Last week, I talked about the possible ramifications of the weekend’s games. In the post, I mentioned how it would be nice to have an expanded playoff. How do I feel about bowls?
Outside of the upcoming 4-team playoffs, the bowl system will still continue to exist. It is muddled as it ever has been, with a total of 39 bowls starting next year. The rules to get in to a bowl are simple: a team must simply finish with at least six wins with no more than one win against a Football Championship Subdivision team.
With that many bowls, more than half of the Football Bowl Subdivision will play in a post-season exhibition. With the creation of the College Football Playoff, what meaning do the rest of the play? Currently, the BCS games outside of the title game represent the biggest money-making games and those with the most prestige, such as the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
Next year, this does not change much. Conferences now have tie-in “contracts” in games like the Rose, Sugar, and Orange bowl. All of these sites represent big payouts and exciting match-ups for fans. All of this still exists at the top. Supporters of mid-major teams will not make these bowls.
Mid-major programs, many of whom come from the FCS, give up a more expanded playoffs for more exposure. Additional games means teams in conferences like the Sun Belt can get seen and make an impression. Schools like Middle Tennessee State and Utah State can use this time to further their names in the broader public audience. Again, this comes at the expense of a better chance at playing for a championship.
College football’s closest analog is Division One men’s college basketball. The sport has a 68-team tournament that allows traditional powers such as North Carolina and smaller programs like VCU to compete for a championship at the same level. Teams like the Rams benefit from deep runs in the tournament, garnering attention from all over the country. Due to the restrictive nature of the College Football Playoff, mid-majors have an extremely slim chance of making the tournament.
Bowl games are plentiful and give these teams a chance to play in front of national audiences, at least for now. Advancing towards a playoff shows progress towards a more inclusive chance at a championship. Right now, the field isn’t big enough. Eventually, it might reach the size of the NCAA Basketball tournament. Until then, we can enjoy the glory of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.