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College Playoffs Could Be 'Festival Of Football'


OK. Well, let's turn now to the kind of football that is truly American.


SISTER WYNONA CARR: Life is a ballgame, being played each day. Life is a ballgame...

GREENE: That is the jingle that we play every week when we bring on NPR's Mike Pesca. And, Mike, do you like this song?

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Yeah, like it? I suggested it. What's not to like? It's a gospel song that is an extended metaphor about batting against Satan.

GREENE: Does that lyric come in somewhere?

PESCA: Yeah. Satan's pitching the game. He'll do his best to strike you out. Just keep playing the same. And Solomon's on first and Jesus is standing at home plate. It's everything, it's everything you need from a gospel song about baseball.

GREENE: We'll have to play the whole song one week. Well, let's talk NCAA college football. We all know about the bowl games. We all know that there has been a debate forever about whether to go to an actual playoff system to more fairly determine a champion. And now, the presidents of the big universities have decided there will be a four-team playoff. Is this the end of the criticism finally?

PESCA: No, but it's a great first step because if there's a four-team playoff, whoever's the fifth team, that's going to be some debate. You know, the problem with the college football is it's always so very capricious how they selected their winner over the last couple decades, where they tried to get the number one and number two teams to play each other. That's fine. But who's the number two team? There's usually a huge argument. So, at the very least, this shifts the argument as to who's the two-team and who's the three-team. It shifts it down to who's the four- and five-team, you know, who gets to play in the playoffs.


PESCA: But what I think will happen is that this will be really successful. People will flock to this on TV. It'll be, you know, a festival of football, it'll be the best of the NFL with the traditions of college. And it'd be very dramatic and make a lot of money for college. And then they'll say, heck, let's expand it to eight. And then at that point, they can expand it further. But once they expand it to eight teams, then I think they'll really start answering the question correctly who's the best team in football.

GREENE: And we should say that we're not even getting to four teams a playoff until January of 2015, so it's a little time to wait. I mean, is this the end of things like the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl?

PESCA: No. They'll still play the big bowls. That will be, you know, one round of the playoffs, ah, because the money's at stake. They've incorporated all that. And I think when it gets to be eight teams, yes, there'll always be a debate who's the eighth-best team or who's the ninth-best team. But at that point, it becomes harder and harder to make the case that the teams that are left out should, at the very last week of the regular season, be considered a plausible national championship team. And that's, I think in college football, the best we could do.

GREENE: That's the goal. Get all the plausible champions at least until...

PESCA: Yeah, guys with maybe one loss should have a shot at winning - undefeated teams and one-loss teams.

GREENE: Mike, you often like to throw us a curveball as we finish off our discussion. What is it this week?

PESCA: NBA draft was held Thursday, and the 28th overall pick - I'll skip one, two and three, four all the way through up till 28 - a guy named Perry Jones III. Coming out of high school, if there was still the rule that Kobe Bryant and LeBron James experienced, where a high school could go right into the NBA, he might have been the first overall. Perry Jones III was a very athletic kid. But he went to Baylor. He's played for two years and every year his stock sort of diminished. And it's not that he's not skilled or athletic. He had problems they said, you know, with motivation or his motor. He's not a bad kid. He didn't go out drinking. He was a religious kid and he liked to watch cartoons on Saturday night. Maybe he just didn't play as hard as he could have. So, in leading up to the draft, he jumped 41 inches. You add this to his height and his wingspan, he could touch 12 feet and four and a half inches off the ground.


PESCA: Yeah. It's jaw-dropping. And the most jaw-dropping thing about it is they say, Perry, do you do this in games? And he said, yeah, I only did it twice in my college career, jump as high as I could. Well, why not?

GREENE: Seriously.

PESCA: He didn't really have a great explanation. It's just like, eh, you don't want to bust out the amazing leaping ability. So...

GREENE: Well, watch out if he does it at NBA games. I think if I could jump and hit 12 feet, four inches, I would do it more often.

PESCA: Yeah. That's it, I'm gone. Goodbye, NPR. I'm just going to jump 12 and a half feet into...

GREENE: Jumping higher every week, NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You got it.


CARR: ...play it fair. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.