It sounds great, right? Not so fast. Let me start with the obvious. There are 125 teams in Division I football. Four will compete in the playoff. Those four will be chosen by a committee of 13 humans, who are at liberty to use whatever criteria they see fit in making the selection. Don’t look now, but I think this is still a beauty pageant.
A four-team playoff will frequently leave out teams that could have a legitimate chance of winning it all. The 2008 Utes, for example, most likely would not have been selected. So there will still be endless arguments about the injustices, in which everyone will quickly assume their familiar roles. Teams from the more obscure conferences will contend that record should matter more than strength of schedule, and that it’s not their fault Ohio State and Boston College wouldn’t return their calls. Braggarts from the Southeast Conference will boast that, honestly, none of the other conferences have any respectable teams, so why shouldn’t we have an all-SEC playoff? This could quickly come to look like a movie we’ve all already seen.
As usual, though, the sequel will be less good than the original. With the playoff system established, the rest of the post-season will recede further and further into the background. Under the BCS, the National Title game was a cherry on top of a delicious Bowl Sundae. The BCS post-season has always served up some wonderful games, and in fact, this year’s bowl sequence has been a string of almost non-stop thrillers, as if the stars have somehow aligned to remind us how good we really have it, right before we kill the golden goose. Officially the bowls will still exist next year, but realistically, a playoff has a tendency to suck all the oxygen right out of the room. Every game that doesn’t “go anywhere” might as well be re-named the Also Ran Bowl. We’ve traded a rich bowl tradition for a mess of playoff pottage.