"Who's In?" Who Cares; Pandemic Pummels Bowls; Najee Scores; Brady vs. Belichick
Well, the College Football Playoff announced its selections yesterday and to no one's surprise, the four anointed semi-finalists are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Is it just me, or does it seem like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are in the playoff every year?
Many fans have tuned out the playoff completely. Others yawned when the selections were made, because it’s hard to get excited about the CFP in this illegitimate season, especially when the same teams show up every year.
So let me say it again: the playoff needs to be expanded to eight teams. It's time to bring in some new blood and to make sure that worthy non-Power Five champions like this year’s unbeaten Cincinnati team get a shot.
Bowls Eviscerated: Today marks the beginning of the college football bowl season for 2020, as Appalachian State takes on North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.
But like everything else in this COVID-ravaged season, the bowl lineup is a mere shadow of its former self. We usually publish a bowl viewing guide, but there isn’t much to recommend in this year’s abbreviated schedule.
First off, there are no standards for participation. The NCAA, because of scheduling irregularities caused by the pandemic, eliminated any requirement for bowl eligibility, so any team with a losing record can play in a post-season contest. So we have Mississippi State, at 4-7, playing in the Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 31.
Second, the original 43-game schedule has been obliterated. Fifteen games have been cancelled, including a number of longstanding bowls. Five of the Pac-12’s affiliated bowls have shut down, including the Holiday, Sun, Redbox, Las Vegas and Los Angeles Bowls.
Finally, at least 23 teams—exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally by this season of virus infections, game cancellations and, in some cases, exile from home—have said “no thanks” and opted out of the post-season. Among them are quality teams like Boston College, Pitt, Virginia, Penn State, Minnesota, Boise State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Utah and USC.
So why, you might ask, are bowl games even being played in the midst of a pandemic? Weren’t bowl games created to promote tourism, which is non-existent this year?
Indeed, bowl games were originally created to promote tourism, reward teams for a strong season, and create interesting matchups between teams that normally don't play each other.
But this year, the old model is out the window. Forget tourism. Few fans other than family will want to make the trek to a bowl game. Due to shortened seasons and over 100 game cancellations, it’s not clear exactly which teams are “deserving.” And as we’ve seen, many schools are unwilling to add another week of travel, lodging and potential COVID exposure.
Perhaps, then, the mission is to keep the tradition going and to try to provide some sense of normalcy to this crazy season?
Maybe so. But the prospect of holding a game without paying customers and local sponsors who are dependent upon fan attendance and tourism is enough to shutter all but the New Year’s Six Bowls, which get truckloads in TV rights and sponsorship income from being part of the Playoff rotation, and bowls that have built up large financial reserves.
Fact is, even before the pandemic, bowl attendance was on the decline due to the advent of the playoff and the proliferation of post-season games, both of which have diminished the quality and stature of the product. Additionally, the late selection date—necessitated by the CFP—has increased travel costs, while the home viewing alternative has become more and more attractive.
So back to our original question. Why even have bowl games this year?
The answer is basically the same as the answer to the question of why this joke of a season was played in the first place.
Bowl games have become, let's be honest, primarily TV content. That's why ESPN now owns and operates about 15 games. In many respects they could care less about how many people are in the stands, as long as ratings remain respectable (which they are).
As for the 15 cancelled bowls, they will hope to make a comeback in 2021 when, hopefully, they can find a title sponsor (or bring one back after a one-year hiatus) and partner with two conferences.
Risky business. As a friend of mine asked me the other day, “aren’t you glad you’re not heading up a bowl game this year?”
Yes I am.
Najee for Heisman: Sorry if I sound like a small-town hack promoting a local hero, but I'm mystified as to why Alabama's Najee Harris, from Antioch, is not getting more Heisman Trophy mention.
Yes, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is deserving and will probably win it, but why are the pundits pushing Bama quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver Devonta Smith and ignoring Harris?
Yes, Jones has passed for over 3,000 yards and 27 TDs, and Smith has caught 15 TD passes.
But consider Harris. In the SEC championship game all he did was score five touchdowns, rushing for 178 yards and two scores, and catching TD passes of 7, 23 and 17 yards. For the year he's rushed for 1262 yards and 24 TDs and caught 32 passes. He's the Crimson Tide's all-time touchdown leader with 54.
He won’t win it, but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation.
Belichick vs. Brady: For years fans and media have debated the question of who was more responsible for the New England Patriots' dynasty—head coach Bill Belichick or quarterback Tom Brady?
Well the evidence is in.
This year, without Brady, the Patriots are 6-8 and have been eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the year Brady tore his ACL in the opening game and missed the rest of the season.
As for Brady, he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that finished 7-9 last year, and has them on the cusp of a playoff berth with a 9-5 record.