Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Colleges

College Football Playoff to bring magic of game to Tampa

Maybe it will be Alabama, because goodness knows Nick Saban can't get enough of these national championship games. Maybe it will be Ohio State, because someone has to finish second.

Maybe it will be FSU, because if Jameis Winston stays in school, he will be a senior by then. Maybe it will be Southern Cal, because there are too many advantages for the program not to come back soon.

Maybe it will be LSU, because you know that an SEC team will be lurking around the corner. Maybe it will be Notre Dame, and this time, maybe its star linebacker can remain upright.

The possibilities are endless. That's what makes the prospect of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game in Tampa so delicious. Think of a Super Bowl without all those TV stars in the stands. Think of a Final Four title game with a hundred times more passion. Think of a great bowl game for all the stakes. Think of the confetti drifting over a crystal trophy.

Just imagine.

By then, the national championship game will be three seasons into the new four-team system. Already, there will be howls that an eight-team format would be better. Maybe a 16. But that won't happen. The guys who run college football made sure to lock themselves into a four-game bracket for some time to come.

Maybe it will be Auburn, provided it can pull off another miracle or three from St. Gus along the way. Maybe it will be Stanford, which has become an admirable bloody-knuckle team in recent seasons.

Maybe it will be Oregon, because the Ducks are certainly one of the hottest programs in the country lately. They'll reach the game again soon. Maybe it will be Michigan, which seems like too good a program to dabble in something called the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Maybe it will be Texas, provided it has finished being told no by every coach in the NFL by that time. Maybe it will be South Carolina, because we could all use a few one-liners from Steve Spurrier along the way.

Just imagine.

That's the cool thing about the college championship. It could involve a great many teams, and some of them don't even play in the SEC. Just thinking: The SEC could be going for its 12th straight title by then … and people would still argue that it wasn't the best conference in the nation.

Look, nothing against the Super Bowl, but in the NFL, there are fewer teams, which means fewer good teams, which means fewer flavors. In college football, there are naturally more teams in the title conversation. Take Auburn. Whoever saw the Tigers in the title game this year? Heck, at the first of the season, you wouldn't have believed that Auburn had a shot at the Outback Bowl, let alone the championship game.

Here is another way the college championship might be better for the locals. More tickets may be available.

Think of how it will work. The week before, at the Chick-fil-A Bowl or the Fiesta, four teams will play in the semifinals. But if a fan's team has traveled once, will he still find the funds to buy a ticket to the title game? Or will some be available for locals? If so, that's a cool evening out.

College football also brings its own drama.

In championship games, you may get, say, Marcus Outzen, the backup quarterback who started for FSU in the championship game following the '98 season. You get a Vince Young, who had the game of his life in the title game after '05. You get LSU's JaMarcus Russell, who made millions off the game following the '06 season before going on to fizzle in the big leagues.

You get Danny Wuerffel, who was sensational in beating FSU after the '96 season. You get Peter Warrick, who was unstoppable in FSU's victory over Virginia Tech after '99. You get Tim Tebow, back when he was a legend, after the 2008 season.

Just imagine.

The national title game could feature Mike the Tiger, or Ralphie the Buffalo, or the Tree, or Bevo, or Uga, or Traveler. You might hear The Victors or On Wisconsin or Rocky Top and you might hear them 2,000 times.

Then there are the coaches. Tom Osborne. Spurrier. Bobby Bowden. Saban. Pete Carroll. Mack Brown. Les Miles. Urban Meyer. College football is a coach's game, and there is nothing like a title game for such men to come across as chess masters, calmly pushing their pieces toward the end zone.

Odds are, a resident commander or two will be at the helm in 2017, too. There always is.

Maybe it will be Florida, provided the Gators rediscover the first down by then. Maybe it will be Miami, assuming Al Golden can find his way back to yesterday.

Maybe it will be Baylor, a program that has become sneaky good in recent years. Maybe it will be Nebraska, which used to be good, although you can say the same thing about Cumberland.

Maybe it will be Oklahoma because, let's face it, it has been a while. Maybe it will be Clemson, because you can't have enough coaches named Dabo.

Three years from now, it will be someone, and it will be someone else, and both of them will be very, very good.

Also, it will be here.

Cool.

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