Nothing against Bama, but college football needs Clemson to win

In this Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and players enter the field for the first half of the Peach Bowl NCAA college football playoff game against Washington in Atlanta. The system of core beliefs, this daily guidebook for going about your business, has carried Saban and Alabama to the brink of yet another national championship. Call it The Process. Call it the Saban Way. It's hard to call it anything but successful. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Can nothing stem this raging Tide? (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

TAMPA — Ahead of the national championship game, we address an issue of national importance, at least as it pertains to sports: Does college football need Alabama to lose?

This is the third run for the College Football Playoff, which many/most of us awaited for decades. Alabama has been the No. 1 seed twice and the No. 2 last year. It didn’t win the inaugural CFP: It was upset by Ohio State in an epic Sugar Bowl semifinal that remains the greatest game this event has staged. (Granted, that’s a small sample size.) Last year Alabama beat Clemson in the second-best CFP game. This time the Crimson Tide is favored to repeat the feat.

Looking beyond the CFP, we note that Alabama won three of the final five BCS national titles. Since the Associated Press poll came into being in the 1930s, no school has ever won five more-or-less consensus national championships in eight years. Among other things, that’s a bit of history – more than a bit, actually – that Bama can claim with a victory here tonight.

But let’s go back to the last time Alabama didn’t win. Playoff No. 1 made its debut to better-than-anticipated TV ratings that left network executives and CFP folks downright giddy. (“This thing really works!”) Last year’s semifinals yielded tepid games and roundly disappointing ratings. This year’s semis did better ratings-wise but were decided by an aggregate score of 55-7.

We note that the first CFP staged its semis on New Year’s Day. The second and third played their opening rounds on New Year’s Eve. That’s a big difference, so big that CFP CEO Bill Hancock – who once vowed his operation wouldn’t budge from its scheduled dates – has already changed its schedule for 2018, 2019, 2024 and 2025. (As much as people might like college football, they also like their New Year’s Eve parties.)

The championship game suffers from no New Year’s tangle. It’s played on a Monday night against no NFL competition, the pros being involved in their own playoff. The first CFP title game matched Ohio State against Oregon; the Buckeyes won 42-20. The second matched Bama and Clemson, the Tide prevailing 45-40. The first drew 33.4 million viewers; the second drew 23.6. That was a drop of nearly 10 million sets of eyeballs for what was demonstrably a superior game.

The BCS title game of January 2012 that paired Alabama against LSU drew the third-lowest TV audience in BCS annals. That game, featuring teams from the same conference, led other conferences, the Big Ten especially, to revisit any opposition to a playoff. And we saw with Alabama-LSU then, and with Alabama-Clemson last year, something we didn’t see with the last BCS title game, which matched Florida State against Auburn – two other Southern schools, we note – in January 2014. That drew the third-highest ratings in the BCS’ 16-year existence.

Alabama is a great program – on this we can all agree – but not necessarily a great draw. Some of that has to do with demographics: Not as many people live in Alabama as in, say, Florida, to say nothing of California or New York. No matter how much ESPN might like it, there’s not apt to be a USC-Syracuse championship game anytime soon. But I think what we’re seeing goes beyond geography. It goes to human nature. Alabama has simply won too much. We need a Sabin vaccine to inoculate us against Saban fatigue.

Apologies for using this comparison for a second consecutive day, but Alabama’s dominance reminds me of nothing so much as UCLA’s run of 10 NCAA titles in 12 seasons. (And the Bruins would surely have won an 11th had freshmen been eligible in 1966.) UCLA became the platinum standard for college basketball at a time when the sport was essentially a regional entity. The famous game of Jan. 20, 1968 – No. 1 UCLA and Lew Alcindor, soon to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, against No. 2 Houston and Elvin Hayes in the Astrodome, televised nationally by TVS – will stand forever in sports history.

UCLA won so often – four more consecutive titles after Lew/Kareem left for the NBA – that it became synonymous with the sport itself. People who didn’t care much for college basketball knew UCLA. But for the NCAA tournament to begin to flower into the Madness we see to this day, UCLA needed to lose. Which, in double overtime in March 1974 against North Carolina State in Greensboro, N.C., it finally did. The giant Bill Walton was felled by David Thompson.

That wasn’t quite the end for UCLA – sans Walton, the Bruins won the NCAA again in 1975, whereupon John Wooden retired – but it was the end of college basketball as a one-program sport. Saban’s Alabama is the closest thing to Wooden’s UCLA we’ve seen. Clemson has lost two games in two seasons and is clearly the second-best team in the land, but if the Tigers prevail the game will be remembered mostly as the time Alabama finally lost.

In the grand scheme, Alabama losing wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. Besides, even the Tide loses tonight, you know they’ll win next year.

College Football Playoff reading:

The no-Kiffin look: Alabama will be better with Sarkisian calling plays.

