Around the Nation Week 13

It’s time for the yearly yakking about a playoff to commence.

No less a national figure than President-Elect Barack Obama calls for the creation of a college football playoff system.

Barack’s bailout plan for college football?

The Big O calls for an eight-team, three-round playoff that, according to Renegade (that’s his cool new Secret Service code name), would be simple to implement.

Obama told 60 Minutes, “It would add three weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious college football fan who has disagreed with me on this. So, I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit.”

Depending on your point of view, it’s either too bad – or a good thing – that (with regard to college football) Obama is a lightweight.

Don’t get me wrong. I call Obama a lightweight not as a politician or leader (he’s terrific as the first and may be great as the second) … however, he definitely is a lightweight with regard to his understanding of the current structure of big-time college football. Mr. President, count me as a serious fan who disagrees with you about the playoff plan.

First problem … follow the money.

Any credible playoff plan would need to include those personal college ATMS called the bowls. An eight-team tourney outside the bowl system would never pass muster. The bowls are the reason the plus-one proposal (an additional title game after the bowls) is the only one to ever gain any real momentum (and it’s not a good idea either).

Second problem … follow the money.

In the bowl system, the colleges (read: College Presidents) rake in the revenue from those post-season appearances and – more importantly – control that money. In a playoff system, the NCAA bureaucracy would gain leverage over those bucks. College presidents are about as likely to let go of power as are U.S. Presidents.

Third problem … follow the money.

When Barack-O says, “You could trim back on the regular season,” he shows how truly naïve he is on the topic.

Home football games generate hundreds of thousands of dollars (in some cases millions of dollars) through ticket sales, concessions, parking, memorabilia sales, and television deals. That sum does not even count the indirect money made by local merchants (hotels, restaurants, etc).

Think half of the 120 or so FBS teams would be willing to give up a home game so eight schools can have a little playoff during the holidays. Think Obama is going to give back Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia to John McCain?

So, is any realistic playoff scenario possible?

The earliest a true playoff system could even be considered would be 2014 when existing television contracts expire. By the way, the purchase by ESPN of television rights to BCS bowls is probably a positive step for playoff proponents in the long run.

Still, until college presidents come aboard (and they are now firmly opposed to a playoff), college football fans should get used to the current format.

And that current format, for all its flaws, has made college football the most talked about and popular sport in America.

Enjoy the games … and stick to politics Mr. President.

Around the Nation

The biggest game of the weekend takes place in Norman on Saturday night when #2 Texas Tech visits #5 Oklahoma.

If Texas Tech wins, the Red Raiders have a clear path to the BCS title game. If Oklahoma wins, expect a great debate about the merits of the Sooners as compared to the Texas Longhorns. Texas beat Oklahoma earlier in the season, but the Sooners have played a much tougher schedule.

The Big Ten championship will be decided when Michigan State visits Penn State. With a victory Penn State goes to the Rose Bowl. If MSU wins, the Spartans would need an Ohio State loss to Michigan earlier in the day to claim the crown.

Out West, Oregon State can move a step closer to Pasadena with a win at Arizona.

The Big East champ will likely be the winner of the Cincinnati-Pitt game.

Around the South

Ole Miss and LSU meet in Baton Rouge in the SEC Game of the Week. Tennessee will try to salvage some pride at Vanderbilt.

The ACC race is crazy. Nine teams are still in the running for the title, so flip a coin to pick a winner. The Georgia Tech-Miami Thursday night game is big and could start to narrow the field.

In C-USA, Houston looked awesome in blasting Tulsa 70-30. The Cougars host West rival UTEP in the league’s biggest game of the week.

See you at kickoff!

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