Ryan’s Rants on College Football
In 1869, college football began in a field in Brunswick, New Jersey, that has since been paved over and turned into a gymnasium. Rutgers and Princeton kicked and hit the ball with their feet, heads, hands and sides with the idea of kicking the ball into the opposing team’s goal. It was more soccer and rugby than what we now recognize as football, but for all intents and purposes, this is the seminal moment in history we all recognize as the birth of intercollegiate football.
The College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and Rutgers met twice that season, splitting the two meetings and thus, retroactively being recognized as co-national champions for the 1869 season. It took all of two games in the very first season over 145 years ago for the college football national championship picture to get murky.
Tonight, this purportedly ends. The College Football Playoff pits four teams against each other and allows it all to sort itself out on the field, declaring a national champion without the ambiguity of the Bowl Championship Series or the Bowl Alliance and Bowl Coalition before that.
Of course, you may scoff at the idea of TCU’s exclusion post facto, but the reality is that the CFP gives a sport with nearly a century-and-a-half of history its first true champion. Around midnight in the eastern timezone, the conclusion of Oregon and Ohio State will lead to the hoisting of a new trophy, and no others will have a claim to the title of “National Champions.”
In a way, we’ve been gearing towards a playoff for the entire history of the sport, but cries have been loudest in the last decade. Every other major
intercollegiate sport declares their champion with a tournament, and every other level of NCAA-sanctioned collegiate football does the same. Saturday, North Dakota State defeated Illinois State for their fourth consecutive FCS championship in an entertaining back and forth affair.
Formerly Division-IAA, the younger, purer brother of big-time college football, the FCS has had a playoff since 1978. They initially started with four teams and, over the course of the last 36 years, have expanded to 8, 12 and now 16 teams.
The FBS hopes to replicate the pageantry, though it’s doubtful we see such rapid expansion given the emphasis that the sport places on the regular season and the television revenue that regular season generates. The first machination of the CFP has already been a rousing success.
Red-hot Ohio State and perennially dominant Alabama battled in a classic affair, while Oregon was utterly dominant in a win over the defending national champions, Florida State. And, where the BCS formula would have almost certainly pitted Alabama against FSU for the title this year, Oregon and Ohio State now prep for a clash that gives new credence to the need for a playoff.
On Monday, 145 years of frustration over split national championships and human/computer polling error culminates with the game we’ve all been waiting for. Four teams became two teams becomes one team on Jan. 12. A new trophy representing a new era is handed to a new champion.
They never could have imagined something like this when they were playing their own unique fusion of soccer and rugby 145 years ago on that swatch of grass in Northern New Jersey, but this is where we were destined to be all along. On a state-of-the-art surface in a state-of-the-art stadium in Arlington, Texas, in 2015 with an undisputed winner.
A true national champion.
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