College football's four-team playoff system isn't perfect. Heck, we've seen this with the NCAA basketball tournament, where, with a 68-team field, there are still teams who feel snubbed. It's difficult to say that this season, though, with virtually everyone agreeing on the four best teams in America. Now, ranking them in order, and who should play whom, is a different matter.
LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma answer ESPN's season-long question of 'Who gets in?'. The NCAA selection committee picked those teams in the above order to play in the national semifinals December 28. LSU will face Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, and Ohio State will take on Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. The two winners will play each other for the national championship in January.
This year's field of four is interesting because the top three teams are all undefeated. Clemson's schedule was considered weaker than Ohio State's or LSU's, so they get the three seed. Oklahoma would have been perfect if not for a 48-41 loss at Kansas State in October, so they are fourth. One of the more fun things about sports is a debate about who's better. The LSU-Ohio State conversation is a good one.
We'll let you take your own side on that question, but the point here is that the number one seed is important. A television talk show host called this a 'non-story' today, but it is a big one. If you are number one, you don't have to play Clemson, and maybe you could make the point that you would have to beat the Tigers anyway to win a title, but wouldn't you rather do that in a title game than in a semifinal? Also, the number one team gets to choose which bowl game they want to be in. LSU would certainly choose Atlanta over Phoenix (Glendale), but so would Ohio State. It matters.
This conversation did not take place during the four-hour long announcement of the field of four on ESPN Sunday morning. Each made the case for why LSU should be number one, or why Ohio State could or should have been, but perhaps the pairings were also done as a matter of convenience. Had Ohio State been number one, they would have played Oklahoma, and likely in Atlanta, leaving LSU-Clemson, which would be a great game between two teams from the South, the capital of college football, to be played in Arizona. It's possible that never came up for discussion in the committee room, and officials likely wouldn't admit it if it did. The committee is also probably thankful that Georgia didn't beat LSU in the SEC title game Saturday. Had the Bulldogs won, they would have gotten in instead of Oklahoma, and the committee, while not admitting it, would have to make sure LSU didn't face Georgia for a second time in as many games.
At least, though, we get to see this play out on the field. This is the sixth year of the four-team playoff, and no one is reminiscing about the two-team BCS era of yesteryear. If we still had that system today, Clemson, undefeated and the defending national champions, would be sitting at home, or maybe somehow facing Oregon in the Rose Bowl, but with nothing but a bouquet of flowers as a reward.
Bowl-nanza: The other major bowl games feature few surprises, with Oregon getting Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl New Year's Day, followed by Baylor and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl (they aren't part of the so-called 'New Year's six, but the other bowl games on January 1 are the Outback Bowl (Minnesota-Auburn) and the Citrus Bowl (Michigan-Alabama), both at 10am PT). There are 40 bowl games this year (80 teams? Really?) starting December 20 with the Bahamas Bowl (Charlotte-Buffalo) and running through January 6 (yes, five games not counting the national championship, after New Year's) with the Lending Tree Bowl (Louisiana-Miami of Ohio) in Mobile, Alabama. Enjoy.
Strasburg breaks National(s) bank: Before baseball's Winter Meetings really got started in San Diego today, the Washington Nationals made headlines by signing pitcher Stephen Strasburg to a seven year, 245-million dollar contract. For the MVP of the World Series, that means 35 million dollars a year, the highest average so far for any Major League pitcher in history, with Gerrit Cole still on the market. Doing the math, and figuring 32 starts a season (assuming he's healthy the entire time), that means an average of $1.09 million per start. Think about that the next time they take him out after five innings and go to the bullpen.
The day the music died?: With two minutes to go in the first half of Sunday night's Rams-Seahawks game at the LA Coliseum, NBC came back from break, and there was a momentary delay because the Rams' cheerleaders and dance team were still doing a routine in the end zone, prompting Cris Collinsworth to quip from Don McLean's American Pie, “...and the marching band refused to yield.”