Sunday, May 27, 2018
Colleges

FSU's Fisher worries about new playoff system

Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher was still groggy from the biggest win of his life.

His No. 1 Seminoles were 2,000 miles from home. They had just beaten one of the country's top programs in front of an electric crowd on a neutral field. He was mentally and physically tired.

And, if the same thing happens this coming season, he will have little time to recover. Another matchup against another elite team halfway across the country would be less than two weeks away.

"You've got a lot of things that we'd better be careful in this playoff system before we go crazy on it," Fisher said Tuesday morning, about 12 hours after FSU beat Auburn 34-31 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to win the program's third national championship.

Monday's game marked the finale of the Bowl Championship Series, the controversial system that blended human polls and computer data over the past 16 years to determine the two teams to play in the national title game.

The four-team College Football Playoff takes over next season. The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will host semifinals on Jan. 1, and the championship game will be held 11 days later in Arlington, Texas. Tampa will host the title game in January 2017.

As Fisher prepared for the final BCS title game, he expressed concerns about the new system: a de-emphasis on bowl games, a break from tradition, 60 more minutes of pounding on young bodies.

"It will be a very tough thing because (of) the mental capacity to get up that many times, but it's what we'll have to do, and kids will adjust and they'll adapt," Fisher said. "It's going to be that much harder to get to where you want to go, that's for sure."

Fisher said he expects championship game preparations to be about the same as they are in the regular season. During the fall, graduate assistants begin scouting opponents and breaking down video several weeks ahead of time, and they'll update their reports as needed.

The graduate assistants will continue those tasks in the playoff, Fisher said. They'll spend the lull between conference title games and the first playoff game evaluating both teams in the other semifinal. That early work will allow the winner of each game to have a scouting report ready on its next opponent immediately, so it can begin game-planning within a few hours.

"You just try to keep it as gamelike as possible," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "I think you stay in a routine, and you just take it week by week."

One of the biggest challenges coaches will face comes with recruiting. Alabama coach Nick Saban grumbled to GQ magazine last year that his team's win over Notre Dame in the national title game "cost me a week of recruiting."

The new schedule will make things even tougher.

Next year's mid-January game leaves less than 3½ weeks between the national championship and signing day. That means coaching staffs will have one fewer week to make final evaluations on scholarship offers, set up visits and make their last pushes for prospects.

"You keep putting playoff games in there, when are we going to ever recruit?" said Fisher, who Friday fielded an invite from President Barack Obama to visit the White House with the team. "If you start in December and finish in the middle of January, when does recruiting season go?"

ESPN analyst Desmond Howard said the new system will only go so far in fixing the biggest criticism against the old one: how the BCS selected the top two teams.

If FSU, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State were this season's four semifinalists, Howard said fans from Baylor, Stanford and Ohio State would have argued that their teams belonged in the top four.

"That's why I can't wait to watch this whole thing unfold," Howard said. "Everyone's happy. 'Yeah, we got a playoff!' Okay. We'll see."

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