As we find ourselves in the midst of another new year's interminable cavalcade of bowl games, we would like to go on record advocating the adoption of a true playoff/tournament format to decide the college football national championship.
(DIGRESSION: In case you were wondering--'cause we were--why football games are called "bowls," it apparently goes back to the days when the Rose Bowl was, literally, the only game in town. The "bowl" then referred not to the game itself but to the stadium in Pasadena where it was held--the Rose Bowl. Subsequently, when others sought to capitalize on the Rose Bowl's popularity by organizing other college-football showcases, they adopted the "Bowl" suffix. EOD)
We are sure the current powers-that-be have reasons for avoiding a playoff format, and we imagine these reasons primarily revolve around money. If that is the case, though, we don't understand. One reason the Solipsist--a sports fan--is at best indifferent towards college football is precisely because of the neverending parade of obscure bowl games. Seriously, the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl? The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl? The Franklin American Mortgage Motor City Bowl? (No, we didn't make those up.) Unless your favorite team was playing in one of these things, would YOU care? Could you really take pride in the fact that your alma mater won the Chick-fil-a Bowl?
(DIGRESSION: Congratulations to the Orange of Syracuse for their victory in the, sigh, New Era Pinstripe Bowl. EOD)
Besides, a playoff wouldn't necessitate the elimination of any of these games. They could still be played and colleges and universities could collect whatever goodies they currently collect. The "big" bowl games--what now constitute the BCS championship games--could simply become part of a playoff system.
What would be the drawback in taking, say, the top 12 teams at the end of the season--essentially what happens in the NFL--and having them compete in a playoff? That way, we wouldn't have the spectacle of an undefeated team like Texas Christian University winning the Rose Bowl but having no chance of being declared the national champion. That honor will go to the winner of next week's game between Oregon and Auburn--two other undefeated teams who can certainly claim to be among the nation's best, but would either of them beat TCU head-to-head? We'll never know.
To get back to the point about money: A playoff series, culminating in the crowning of an undisputed national champion, would attract at least as many viewers as the current crop of games and probably many more. The same sports fans who now, for example, thrill to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, despite perhaps having only a casual interest in the game throughout the rest of the year, would likely send college-football playoff ratings through the roof.
In the meantime, we suppose TCU can claim a moral victory and tell themselves that they could have beaten whichever team claims the championship. Of course, another word for a moral victory is defeat.