Press Box: New college playoff system has provided title hopes for many teams

News Tribune Sports Commentary

This year, the top four teams in college football, as determined by a newly appointed committee, will play in the first-ever Football Bowl Subdivision playoff.

Many prefer the new system to the old, which had just one, BCS-generated championship game.

Four is better than two.

Though eight would be better, if Missouri fans had any say. The Tigers will compete Saturday for the championship of the supposed toughest conference of all: the Southeastern Conference. But even if Missouri wins - against No. 1 Alabama, no less - the Tigers' two previous losses would probably keep them out of the top four. SEC fans in general will probably be lobbying for eight spots, too, if the Tigers win in Atlanta, as the SEC would have no teams with less than two losses and could miss the playoff altogether.

I'm not complaining.

That's not to say an eight-team bracket wouldn't be an improvement. It very well might be. But that's an argument for another day. Right now, I'm just sitting back and enjoying the show.

College football has been a blast this season. Maybe it's new SEC West upstarts Mississippi and Mississippi State. Maybe it's the fact Florida State and Jameis Winston just can't lose. Or maybe it's the neck-and-neck conference battles in the Pac and Big 12s.

But I think the playoff deserves a lot of the credit.

Speculation is a great part of all sports, but it has always had a special role in college football. The old BCS system was a perfect catalyst for what-ifs and woulda-coulda-shouldas. Paul Finebaum wouldn't have a job if rabid college football fans weren't willing to call in hypotheticals week after week, most of which get answered the following Saturday.

But now, with four spots open to championship contenders instead of just two, it's even crazier. Double the teams, double the fun. Now, twice as many fanbases that have no business wondering if their beloved team is the best in the land are in on the action.

Sure, they might say, we're not No. 1, but we have to be No. 4, right? At least, we could be.

Don't get me wrong, college football's on-field product is fun to watch. But if we were looking for pure skill and sound decision-making, we would only watch football on Sundays.

College football is the phenemenon it is because of what happens off the field. The tailgating, the crazy traditions, the tree-poisoning. And, most of all, the rampant speculation.

Missouri is a perfect example. There's a very sound argument that says a team that lost at home to Indiana has no business being considered for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But people are still talking about it. Heck, they have been for weeks.

"What if Missouri wins out and this team loses and this team beats this team," etc. etc. And it should be happening. It's fun. And, technically, as I'm writing this, Missouri could probably somehow end up in the playoff, thanks in large part to a lackluster SEC East.

Missouri would have absolutely zero chance of making the national championship this year if FBS was still using the old BCS system. Tigers fans never would've had this discussion. That dream would have died in September.

See why this is so fun?

And Missouri is just one example. The Tigers aren't the only dreamers out there. (Although, they are perhaps the ones who could wreak the most havoc.)

Arizona fans and Wisconsin fans are crunching the numbers, too - not to mention the teams who actually have a decent chance of making this thing.

In short: Yes, Jim Mora. We're talking about playoffs.