The folks who make the rules that govern college football have created a mess that becomes more annoying every season. And anyone who thinks things will be better next year — when 12 teams are chosen for the college football playoffs — is fooling himself.
This season, of course, only four teams were selected — Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama. All were worthy, though controversy erupted when undefeated Florida State was shunned, as was Georgia, the team that was rated number one most of the season.
Still, when Georgia and Florida State agreed to play each other in the Orange Bowl, there seemed to be a lot riding on the outcome. You'd think Florida State players would want retribution for what some perceived as an unjustified snub, and they could do it against another team that had a strong claim for being included in the playoff. After all, Georgia was the defending national champion.
INSTEAD, several Florida State players chose not to play in the Orange Bowl, which probably should have disinvited the Seminoles to participate. But the game went on as scheduled, and Georgia won, 63-3, the most lopsided score in bowl history.
Making apologies for the losers, several said you couldn't judge Florida State's team on the results. I disagree. I think it says volumes about Florida State's football players and the state of college football. The Seminoles weren't the only team that showed up for a bowl date without key players. Ohio State, without its regular season starting quarterback, Kyle McCord (who'd already transferred to Syracuse) and star received Marvin Harrison Jr. (who did not want to risk injury), the Buckeyes lost of Missouri, 14-3, in a Cotton Bowl where ticket holders should have received a refund.
The players who chose not to play in the non-playoff bowl games knew these games were meaningless, and one can't argue with them, though I believe Florida State players should have been well-motivated to prove themselves against Georgia. Ticket refunds were called for in this game, too, and perhaps Florida State should have returned whatever money it received to participate in the farce.
SYRACUSE could have done the same thing for its pathetic effort in the Boca Raton Bowl, one of the earlier TV time-fillers. The Orange lost to South Florida, 45-0, using a patchwork offense because its first two quarterbacks were unable to play. The usual starter, Garrett Shrader, would have played, but he was injured.
The 45-point loss was not the worst ever suffered by Syracuse. In its first post-season appearance, the appropriately nicknamed Orange lost to Alabama in the Orange Bowl, 61-6, which for many years was the most one-sided bowl game.
Back then you weren't invited to a bowl game unless your team won several more games than it lost. Syracuse had a 7-2 record that year, and was undefeated against eastern schools. Highlight was a 25-7 win over Penn State.
BUT AS BOWL games proliferated, thanks mostly to money from ESPN, teams were required to win only half of its games. During the 2023 season, Minnesota won only five games and lost seven, including its last four, but nonetheless played in Quick Lane Bowl and beat Bowling Green, 30-24.
Obviously, the names of the bowl games are a clue to how meaningless they are. Some of these are the Myrtle Beach Bowl, the New Orleans Bowl, the Cure Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, the Famous Toastery Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl, Gasparilla Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the 68 Ventures Bowl (where South Alabama beat Eastern Michigan, 59-10), the Quick Lane Bowl, First Responder Bowl and Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
Some fans favor bowl appearances for their teams, making the ridiculous claim they benefit from extra practices that prepare them for next season. Never mind these practices are often conducted by lame-duck coaches and players who won't be on the team next fall.
And now we have an increasing number of players entering the transfer portal as soon as the regular season is over, or opting out of these meaningless bowl games for fear of risking injuries that could jeopardize careers in the National Football League.
NEXT SEASON there will be 11 playoff games instead of three. I assume that means eight formerly meaningless bowl games will benefit. But they are only the tip of the iceberg that threatens college football. Next year, more than any recent season, these extra bowl games will be nothing more than scrimmages between teams that have nothing to prove.
More and more players will find excuses not to participate and fewer and fewer people will be willing to attend, particularly if their teams are playing in the cold in Boston (Fenway Bowl) or New York City (Pinstripe Bowl).
Those two bowls, plus the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, seem more like punishment than a reward. But then, most of the teams involved don't really deserve to be playing in a real bowl game. Well, obviously, they aren't.