When Brian Kelly stored his offense on the sphere in additional time in opposition to Alabama on Saturday night time, time stopped. The whole nation slid to the sting of their seats, a few of us with beads of sweat dripping down our foreheads.
This was a playoff sport between bitter SEC rivals. As the game exists now, the outcomes of video games like this go a great distance in figuring out the eventual nationwide champion. So we watched with bated breath.
Kelly, the first-year head coach attempting to show to his rabid LSU fan base that this program can compete on the highest stage below his watch, didn’t need the sport to go to a different additional time. His workforce simply scored a landing and was an additional level away from tying the sport and forcing a second OT. Instead, he opted to go for two. He was at house. His workforce proved it might rating. It had the large, unhealthy wolf on the ropes.
He was going for it with the whole lot on the road — his workforce’s season, a possible spot within the College Football Playoff and the approval of a fan base. He put his fingers on his chips and slowly pushed them to the center of the desk.
College soccer perfection.
Kelly succeeded. Quarterback Jayden Daniels discovered tight finish Mason Taylor a yard wanting the tip zone earlier than the proficient freshman crossed the aim line. LSU gained 32-31. The Tigers stay alive for the SEC championship — and the presumed Playoff spot that comes with that championship — whereas Alabama’s nationwide title hopes died.
Yes, that was a regular-season sport. But it was primarily a playoff sport, the place the winner takes all. That’s how faculty soccer works with the present four-team system. The spots are absurdly unique in comparison with different sports activities, which is why faculty soccer has essentially the most compelling common season. Though some groups could get the good thing about the doubt — similar to groups within the SEC like two-loss LSU, which remains to be clinging to the hope that it could possibly win the perfect and deepest convention within the sport — everybody on the Power 5 stage has an opportunity. Win your whole video games, you’re in. It’s easy. And when you lose, issues could fall your manner or they could not, however that loss exposes you to the potential of being omitted.
There had been no CFP logos on the sphere in Baton Rouge on Saturday, however all of us obtained a playoff sport in November.
It looks like everyone is for the expansion of the College Football Playoff. There is an pleasure about the way it’ll grant entry to extra groups and add the aforementioned stakes to different video games a few of us could cross over now. The little man is lastly being seen. The Group of 5 groups are lastly being represented. And having branded Playoff video games on campus is an thrilling new risk in a sport that has developed dramatically within the final three years. The positives of expansion are regularly highlighted within the media.
Curiously, there haven’t been many who’ve voiced the negatives. Do we actually wish to tamper with the dramatic common season this four-team discipline gives? To get all the advantages of expansion, you must acknowledge that we’re taking away the magic from the big-time regular-season playoff video games that exist already.
What had been the three greatest outcomes of the previous weekend? LSU over Alabama, Georgia over Tennessee and Notre Dame over Clemson. All three losers of these video games had been represented within the prime 12 of the College Football Playoff committee’s most up-to-date rankings launched Tuesday night. Tennessee was No. 5, Alabama was No. 9 and Clemson was No. 10. No penalties for dropping.
Oh, and this 12 months’s Ohio State–Michigan sport? You know, the sport that can probably pit two undefeated Big Ten East groups for an opportunity to win their convention and make the Playoff? Well, with an expanded discipline, the outcomes of that sport gained’t matter for the nationwide title race. Sure, the fan bases will at all times care as a result of it’s a bitter rivalry, however the one penalties of dropping that sport could be a decrease seed and having to listen to the opposing fan base speak trash. Ohio State could lose the sport, however it’ll be the No. 7 seed within the College Football Playoff and host one other workforce and be a 23-point favourite as an alternative. Great.
It’s comprehensible to wish to see new groups. We’re bored with the identical outcomes yearly. So what will we do? We change the definition of success — be a top-12 workforce as an alternative of a top-four workforce — relatively than forcing enchancment and excellence.
What Michigan did final 12 months was particular. After regularly falling quick in the course of the Jim Harbaugh period, the Wolverines restructured their workers and went to work. They beat Ohio State on the finish of the 12 months. They gained the Big Ten. They made the Playoff. That’s one thing Wolverines followers could be happy with. That’s one thing they will cherish eternally, to make it into the unique membership the onerous manner. The pure manner.
That is actual achievement, not pretend achievement that may have come from Michigan making it one other 12 months because the No. 11 seed. Or the achievement that Cincinnati feels by breaking the Group of 5 barrier. Those are significant. They’re actual. They matter.
In the longer term, we’re going to must have fun forgettable groups as a result of we lowered our commonplace. Those 9-3 groups that James Franklin places on the sphere that frustrate Penn State followers? Yeah, these groups could make the CFP now. Shift your perspective from failure to success as a result of that’s a lot simpler than demanding Penn State really put collectively a workforce able to profitable all of it. Franklin can money his $75 million assured as a result of he makes the Playoff now with out having to enhance the product.
