The growing catalog of College Football Playoff scenarios resembles a database of Tom Hanks movies.
Everything must fall perfectly into place for the team’s mission to turn out successfully (“Apollo 13”).
Most everyone else gets mowed down, leaving your team the last one standing (“Saving Private Ryan”).
Take heart, it will all work out wonderfully in the end (“Sleepless in Seattle”).
Members of the playoff selection committee should be smart enough to know a pretender when they see one (“Catch Me if you Can”).
Don’t overthink it. Just survive the day and advance. (“Cast Away”).
It all comes down to the conference championship games (“A League of Their Own”).
And anything can happen in college football. And usually does. (“Forrest Gump”).
Urban Meyer goes for Gump. The Ohio State coach, whose answers during his weekly news conferences keep getting shorter as the season grows longer, tied off all talk of playoff ramifications by saying there will be zero discussion of the past or future (or much of the present, either, as it turns out) until at least 2028. Or maybe mid-January, depending how things play out for the Buckeyes.
But what few words Meyer ascribed to the topsy-turvy nature of college football fall in line with the box of chocolates, never-know-what-you-will-get scenario. Get blasted by Iowa one week, suffocate Sparty the next. What’s next? Lose to Illinois on Saturday? Uh … don’t bet on it.
“Every year I’ve been involved in college football there’s like ‘What? What happened?’ It’s the nature of the beast,” Meyer said.
The beast is a slippery snake, slithering to and fro as it swallows one team’s hopes, the digestion process opening the door to others.
Last week, Georgia sat atop the College Football Playoff rankings. This week, it flopped faster than “Larry Crowne.” Did losing to Auburn ruin the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes? Hardly, given there remain more playoff possibilities than Hanks films (71).
This is where I confess my tendency to waffle on the issue of whether the playoffs should be expanded to eight or 16 teams. A decade ago, I was against messing with a Bowl Championship Series system that was perfect in its imperfection. The hue and cry among fans whose teams were not voted one of the two to play for the national championship was good for college football because it lit a fuse of controversy that kept people yapping.
About five years ago I changed my tune, concluding that the thin lines separating the best teams were too blurry to justify limiting a playoff to two schools. Four were not enough, either. Eight seemed about right, more fair, given that Nos. 9 through 25 could hardly argue their case.
But I’m swinging back to the current model as being solid, because of what happened last weekend — Georgia, Notre Dame, TCU and Washington losing — and the uncertainty of what will happen over the next three weeks. We wouldn’t be having these heated debates if, say, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Southern California, Auburn and Georgia were already 75 percent or more certain of securing a playoff spot.
Would we still watch? Of course. The Gump phenomenon remains in effect until the conference championship games conclude on Dec. 2. But the time remaining in November would not be as fun.
At some point an eight-team playoff is coming. There’s too much TV money for it not to happen. Until then, enjoy the chaos. As the Buckeyes pull for Alabama, Miami and Oklahoma to win out and fans view their teams’ playoff chances through the lens of wishful thinking, feel free to think “Big,” like a kid in your grown-up body.