Semifinal Thursday: The first college football playoffs worked

college football playoffWhen Alabama went up 21-6 in the second quarter against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl late Thursday night, it looked like we were on our way to a one-versus-two final that we could have just avoided if not for the push toward four-team playoff.

Second-ranked Oregon had already dispatched #3 Florida State. #1 Alabama seemed well on its way to waxing #4 Ohio State, who a lot of people didn’t think even deserved a spot in the playoff, given its early-season home loss to a woeful Virginia Tech squad, not to mention its string of high-profile postseason beatdowns in recent years.

And then the Buckeyes showed us what a playoff can do, reeling off 28 unanswered points and holding off a late Crimson Tide charge to roll to a 42-35 win. Coupled with Oregon’s 59-20 demolition of defending national champ FSU, we have our final, two-versus-four.

And I think we can say this honestly: that neither of these teams would have been in this situation if we were playing under last year’s system.

Even though the ‘Noles fell to third in the rendering of the college playoff selection committee, there’s absolutely no way the BCS one-versus-two format could have kept out the undefeated defending champs. FSU would have been one, and Alabama would have been two, leaving the two teams that won on Thursday on the outside looking in.

But then the playoff worked, exposing Florida State’s weak schedule that puffed up a series of comeback wins against a string of tomato cans for what it was, and empowering Ohio State to be able to fight its way off the canvas after that loss to the Hokies in September with its second-string quarterback piloting them most of the way before handing the reins off to #3 on the preseason depth chart to win the B1G and then beat ‘Bama.

It was riveting TV, and it sets up a winner-take-all final on Jan. 12 that will be even more compelling, if only because whatever happens, the teams playing that Monday night had to earn their way there.

It’s not often that you can say this about the people who have anything to do with the administration of college sports, but ladies, gents, you got it right.

– Column by Chris Graham

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