Posted: Monday October 9, 2006 11:36AM; Updated: Monday October 9, 2006 7:45PM
If college football had a playoff, there'd still be reason to watch Joe Tereshinski and his one-loss Georgia team.
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As the Tennessee Volunteers put the finishing touches on my Georgia Bulldogs late Saturday night, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, Georgia had finally lost its first game of the season, knocking the Dawgs from the ranks of the undefeated, and down below Georgia Tech in at least one poll (horrors!) for the first time in five years. With the loss on their schedule, UGA now has no real chance at winning a national title this season. Not that they ever really did, if I'm being honest -- UGA quarterback Joe Tereshinski's worst attribute is his ability to pass the ball. But as long as Georgia was undefeated, I was clinging to that hope, praying that somehow, some way, UGA would run the table and luck into the national-championship game.
With Georgia eliminated from any chance at a national title, I can now watch its games with a modicum of patience and relaxation. I do not have to rearrange my work schedule, do not have to figure out some way to cancel a vacation in order to watch the epic UGA/Vanderbilt game Saturday. I'll watch the Dawgs when they're on TV the rest of season and probably even figure out a way to make it down to Athens for a game or two before the season ends. Still, for the rest of this season, to appropriate a line from the Def Squad, college football has lost my full cooperation and total attention. Which means advertisers are losing money.
All of that made me wonder: Am I the only person out there who's wired this way? I'm a big college football fan, but now that my team is eliminated, I am not engrossed enough to sit around and watch Cal vs. Oregon, which ABC helpfully showed the entire country Saturday night, or the gripping Texas Tech-Missouri game that was on TBS. I know many people who live for college football, who would probably (almost certainly) DVR those games and watch them during the week. But the NCAA and the TV networks aren't after the money of the college football diehards; that's the built-in audience the execs safely assume will tune in no matter what. They want the casual fans.
And here is where this column turns. Some might say it's predictable, some might not have seen it coming. I didn't see it coming, however, late Saturday night when it suddenly hit me: College football needs a playoff. Badly.
I'm sure that everyone who follows college football, even casually, has at one time or another wished that NCAA pigskin teams would go the way of the roundball squads and adopt a postseason tournament. Obviously, 64 teams wouldn't work, but wouldn't eight? Or even 16? And wouldn't everyone -- from casual fans to the diehards -- get completely sucked in?
This issue was pushed to the forefront earlier this week by Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. The Tigers were sitting high in the polls, but it looked as though they had no chance of making the BCS championship game, even if they won out.
"There is no reason on this earth why we can't have the best four and then play one more," Tuberville said. "The problem we have is you have 120 universities that are I-A and probably 25 would say they have a legitimate chance each year. And you have presidents who for some reason look at it more as for the money than having a national championship on the field. They keep coming up with lame excuses about academics. Football players miss fewer classes than anybody."
(Tuberville obviously wasn't taking attendance in my political-science class at UGA in 1994.)