A College Football Playoff? Get Ready for Lots of SEC-quels [OPINION]
They’ve just started production for college football’s playoff blockbuster, but the sneak previews are already out. And this flick is scary…y’all.
“In a world of plenty, they wanted more. For them, it was a passage to unimagined treasure. But instead of getting themselves in, they let something else out.”
Cut to: shots of B1G Commissioner Jim Delaney in a tattered suit, desperate and tired, but still running down a city street. Something wet drops on Delaney’s head and forces him to stop.
After wiping his head in disgust, realization dawns. Slowly, Delaney looks up in horror…and screams.
Cut to: POV shot of what Delaney sees. Towering above him is the silhouette of a 14-headed monster. The monster is backlit, but one of its heads appears to be wearing a giant white cap.
Cue movie announcer guy over Delaney’s screams as the monster’s heads roar…
“S…E…C! Some doors are better left unopened.”
This will be the re-boot, by the way. We’ve now had six sequels in the current series. “SEC VII” opened with great results in its Monday night premiere.
Don’t expect the sequels to stop with the re-boot, either. When college football inevitably moves past the plus-one championship model to a full-scale playoff the franchise could generate more of them than “Friday the 13th”, “Paranormal Activity” and “Saw” put together.
And that would be terrible for college football.
You can’t say the game’s leadership hasn’t seen a sneak preview or seven. When SEC Commissioner Mike Slive first presented the idea of a plus-one to conference commissioners in 2008, it was rejected by almost everyone.
They knew what Slive was up to. His conference had already won two straight BCS crystal footballs.
But fans of the game were outraged. Writers poured buckets of ink over the conferences’ rejection of Slive’s proposal.
And the SEC has gone out and won five more BCS trophies.
So, why now? What changed?
Certainly not respect levels for fans and writers.
It’s the whiff of big money. The power brokers of the game have given in to their temptations, and they’ll do the same in a few years when they see even bigger money with an eight- or 12-team playoff.
What will that look like? A cross between “Pacific Rim” and “Stargate”. A BCS conference-led run to a playoff will mean multiple berths for America’s strongest conference. It will create a rip in the dimensional fabric that will allow the whole multi-headed SEC monster to enter the college football world.
In the current BCS universe, the opening is only large enough to allow one of the monster’s heads out at a time. Still, “SEC” has topped college football’s box office for seven straight years.
Did anyone really think that was going to change with the BCS championship game? Many were hoping so, but it turned out like you’d expect a battle between an unarmed runt and a large pachyderm would.
ALL IN THE NUMBERS
Allowing a full-fledged playoff could honestly make the SEC’s domination of the game worse.
The Big XII might have one or two teams to contend for a full playoff in a given year. The Pac-12 and B1G, too. But the SEC consistently has two or three teams each season that will earn their ticket to the show.
It waters down the odds for other conferences who would drop fewer schools in the same playoff pool where the SEC will have more teams.
Add to that stacked deck the SEC’s roster depth, strength on the lines, recruiting and tradition and tell me the odds aren’t pointing to some monstrous results.
And, like Hollywood blockbusters squeeze out screen space and box office bank for movies that don’t come with a catch-phrase, an SEC-dominated college football playoff will drain the game of its spark.
IT’S NO MYSTERY
The essence of any good playoff is surprise. In the NCAA basketball tournament, surprise comes from numbers. The math of throwing 68 teams into a winner-take-all championship means there will be upsets. “Cinderella” is still box office gold every March.
Giving the SEC the multiple bids in any playoff numbering more than four means Cinderella gets her taffeta trampled — no way she sustains a three- or four-week run against stronger, deeper competition.
The BCS conferences’ greatest mistake is not embracing football Cinderellas like Boise State, Utah and TCU. They were nearly forced to include those schools.
Sure, everyone wants the big boys in a championship, but can anyone honestly say Boise State’s upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl wasn’t one of the best college football games ever?
Where we go wrong is in confusing a one-off like Boise’s big win with surprises in the NFL post-season. We think, “Why wouldn’t they do the same in a playoff?”
Because Cinderella doesn’t really exist in the NFL, she’s just drawn that way. In the league, the best players go to the worst teams to create parity, which creates surprise.
In college, the best players can choose where they go, and many go to the SEC because of its great football schools. To no one’s surprise.
Presidents, athletic directors and commissioners should strive to keep that beast at bay and stick with the plus-one.
They won’t, though, and it’ll be like letting Mrs. Delaney’s 5th-grade science class play with the Large Hadron Collider. They don’t really know what they’re doing, but they won’t be able to keep from doing something.
Replace rambunctious curiosity with money, like most of us do, and you see — they can’t stop.
It’s why the BCS was created in the first place. It’s why college football’s power brokers are opening Pandora’s box again in two seasons, the Tokyo rubble of the last half-decade be damned.
Remember? History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men.