Clemson might win. But it’s playing Alabama.

Jeremy Pruitt: From UGA to another title game with Alabama.

Good riddance: Saban gives the brat Kiffin the boot.

This is the Clemson we’ve been waiting to see.

Meanwhile, in Glendale: I like Ohio State over Clemson.

Washington has a real chance. Alabama has Nick Saban.

The 1926 Rose Bowl: Alabama beat Washington, changing a sport.

Reader Comments 0

39 comments
LOGS1973
LOGS1973

ACC ACC ACC   We run this country!!

Big Wally
Big Wally

Memo to 31-0hi0, that's what a touchdown looks like.


Bwhahahahahah

TOJacket
TOJacket

This ought to be a great game....line is down to 6.

oldmanfromalabama
oldmanfromalabama

Mark Bradley simply likes to stir up BS!

He doesn't like a winner, and especially one from ALABAMA.

He invents logic to support his venom.

This piece was a waste of ink!

mwoodliff
mwoodliff

Bradley's comment that college football needs a Clemson win is pure mystical smog.  What college football needs are good games regardless of the contestants and it could use an eight game playoff system.  I like excellence in all its forms.  Whoever wins tonight is going to be excellent and I like it.  Regardless of the winner, college football will survive.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

350 days until the little ten gets exposed again during bowl season.

0-2 against the sec east

0-5

31 - 0 hi: 0

TideDawg
TideDawg

It would appear that many want to see the "Big Bully Crimson Tide" lose. Those are the same fans that always pull for the underdog, or those sometimes known as losers. Of course Clemson could win, but guess what......if they win they become the "Big Bully". Interesting isn't it. Next year they will be pulling against Clemson, who will be the new "Big Bully". I believe Alabama doesn't care what you want, or what you believe, or think. They will come to play and if they get beat it will be by a better team.....but don't count on it.

OH:IO
OH:IO

22 days until the dogs next signing day national championship!!

TideDawg
TideDawg

@OH:IO It'll take longer than that for OSU to get over the embarrassment they suffered against Clemson. Hopefully the playoff committee will share that embarrassment for putting them in the playoff.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@TideDawg @OH:IO Nothing embarrassing about making the playoffs....your real team the dawgs suck so bad you had to adopt the Tide, it's OK though because a lot of folks do that.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@OH:IO Get back to us when your team scores a point, until then STFU.

Billy Beavers
Billy Beavers

If Clem & Son wins, maybe Pickens County can reduce my taxes a bit....After all the Clem & Son district get the most of our tax $$$, now....Ah, for the good old days of Media-ock racy --

The Doom
The Doom

As a Bama fan I don't think our recent dominance is necessarily a bad thing. People love to hate a villain. They do. And Saban and Bama serve that purpose. People will tune in just to watch Bama lose or in the hope that we lose. 


I suspect if Clemson beats us tonight, and there's a very good chance they will, then it will generate renewed interest after seeing the big bully on the block knocked down a peg or 2.  


You're right about one thing though, Mark. Even if we do lose tonight we'll be right back there next year. And the year after that. And the year after that...

OH:IO
OH:IO

There are only two fan bases (and all the SEC! SEC! coattail riding chanters) that give a crap about the game tonight. 


I, for one, might watch some pregame hype and a quarter or two. but,  I have no interest in the way too long half time and watching more commercials than football on a Monday night. 

Billy Beavers
Billy Beavers

@OH:IO As bad as the Tigers beat your team, I'd watch Forensic Files tonight. 

tipstotips
tipstotips

@OH:IO Thanks for the 411. Everyone was wondering what you were going to do.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@tipstotips @Peachs I'll sleep fine regardless of who the he!! wins....but it is nice throwing a little "we are the top conference"after listening to it for years....doesn't matter...we are still the top Conference.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Ohio State vs. Oregon was a matchup between two of the best teams in football that also spanned the country by virtue of their respective conference footprints. Of course it was highly rated. Bama/LSU was a rematch of a regular season game that Bama lost. No one really wanted to see a rematch, and the game itself was boringly lopsided. Bama/Clemson 1 was a matchup between the best team in the country and Clemson. No one really cares about Clemson.


This year, that will be different as Clemson has proven (by soundly defeating Ohio State) that it can be a power. Expect this game to get a lot of eyes on it.


But stating that Bama is not a big draw, that people don't gravitate to programs that dominate, or that the public isn't drawn to a legendary run in the making is absurd. It's a claim that theorizes that the NBA was hurt by the Celtics/Bulls/Lakers dynasties, that the Yankees damaged baseball, or that the Patriots are bad for business. You're drunk, Mark, go to bed. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

So now you know what college football needs? How profoundly intelligent you are, but.....why have you waited so long to save college football? Surely you had the solution before now.