If there has been a topic more talked about than SEC dominance in recent years of college football, it is the idea of moving toward a playoff. While I indeed see the reasons for a playoff and the arguments against the current BCS system, the unavoidable fact of moving toward a playoff is that a playoff would absolutely decrease the importance of the regular season. Specifically, it would decrease the importance of games like Alabama vs LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
With a four-team playoff in 2012, Alabama could likely lose this game and still win out and get in. There’s a chance that LSU could even lose the game and get into the playoff as a two-loss team. A playoff reduces the importance and urgency of this early November matchup.
With an eight-team playoff, you essentially guarantee that this game isn’t that important. In an eight team field, if you’re undefeated Alabama with LSU as the only major challenge left on the schedule, you could essentially coast, knowing you’re going to get in as long as you don’t take the rest of the season. Want to know what this looks like? It looks like an NFL team sitting their quarterback for the last few weeks of the season as they coast into the playoffs.
Now, some might be quick to point out that the Alabama-LSU game last year in the regular season didn’t matter because both teams got in and played a rematch for the national championship. This is true, but it is the rarest of circumstances, and most of us would argue that the system actually worked correctly in picking both teams as the best two teams in the country.
More importantly, going into that game last year, nobody knew that there was a chance those two teams would play each other again in the BCS. There was no diminished importance of the game at the time that the game was played, and that is the key difference. Urgency and a must-win environment is what makes the college football regular season so amazing, and this is what is completely lacking in the regular seasons of most other American sports.
Whether or not a college football playoff should be implemented should not be dictated by the annual Alabama-LSU Game (in fact, the entire debate is somewhat irrelevant at this point since the playoff is coming). In 2011 and 2012, we have the pleasure of watching two powerhouses play in the same division in Alabama and LSU. This isn’t about this particular matchup. Down the road, it might be two completely different teams, but the situation will be the same.
This will be the third matchup in a year between these two teams. At the time of each game, there was only one loss or less between the two teams. Watching the best teams in the sport play eachother for the highest stakes is what college football is all about. The beautiful thing is that we get these high stakes matchups in September, October and November rather than just a single day in January.
Enjoy the game tomorrow night. This game is bigger than just Alabama vs LSU. It represents everything we love about college football: a dominant team rolling into Death Valley under the lights with everything on the line. These types of games might not be the same in the future.