With only one regular season game left for most and two for some, the college football season is creeping toward crowning a champion. Normally the debate has centered around which two teams are most deserving of playing in the national title game. This year, for the first time, we’ll have four teams in a two-round playoff battling it out for supremacy. So while more teams are in the mix and hoping to be given that opportunity, the question on my mind is a more basic one.
Is anybody good?
It’s been a very strange season. There really hasn’t been one team at any point to get excited about. While Mississippi State is a nice story and a sentimental favorite, the fact that they were ranked No. 1 and unbeaten but still walked into a game as a 7-point underdog shows how fragile the best teams appear to be. They had earned that spot with some very good wins, but clearly nobody was considering them a juggernaut and Alabama did what the oddsmakers anticipated by knocking them off the pedestal.
After another of what seems to be an endless string of close calls, Florida State is the only undefeated team remaining, getting a last-second field goal to beat a mediocre Boston College team on Saturday. The Seminoles haven’t lost a game since 2012, but there are still plenty of naysayers due to their level of competition in the ACC and the fact that they’ve needed to come back so many times. They’ll certainly make the playoff if they beat Florida this week and No. 18 Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, but they probably wouldn’t even be the favorite as defending champs and sporting a 13-0 record.
Oregon handled its business last week with a blowout of Colorado to move to 10-1. The Ducks will punch their ticket with a Civil War win over Oregon State on Saturday. Maybe they’ll scout Hawaii’s fourth-quarter performance against the Beavers from earlier this season for a few extra pointers. But while quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Ducks’ offense have been their usual selves, averaging more than 45 points per game, the defense has been a bit leaky at times. Most recent national champs have had elite defenses, which has made Oregon a bit of a dark horse every season. They’re capable of beating anyone, but will they be able to make a big stop when they need one?
That leaves the Alabama Crimson Tide as the fourth team in control of its own destiny. A loss to Ole Miss and a one-point win over Arkansas in back-to-back weeks seemed to drop ‘Bama from the elite. But the Tide have won six straight since, including the 25-20 win over Mississippi State to move to the top of the College Football Playoff rankings. They have a date with Auburn this week in the Iron Bowl with everything on the line.
I’ve always been on both sides of the college football playoff debate. I’ve always wanted it for entertainment purposes, but I’ve argued against it as a more “fair” method. If TCU, Baylor and Ohio State also win out, can you really make a better case for a one-loss Oregon team than all three of them? And on the flip side, if Alabama were to lose to Auburn, would a one-loss TCU, Baylor or Ohio State squad really be a favorite against a two-loss Alabama? I don’t think so. It’s just as subjective as it always has been, only this year there’s even more gray area because nobody has made its case in a dominant fashion. So I guess it’s not that there aren’t any good teams, but lots of pretty good teams and no great teams.
Rarely has parity been so prevalent in college football. While the playoff should be fun, it’s probably just going to mean more football — not more great football. But still, more football, ya know?