The Alabama Crimson Tide left little doubt on Monday night. The National Championship game that would wrap up the college football season was a no-doubter as Bama beat Ohio State 52-24. It was a culmination of a season that was nearly canceled, started late for some reason, and wound its way to a predictable final four. If there was ever a season where a smaller brand, say Cincinnati or Coastal Carolina, was to break through, 2020 would have seemed to be it.
It wasn’t. Instead, we got the tried and true, sponsor and network loving brand names we know: Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State, and Alabama. Not even Texas A&M, who had a better argument underplaying more games than Ohio State, got a sniff.
And therein lies the problem.
Two things can be true about this past college football season. One is that conferences like the ACC and SEC deserve a ton of credit for not cowering to the mass hysteria of media types like Dan Wolken and played a smart schedule and season. Two is maybe the playoff system needed some standards that would have omitted any school that didn’t play at six games.
It’s reasonable to say that the Buckeyes didn’t deserve a seat at the table. Hell, the Big Ten started late, installed absolutely paralyzing rules for players/staff who tested positive and had to change their own criteria to make sure Ohio State would win their conference, thus robbing Indiana. The Big Ten was a sham, and their inclusion in the College Football Playoff made that a sham too.
In a season of COVID, perhaps this was the season to step outside the usual suspects; and, take a shot at one of the schools who never get the chance. Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati, and even Texas A&M would have been brands who did the hard work, earned the wins, and played a fair amount of games. Something Ohio State did not do.
2020 should have been the season where they either take a pass on a National Championship and just play some select bowl games or truly reward teams who typically wouldn’t get a second look. While Alabama deserves all the credit for an undefeated season, beating a 5-0 (conference record) Buckeyes is dubious. That’s not to say they wouldn’t have destroyed a Texas A&M, Coastal Carolina, or Cincinnati and won another championship.
With all the challenges college football overcame, getting to this past Monday night was important. This was for no other reason than how it exposed the over-the-top hyperbolic rhetoric from the likes of Wolken. Additionally, no one died, as predicted in a macabre piece by CBSSports. Getting to the finish line showed the virus was manageable, as both the ACC and SEC showed.
All that said, finishing a fragmented season doesn’t mean the National Championship vindicated the process. These days, it seldom does, having Ohio State at the dance raised too many eyebrows. It should have, which made the whole process in a crazy season, questionable at best.