I’m a bit weary also of the playoff topic, but Tony Barnhart’s concern over the fate of the regular season (h/t Get the Picture) touches on a point that for some reason rubs me the wrong way.
Barnhart repeats a line that most college football fans dogmatically accept: In college football EVERY regular season game matters.
That statement has never made sense to me. Without getting too semantic over what "matters" means, it seems to me that relatively few games matter in the context of a national championship. You can’t tell me that the regular season is its own glorious playoff winnowing the field of contenders weekly while at the same time insisting that the South Carolina – Clemson game matters in any way outside of the Palmetto State.
Even some of the compelling must-see games Barnhart cites (say, Alabama-Auburn) often have nothing to do with the national title picture. Is the argument being made that Auburn-Alabama is a great game to watch because of the postseason format? If so, someone has to explain that in a little more depth (and type slowly for my benefit).
The concerns over bracket creep, etc. are enough to give any rational playoff advocate pause, but the extent to which we romanticize the regular season must have its limits. It can be argued that the focus on the regular season as a culling process for title contenders actually costs us more interesting and more frequent high-profile inter-conference games. The quality of nonconference games is something that college basketball has over college football, and it’s not only because of the number of games on the schedule. There is a trade-off in our search for games that matter, sure, but are we losing better potential regular season matchups as a result?