College Football Semifinals: Big Time or Bust?
It’s December 2014 and the first college football playoff semifinal matchups have been announced. Top-seeded LSU has earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl to face fourth-seeded Oklahoma. Meanwhile, third-ranked Auburn is headed back to Pasadena to face second-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
What does an Auburn fan do?
Assuming you’re not super wealthy and can afford to attend both the semifinal and national championship game, you have a choice to make. Do you roll the dice and wait on the title game in Dallas, or do you take the family to Southern California for New Year’s?
For all the good a college football playoff will bring, this is the dark side of the new format. In this scenario, would the Rose Bowl play to a half empty stadium? Will locals pick up the slack in ticket sales?
Would Auburn and Ohio St. fans flock to Pasadena to watch a semifinal game, when chances are their team will play the following Monday in Texas?
Fans ability and willingness to travel in such a tight window and during the holidays is the big unknown the College Football Playoff faces in year one. Under the new format the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach will rotate the semifinal matchups on a yearly basis.
The newly appointed bowl committee will not only seed the top four teams, but will determine the matchups in the remaining four major bowls. The days of the Sugar Bowl taking Oklahoma over Oregon because they travel better are over.
The committee promises to reward the higher ranked team with a semifinal game closer to home. That could mean trouble for attendance in these matchups. How many Stanford fans would travel to Miami or Atlanta for a semifinal game?
How many Georgia fans would travel to Glendale for a final four game? They may have to if they are the lower seeded team.
Because the bowl organizations remain powerful, conferences caved when the logical thing would have been to play the semifinal games on campus at the higher seeded team’s home field.
It would guarantee sellout crowds and make the regular season even more meaningful. While the playoff might finally get the right teams playing for the title, it may come at the expense of the crowds and pageantry that make college football so much fun.
On the flip side, college football has now reclaimed the New Year’s holiday. All six major bowls will be played either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. During the upcoming season, the Fiesta, Orange and Peach will be played on Dec. 31.
The Cotton, Rose and Sugar along with the Capital One and Outback Bowls will be played on Jan. 1.
Like so many things in college football these days, it makes more and more sense to just stay home and watch it on the big screen.
Let’s just hope Auburn has an appointment on that day.