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Post Plenty of reasons why college is better than NFL, but postseason isn’t one of them

Thursday August 24, 2006

Remember a few weeks ago when a writer out of Jacksonville called college football an "inferior product" to the NFL? Ivan Maisel over at ESPN.com had a great piece recently that pretty much puts that silly notion to bed. Inferior, indeed.

But there’s one thing in Maisel’s column to which I can’t help but respond, and of course it has to do with #4 – the postseason and the lack of a playoff.

Maisel focuses his point on "those ugly December (NFL) games when Peyton Manning plays one series and sits out, as if it were August." Pro teams already assured of their playoff spot and homefield advantage rest their starters. OK, fine. We see it in several pro sports; several baseball teams will soon clinch and start resting people. His implied point is that college teams would do the same, and there would be less emphasis on later regular season games as teams solidify their place in the postseason.

The first problem with that line of thinking is that any proposed college playoff involves a much smaller percentage of teams. You still have to be among the elite or at least win your conference in even eight-team playoff scenarios, and that means winning games right up until the end of the season. While a single loss wouldn’t necessarily remove you from the national title picture anymore, it could severely impact seeding and make a much tougher road through the bracket. Who would sit players and risk a possible #1 or #2 seed?

For a bigger and more basic flaw in the NFL analogy, you can go right to his points #1 and #3. You’re telling me that Alabama would sit its starters and shrug its shoulders over the Iron Bowl? Texas would roll over against the Aggies for a chance to rest the tailback? Please. The coach wouldn’t make it out of the parking lot alive. Even in college hoops where teams know they have a spot in the Big Dance, JJ Redick doesn’t skip the UNC game.

In fact, passion and rivalries drive the entire season. If "every game is a playoff" (an idea I find to be a bit of fiction to begin with), why doesn’t the inverse of Maisel’s Peyton Manning scenario apply? Why don’t teams pack it in once they’ve lost a few times and been all but eliminated from the national title picture? Passion and rivalries won’t allow it. Even in a 4-7 season with no hope of a bowl, your rivalry games matter. The Georgia Tech game will always mean something to Georgia fans whether it’s 1993 and both teams are sore from losing seasons or 2005 where both teams are bowl-bound. The Dawgs were only 5-6 in 1996, but the comeback to beat Auburn clearly mattered to Georgia fans.

With teams “eliminated” weekly from the national title scene, we still end up with an incredible college football regular season. You’re telling me that would somehow be diminished by giving more teams something else to play for over the course of the season?

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