The push for expanding the College Football Playoff to 12 teams has some people – many of those in the media who have been pushing this proposal – having visions of what March Madness has brought to college basketball.
Thrilling early-round games, monumental upsets of big programs by little schools and buzzer-beaters at such a rate the phrase is now a part of every sports fan’s vocabulary.
But college football is not college basketball and those who envision a series of those March Madness moments are going to be very disappointed. December Downers is more like it.
Rather than upsets and miracle finishes (well, unless Auburn is involved; the Tigers thrive on such things so often it’s a part of their regular game plan) what we will get are blowouts. You thought Oregon-Georgia to open the 2022 season was lopsided? Wait until we get to a 12-team playoff where such non-contests will be the norm rather than the exception.
One of the reasons for this is the simple fact that football is more of a physical sport than basketball. A stronger team can simply muscle its way past a weaker opponent.
There are also a lot more playmakers in football. In basketball, one player with a hot hand can win a game and create an upset. That is unlikely to happen in football and even it does, it’s going to come from an elite program that has elite players.
Then there are injuries. The more games teams play the more they are likely to have injured players. The top programs have more depth to overcome injuries than those with less recruiting prowess.
And let’s face it, since the inception of the four-team playoff it’s been nearly impossible to find more than two or three worthy teams of playing for a National Championship, let alone 12. That has been reflected in the number of first-round blowouts; just last year, for example, Michigan did not even belong on the field against Georgia. Get used to more of those games with 12 teams in the playoff.
Let’s also consider the fans, the true die-hard college football ones who watch their team on a weekly basis. For top teams, every game is a must- win scenario because in the current system, two losses essentially ends the season. Even one loss can be fatal; it must come against the right team at the right moment. Teams cannot let their guard down for a second and fans of those teams know it. Their March Madness drama happens every Saturday.
In this situation, which has existed pretty much since the Associated Press began ranking teams, fans also closely watch other games hoping teams ranked against them will lose. It’s weekly excitement that only happens in college football.
That will no longer be the case with a 12-team playoff.
And don’t except many March Madness moments, either.