking at you Washington, the nightmare situation presented itself. Luckily for the Committee however, a loss, not of a game but of a star quarterback, appeared and gave them the proverbial trap door they needed.

The injury to star Jordan Travis and the mediocre Seminole offensive performances that followed, gave the Committee the chance to say that the Noles were no longer the same team that won the previous 11 games and thus would not be able to compete on the level of the other prospective finalists, and that mattered, because they said so.

The worst part about this argument is that the Committee was right. Without Travis, or even with him if you ask me, the boys from Tallahassee stood no chance when matched up with proven powers like Michigan, Texas, and SEC Champion Alabama. The problem is not that the Greater College Football Community was robbed of the chance to see an over matched, injury depleted, Seminoles' squad attempt to pull a 2014 Cardale Jones and shock the world, Alabama actually presents a true threat to the rest of the 4 team field and is the better team of the two, The problem is that the Committee has yet again changed their mind on what their job is and given us the explanation of "Because I said so." They did this by pushing the narrative that their job is to assemble the 4 best teams in order to crown a champion which is, for lack of a better term, horse-shit. If you want the 4 best teams then Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia would be meeting in some combination on neutral fields January 1 for the right to move on to the National Championship. In similar situations, last year for example, the "more deserving team" (TCU) has made it in over the better one (Alabama) because of the way the regular season shook out and the number of losses each team had. However, in this instance the Committee pushed this narrative on us because it was the only way they could get their precious SEC into the playoff. They could not put Bama in over Texas because that would essentially be telling teams not to schedule tough non-conference games as they do not matter, so instead they told Florida State that none of their regular season games mattered this year, because they said so. Which is something that college football fans need to get used to because it is now the reality we live in.

This exclusion of Florida State, despite them not losing a game all season, in favor of a team that had already lost to another top 3 team, will amount to be just the tip of the iceberg in what will become the future of College Football. With the introduction of the 12 team playoff, no big regular season games will carry the significance of years past. Take teams like Penn State, Missouri, or Ole Miss for example. All these teams would be in a 12 team field if the format had changed a year prior, despite the fact that all three of them went 0-2 in their biggest games on the schedule (Ohio State & Michigan for PSU and Alabama & Georgia for the other 2). This is what is wrong with the 12 team playoff, it kills the magic of the sport. Quite literally every other major sport in the country is built around the idea of using the regular season purely as a way to setup an exciting playoff that produces a champion. That is the reason why you never see message boards arguing over Jayson Tatum's record against the Lakers, or how many Maui Invitationals that Kansas has won. That is what makes College Football unique, it is essentially 13 straight Saturday's in the fall of de-facto playoff games. If you want to hoist that hideous, lip stick tube looking trophy on the second Monday in January you have to defeat all your rivals, make sure you do not trip up against lesser foes, and win your conference; and because of that every game, holds significant importance when trying to achieve the greater goal. Now we have been robbed of that. We will see teams like 2015 Ohio State get another crack at things despite completely sleep walking through a regular season. We'll see a 2019 Wisconsin potentially get a 3rd shot at the Buckeyes despite proving they do not belong on the field with them both indoors and out. And with that, in exchange for the false sense of hope these unserious programs will receive, we will lose the absolutely sphincter tightening tension that comes every Saturday, no matter the opponent, when the game is close come the fourth quarter.

There will be those that argue this will be a good thing for the sport, it will lead to more teams being "in the mix" and thus a more competitive landscape. I would like to refer to these people as idealists. College Football, unlike the NFL; College Hoops, and other post season based sports; is not a equal opportunity environment. The finite amount of resources are not evenly distributed, unlike the NFL, and the roster capacity allows for the stacking of talent by flexing those resources, unlike College Basketball. With this being the structure of the sport as a whole, it is impossible for their not to be a clear gap between the true top tier of the sport and everyone else. The great equalizer, however, was always that the margin for error was so thin that one misstep and anyone can be knocked off making it, so that teams need to come to play every week. The problem is that the 12 team playoff is not redistributing any of these resources, it is just giving the allusion that it is by making more teams feel relevant and important, while what it truly is doing is widening the advantage for the top tier by expanding their room for error. Gone are the days of Ohio State vs Michigan or Alabama vs Georgia being elimination games that not only propel the winner in rankings, but also remove one more threat from their march to a ring. Now we will see instances where Ohio State and Michigan will play two weeks in a row to end the season where either team can lose both matchups and still make the playoff with a chance to get revenge with the ole; third times the charm. Rivalries will become much more about bragging rights and the post season will now become the biggest piece of the sport despite many first and second round matchups that will feature double digit spreads.

The funniest thing about this whole thing is that my alma mater, Ohio State, will be the biggest beneficiary of the 12 team. They would have most likely repeated as Champions in 2015 in a 12 team world, they would be entering their 10th straight playoff currently with a true shot at winning another National Championship, and the discussion around Ryan Day not being able to beat Michigan would be far easier to look past while he is coaching in the semi-finals year in and year out. While this will probably be better for my mental well being on Saturday's in the fall, I will dearly miss the feeling of losing my mind thinking Maryland is about to ruin our season or that the Michigan game is a de-facto playoff game. All that is gone now, and with NIL and the portal coming along just about the same time, so is the sport I fell in love with.

I hope everyone enjoyed this years big games and near upsets and heart pounding moments, because come next year they will be met with a "we'll see both these teams come January" type line from an announcer rather than the ultimate contrast of emotions from fanbases that we are used to, and the feeling Florida State has now, that none of those big wins for them, or big losses for others mattered, will be how we feel after each game until the threat of a 3 in the loss column arises.

The Committee had every reason to keep Florida State in and leave Alabama out. They had every reason to slowly expand the playoff starting with 6 or 8 at first rather than jumping to 12. They had every reason to keep the sport we love as the sport we love in it's own unique fucked up and anxiety ridden way. But they didn't do it and you know why they didn't? Because they said so.

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