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Will playoff really make football better?

For some reason, the grass always seems greener until you jump from one field to the other.

For years, fans of college football have complained about the Bowl Championship Series system that has selected the top two teams each season to see who will compete for a national championship.

Complaints about teams getting left out or the system simply not providing an entertaining championship game led to changes in the formula throughout the years, but last season seems to have been the final straw.

Depending on whom you talk to, many fans clamored for a playoff of some kind, whether it be four teams, eight teams or even 16 teams. When Alabama got into the BCS national championship game over Oklahoma State, cries for a playoff grew louder and louder.

And the sport finally caved, adopting a four-team college football playoff system with a selection committee to pick the teams, similar to March Madness in college basketball.

Finally, fans exclaimed, our prayers have been answered.

But is the playoff system that will be implemented in 2014 truly the beacon of hope college football fans have placed their trusts in? Or will they discover that this rose has a few thorns?

To be clear, I have personally supported for years the idea of a four-team playoff, where Nos. 1 and 4 and Nos. 2 and 3 meet up in a national title semifinal match before the winners take each other on. I feel despite any potential drawbacks, the system would be an overall positive change for the sport.

But lets pitch a scenario for a second that may well become reality in the future. Suppose the winners of the SEC Eastern and Western Divisions enter the SEC championship game ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. Suppose the loser of said game drops no lower than No. 4 in the polls afterward. Suppose that the new postseason selection committee adheres to that ranking and approves the loser of the SEC championship game to make the four-team playoffs.

Then said team is either pitted against the SEC champion again, or wins in round one and faces the SEC champion in the national title game. Think Alabama versus LSU, round two was controversial last season? Just wait until the SEC championship game is rendered virtually meaningless some season in the future.

Furthermore, what if one-loss teams keep winning year after year? Are we OK with the idea that a team can have a mulligan game and still maintain national title hopes alongside two or three other teams with unblemished regular-season records? How would those other teams feel about being equally as rewarded as a team with an inferior record come playoff selection time?

Getting hot in the postseason despite not being the best regular-season team is quite common — hello, New York Giants. Just ask Green Bay Packer fans, whose team finished 15-1 in the regular season last fall, how it felt getting eliminated by a 9-7 Giants team in January.

While many — myself among them — will say this newest system will be the best college football has seen thus far, it hasn’t brought an end to the debate. It will simply open up a whole new set of discussions. I’m OK with welcoming a playoff system. Let’s just not pretend Little Red Riding Hood has made it safely out of the woods yet.

 

Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or michael.kerekes@natchezdemocrat.com.