I honestly miss the days of college football prior to 1996ish. It was a much simpler time. Notre Dame was in a major bowl every year, and that made sense. The SEC was a near backwater conference with Steve Spurrier running roughshod over everyone, and that made sense. Florida State hadn't yet lost to anyone in the ACC and that made sense. Nebraska was continuing its run of 500 years of domination in the Great Plains, and that made sense. The winners of the PAC-10 and Big 10 played in a largely irrelevant but always fun Rose Bowl game. The SEC hosted its Sugar Bowl, hoping its best team could some how upset Miami or some other power team. The Big 8 champion was drowned in a hail of oranges thrown by fans dreaming of a warm weather game on New Year's Day in Miami.
I was reading through some of the news regarding the recent decision by the leadership of various universities to go with a playoff to determine the national champion of college football. The more I read about it, the more I feel a sense of desperation on the part of the people involved. Instead of enjoying what their teams are doing on the field, people associated with these programs are going to really miss out on the simple joy that is college football.
Then all of a sudden, people got greedy. Over the course of several years, the Orange Bowl lost its preeminent status and signed a contract with the ACC champion, dooming itself to appearances by Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Maryland, etc.. The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl climbed to the top, with the Fiesta not far behind. The balance of power shifted, not because of play on the field, but because of television money. The SEC and Big 10 became the epicenters of college football. No longer was a champion determined by a bunch of drunk reporters who generally had a pretty good idea who was the best team, but a champion was determined based on conference affiliation. It became a messy business, with brands and profit margins as important as the players and coaches. Teams stopped caring about playing each other across regions and started caring more about keeping their losses (if any) within the conference.
With Louisville and the Big East effectively relegated from the conversation, we have a chance to just enjoy the game again solely for the sake of the game. Remember that magic in 1990? or 1993? or JLS's first year? Or the 11 win Libery Bowl team? We can have fun again. We can win, too. But we no longer have to worry about "are we included?" The decision has been made for us. We aren't included. But that doesn't mean we can't have a ton of fun. A 10-win season is still a huge accomplishment. A bowl appearance (fingers crossed for a major bowl) is still a major boost to the program. And the dream of an undefeated season, well, will it be any less of an accomplishment if we don't get a spot in the new playoff? I think not. So we can still enjoy the season for what it is, and hopefully we'll still be playing football in January. And who knows, maybe in 10 years, they will really make it a merit-based system and have a true playoff. But until then, let's party like it's 1989. And let's be thankful we aren't part of the mess that has become of college football.
Added thought: just to make you feel better (or perhaps worse), a list of teams who, despite their affiliation, have a 99% chance of never being in the playoff, either due to lack of quality and/or lack of national interest.
Indiana (quality, national interest), Northwestern (q), Purdue (q, ni), Illinois (q, ni), Minnesota (q,ni), Iowa (q) Iowa St.(q, ni), Kansas (q, ni), Kansas St. (ni), Texas Tech (q, ni), Missouri q, ni) Colorado (q), Utah (ni), Texas A&M (q), Kentucky (q, ni), Vanderbilt (q), Ole Miss (q,), Miss St. (q, ni), Maryland (q, ni), NC State (ni), Pitt (q, ni), Cuse (q), UNC (q), Duke (q), Georgia Tech (q, ni), Miami (q), Clemson (ni), Wake Forest (q, ni), Oregon St (q, ni), UCLA (q), Arizona (q, ni), Arizona St. (q), Washington St. (q, ni), Washington (q), California (q, ni).
The committee wants Texas and Michigan, Southern Cal and ND, FSU and LSU, Ohio St. and Oklahoma. Sure they may include one "outsider", like Stanford, Michigan St., Oklahoma St, South Carolina, Penn St., Georgia or Arkansas, but they want the blue bloods and the hot teams (Oregon) with massive sponsorship. And since they can go ahead and choose their Final Four, they will do it.
All that being said, if we do get in to the Big XII, we will immediately be included again. But until that happens, let's just have fun like we used to.