The College Football Playoff exists to find out the nationwide champion.
But we’re inviting groups that don’t deserve that distinction so we are able to all really feel higher for the little man. Teams which might be clearly inferior can hold banners now as a result of hey, it’s not honest they will’t compete with Georgia and Alabama.
And within the situations when it’s not for the little man, all we’re doing is giving the Alabamas of the world a second mulligan to allow them to compete for nationwide championship in years through which they don’t need to be within the discipline. The first workforce that wins the brand new College Football Playoff as a No. 6 seed or worse goes to be an excellent workforce that was afforded a 3rd likelihood and obtained scorching on the finish of the 12 months. That 2015 Ohio State workforce that missed the Playoff as a result of it misplaced to Michigan State at house in November didn’t need to win a nationwide title as a result of it lallygagged all 12 months regardless of its immense expertise. Now we’re opening the door again as much as extremely proficient groups that weren’t nice and don’t need to be celebrated.
The common seasons don’t matter for Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson anymore. Lose three video games? No downside, you’re in anyway.
Which brings us to the idea of schadenfreude. In faculty soccer, we get virtually as a lot enjoyment out of watching different groups undergo as we do watching our groups prosper. It’s in contrast to another sport. And that’s what makes the upset so compelling. It’s not simply beating a workforce you’re not purported to beat. It’s the joys of witnessing the higher workforce’s season crumble in entrance of the whole nation. That’s the epitome of school soccer.
The response to that can predictably be that we’re now assigning extra significance to video games that may’ve been ignored prior to now. But aren’t we getting a playoff sport for TCU when it travels to Texas on Saturday? My colleague, Sam Khan Jr., will argue that TCU is held to a special commonplace than LSU or Alabama. Yes, that’s true as a result of LSU and Alabama are constructed in another way and play in a convention that’s infinitely tougher. When you win the SEC, you reap the advantages of that distinction. And even when TCU is held to a special commonplace, if it desires to compete for a nationwide championship — as a result of that’s what this entire factor is about — shouldn’t it beat the three-loss Longhorns within the playoff this weekend? Maybe TCU is held to a special commonplace as a result of it’s a seven-point underdog to a three-loss workforce.
The fantastic thing about it, although, is that TCU doesn’t have to win by 100 to impress the committee. All it must do is win and maintain profitable its playoff video games between now and Selection Sunday. There isn’t a Power 5 workforce that doesn’t management its personal future. Wake Forest, Syracuse and whoever else — you wish to compete for a nationwide title? Be wonderful, don’t lose and win your convention.
If you’re fearful in regards to the Group of 5, advantageous. That’s honest. There is a component to this that stinks when undefeated groups like UCF in 2017 get omitted. If you wish to name it the College Football Playoff, it’s honest to need everybody to have a seat on the desk. But if we’re centered on crowning a nationwide champion, then the Group of 5 needs to be the casualty. And Cincinnati proved that it’s not inconceivable for a Group of 5 workforce to win a nationwide title. The Bearcats additionally confirmed what occurs while you face a workforce that’s really geared up to do it.
It appears to me that we’re extra involved about ensuring everyone seems to be included relatively than really crowning the perfect workforce. And in contrast to different sports activities, the nationwide champion in faculty soccer in the course of the Playoff period has unequivocally topped the perfect workforce yearly. This isn’t an all people love all people state of affairs. This is a giant enterprise the place we’re demanding excellence to be considered as the most effective.
That’s how the world works, doesn’t it? Nobody cares if you happen to’re included among the many highest-paid individuals on the earth if you happen to don’t produce. It’s motion then outcomes. Here, we’re altering the outcomes with out demanding the motion.
The playoff has been expanded since 2014. We simply obtained the playoff video games within the common season. We love the common season and we’re altering it for inclusion. Yes, the UCFs of the world are going to make it now, however so are the two-loss Alabama groups.
You could say that it’ll create extra fascinating video games on the finish of the 12 months, and positive, it can. And we’ll all watch them as a result of faculty soccer is wildly entertaining and none of us can get sufficient soccer. We’ll watch this sport it doesn’t matter what the system appears like.
It is simply odd that for all of the cheering we get from everybody about how cool the expanded College Football Playoff goes to be, no person is prepared to face up and discuss the price of expansion: We’re handing out participation trophies to inferior groups and we’re watering down the common season. And we aren’t even going to get new champions out of it. The similar groups you’re bored of watching now are going to win the following model of the Playoff, too, as a result of they’re in a league of their very own.
Expansion is dear.
Most individuals, humorous sufficient, are prepared to look previous the price.
(Sam Khan Jr. takes the opposite aspect of this debate. You can read it here.)
(Photo of Jahmyr Gibbs and Micah Baskerville: John Korduner / Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Images)