The 12-team playoff is a year away, and we should all be ready to greet it enthusiastically. You disagree? I have my reasons, and I won’t opt out of them.
Arlington, TEXAS — Is he in or is he out?
Marvin Harrison Jr. won’t say. Brian Hartline won’t say. Ryan Day won’t say.
Ohio State players are opting in for this so-called meaningless Cotton Bowl like it was a playoff game. But Harrison? Reporters are as out of the loop as cornerbacks trying to cover him. And reporters thought getting injury news out of Day was a waste of the one and only question you get to ask.
The Harrison mystery will solve itself when the No. 7 Buckeyes take the field Friday night. Regardless, this team that has been maligned off and on all year for quarterback play…offensive line play…play calling…not enough sacks…and not winning the biggest game on the schedule…appears aggravated enough to stuff a bag of cotton balls in every critic’s mouth. They get the chance against No. 9 Missouri at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
But what if this was next year?
If you hate the 12-team playoff model, you have my blessing to consider these reasons to love it.
No. 1: Players entering the NFL Draft won’t opt out if their team is in the playoffs. That’s players – many of them stars – from 12 teams instead of four who will support the brotherhood they are so fond of praising.
Marvin Harrison Jr. wouldn’t be doing this dance. And that would put great joy deep in the heart of every Ohio State fan.
And if the Buckeyes somehow don’t make the top 12, you won’t care who’s in and who’s out of whatever bowl they end up in on a week night when you have other plans.
No. 2: More playoff teams and more playoff games mean more big games. It’s not the other way around as the detractors have tried to sell it.
How many times have we heard that the integrity of the regular season will be compromised? We have been way too hung up on the doctrine that teams with one or no losses are the only teams worthy of consideration. That thinking is a product of tradition, forced on us by polls and bowls.
Tradition isn’t always good. Tradition, sometimes, deprives us of bigger and better. Georgia and Florida State aren’t in the playoffs. How is that better than them being in? It’s not.
Other sports have expanded playoffs to complaints of messing with tradition. Major League Baseball has benefited from more teams getting in because more regular season games mean something.
Off the top of my head, here’s a list of the truly impactful games this season: Ohio State-Notre Dame, Ohio State-Penn State, Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Georgia, Washington-USC, Washington-Oregon (twice), Texas-Alabama, Texas-Oklahoma.
That’s nine games.
That’s not even one a week.
Simple multiplication of 12 playoff teams instead of four brings us to at least 27 impactful games. And instead of three playoff games, we get 11.
This is so win-win I can hardly stand it.
Next Dec. 20, a Friday night, the first of four first-round games kicks off a month-long celebration of college football. If you thought New Years Day, pre-BCS title game, was a celebration of the sport, what’s coming will make those days seem like what they are: old-fashioned.
On the next day, we get a tripleheader. Believe me, you can handle it. You adapted to it on NFL Sundays, you can adapt to this.
The quarterfinals follow the same format with the Fiesta Bowl on New Years Eve and a tripleheader of bowls on New Years Day, just like the old days.
The semifinals follow on the nights of Thursday, January 9, and Friday, January 10, from the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl. The championship game heads to Atlanta on Monday, January 20.
Programs like Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia will make the playoffs every year for the foreseeable future. Be excited about that. If you travel, save a little more for the year the Buckeyes make it to the final.
Get ready for the new and improved age of college football when what happens on the field grows in significance and makes the transfer portal and NIL just part of the business. College football is giving itself a chance at a long-running postseason that will grow the fanbase and bring excitement to more programs and fans.
And we won’t be wondering if a player like Marv is going to play Friday night.
However, Ohio State has still has much to look forward to regardless of the fact they don’t get to advance to another round if they win. That’s not a case for keeping a four-team playoff. This is a unique season. The players want to go out winners because of the Michigan losing streak. That kind of motivation doesn’t usually exist for non-playoff teams, but this year is different.
Devin Brown gets to play quarterback for an entire game and audition for the starting job. That’s never happened before in a bowl game. He might be great. He might be average. Probably somewhere in between.
You will see more of Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss. That’s a good thing. Remember how the play of Harrison Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Emeka Egbuka made you forget that Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson passed on the Rose Bowl to save themselves for the draft? That could happen again.
And next year, even with a loss or two that makes you grind your teeth, the Buckeyes will be one of the dozen teams with a chance to win it all.
And all the stars – big and bright – will play football.