As if to cap off a very strange year in sports, here comes a controversial set of college football playoff selections, along with bowl lineups that can only be described as pandemic-deflated.
Alabama and Clemson were easy choices for the national championship foursome. It’s harder to understand how No. 3 Ohio State got in because the Buckeyes only played six games, including last week’s Big Ten championship. Ditto for No. 4 Notre Dame, which was undefeated at 10-0 until getting smashed by Clemson in a rematch of their double-overtime regular season game in South Bend.
The four choices for the playoff never satisfy everyone, so a little grousing is typical. And if you get down to it, this is one of those years when Alabama and Clemson are a notch above everyone else, so the other two slots probably don’t matter much.
Still, it seems clear that the playoff selection committee is determined to give preference to college football’s more prominent programs. Schools such as Texas A&M and especially unbeaten Cincinnati are not wrong when they feel like they’ll never be invited to the party.
The solution to this is more teams in the playoff, but that’s probably a few years away, and it will create a whole new set of issues for college football. Meanwhile, this year’s convoluted bowl lineup shows just how badly the coronavirus affected the sport.
First of all, a number of high-profile schools — Penn State, Southern California, Georgia Tech, Nebraska and Boise State among them — decided their players had been through enough in a season of postponed games and virus cases and chose not to play in a bowl.
Anticipating this early on, the NCAA said that this year, a team’s record wouldn’t matter at bowl time. Thus 2-8 South Carolina is playing in the Gasparilla Bowl. Ole Miss and Mississippi State, which also had losing records, are going to bowls as well.
Even with that added flexibility, there were not enough willing teams to go around, and 15 bowls already have been cancelled. It shows that college football has far too many bowls and that their value, even in a pandemic season, is questionable.