Bad college football and salty snacks
There’s not much true analysis to give about Monday nights college football national championship game between Georgia and TCU. The game was, in a word, awful. Georgia won 65-7 in a game that was not nearly as close as the score might indicate. There was a fleeting moment in the first quarter when TCU was only down 10-7 where we all collectively hoped that we’d be able to eat salty snacks for the next three hours without guilt, but that illusion was quickly destroyed with an onslaught of scoring that felt more like a video game then real football. Which meant that all the chips and salsa you ate after about 8:30 PM eastern time was on you, because there was nothing left to watch.
This wasn’t entirely unexpected, although the sheer magnitude of the mismatch was. Georgia was clearly the more talented and accomplished team going into the game and a double-digit Vegas favorite. Still, TCU had upset second ranked Michigan in the semifinals and felt destined to at least make a run of it. Scores like this are typically relegated to high school football and whatever game Alabama schedules week one of the season.
The good thing about blowouts is that the losing team doesn’t spend much time asking what if Nothing could have changed the result in TCU‘s favor, other than Georgia simply not showing up. The bad part about blowouts is that they make us evaluate the competitive nature of the sport itself. In other words, how did this matchup of allegedly the two best teams in all of college football play what amounts to a varsity/JV scrimmage. How is it that one team is 58 points better than the next, and what does that say about college football, a sport that finds itself in a perpetual state of flux.
College football isn’t the first sporting property to deal with this question. Anyone old enough to remember the last time the Buffalo Bills were great remembers the annual beat down the AFC would get from the NFC in the Super Bowl. That imbalance eventually worked itself out through the normal machinery of salary caps, free agency, and the draft, which is the case for most pro sports outside of baseball. But college sports, especially college football, is something of a different animal, especially in the newfound age of NIL deals, transfer portals, and mega conferences that attract disparate media coverage and revenue streams. While college football was always dominated by the lucky relatively few, the gap between the haves and the super haves continues to grow – forget the have nots. Which means that increasingly, teams from the SEC and – well, mainly the SEC, and perhaps the Big 10, will have an unreasonably large gap between the field. Which also means that teams like Georgia, and Alabama, and LSU, and God willing Florida, will have such a large advantage in talent and resource that we may never see a scenario where a school like TCU – a longtime dominant football program in the heart of Texas with a full slate of scholarship and facilities – that they can even pretend to compete with the likes of the Georgia Bulldogs. In other words, the question must be asked, was Monday an aberration, or simply a prelude to the future of college football, which is increasingly dominated by a tiny number of schools, most of them southern stalwarts named Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Clemson.
For better or worse, we’ll find out more in a couple of years when the college football playoffs expands to 12 teams, meaning teams from lesser conferences (like TCU) will get their shot at the big boys (like Georgia). That will either be the great equalizer or the great revelation that Division I FBS college football is no longer a group of over 100 schools playing for a title and instead a much smaller group that plays a very different game than the rest – spending a lot more money in the process. Which also means that the true breakup of the NCAA, at least in football, may be closer at hand than we think. Whether that means a group of 30 schools playing a pro-like calendar with – dare I say – salaries – is anyone’s guess. But I do know that sports fans won’t likely endure too many more playoff and title games like Monday’s without asking for some change.
I think even TCU fans would like something different after Monday. Particularly if it doesn’t involve losing by 58 points.
Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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