Decades from now, the wealthiest Crimson Tide boosters surely will pay to have Nick Saban’s brain cryogenically preserved so it can oversee the continuation of football dominance.
DeVonta Smith, Alabama’s Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver, did what only he could do Monday in the first half of a 52-24 win against Ohio State in the national-title game: catch so many passes (12) for so many yards (215) and touchdowns (three) that everyone else on a field packed with NFL talent quietly receded into the background.
But after the confetti fell, as he was interviewed on the champions’ stage at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, the spectacular Smith, the game’s offensive MVP, turned to just another dime-store cliché.
“Last year,” he claimed, “people said the dynasty was over.”
Over? Did they really? What else did “people” say, that the smart-phone fad wouldn’t last, McDonald’s would run out of chicken nuggets and the Kardashians would have to get jobs at the post office?
Here’s who said the Crimson Tide dynasty was over: nobody. Not me. Not you. Not even your cousin Cletus in Chattahoochee, who ritually burns a pair of crimson-and-white overalls each fall. No, the Tide aren’t going anywhere. Not now. Maybe never. Decades from now, Alabama’s wealthiest boosters surely will pay to have Nick Saban’s brain cryogenically preserved so it can oversee the continuation of football dominance.
“We don’t stop,” Smith also said. “We keep reloading.”
It’s all too true. And I can’t be the only one who has grown weary of the seemingly never-changing order of things in the college game.
At the top sits Alabama, which has made the four-team playoff in all but one season — 2019 — and has a preposterous winning percentage of .919 in the seven-year playoff era. Also up there is Clemson, which likewise is 6-for-7 in making the playoff. Ohio State and Oklahoma have made it four times each.
Everyone else — including Notre Dame, the only other school to reach the playoff more than once — is on the outside looking in. And the playoff has become such a singular focus in how the college game is marketed and covered, everything else has faded in importance. Show me a team (such as Oklahoma this season) that wins a Power 5 conference crown but misses the playoff, and I’ll show you a crown that basically has been discarded into the nearest trash can.
Way back in 1993, I covered Wisconsin as it won the Big Ten to clinch a spot in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 31 years. Those Badgers lost one game, tied another and were ranked only No. 9 as they took the field in Pasadena, but they were beheld as national darlings. More than enough Badgers fans to fill the entire, 100,000-plus-seat stadium traveled west to revel in the moment, assaulting the Southern California aesthetic with their jorts, too-tight red T-shirts and blinding, winter-white skin.
For that team and its fans, making it to Pasadena was as gratifying as winning a national title would’ve been. But now? Such a Badgers or Wildcats team would be a relative afterthought, all the oxygen going to the bigger boys in line for the playoff.
And it’s the same old big boys, time after time.
“We’re the best,” said Alabama’s Christian Barmore, Monday’s defensive MVP.
He wasn’t wrong. Wake me, please, if and when the dynasty ever ends.
The most common argument for college football playoff expansion is that more teams being in play for spots would equal more big, must-see games during the regular season.
Fine. That’s true. Unfortunately, it also means less and less emphasis on traditional rivalries and bowl games, which is sad because those are the things that differentiated the college game from the NFL.
But there’s another problem with expanding the playoff, and it’s the plain-and-simple reality that the games would be awful. As it is, four teams are — competitively speaking — too many. The 14 semifinal games since the start of the playoff have been decided by a silly average of 20.9 points. Even the last three title games have been lopsided, with Clemson, LSU and Alabama winning by an average of 24.3 points.
Is anybody out there really dying for more blowouts?
• All this time Michigan has spent getting its face mashed in by rival Ohio State, all it needed was a DeVonta Smith?
Jim Harbaugh probably should’ve thought of that.
• How does Illinois go from blowing Northwestern’s minds with a 53-13 second half Thursday in Evanston to losing to unranked Maryland 66-63 three days later in Champaign?
Brad Underwood has too many guys who’ve been around the block to put such an inconsistent team out there. The Illini have Final Four potential this season. They also have knocked-out-in-the-first-round potential. Neither outcome would surprise me a bit.
• Zach LaVine’s late-game shot selection vs. Matt Nagy’s fourth-down play calling:
• After inking his ride-or-die partner Jeremy Colliton to a two-year extension as Blackhawks coach, president Stan Bowman gave his forecast for a squad whose season begins Wednesday:
“If you have a lot of young players in your lineup and they start to progress and show that they’re NHL contributors, it should translate into better performance for your team.”
Translation: Is it too soon to start planning a parade?