My Thoughts On College Football 9am Start Times, 6-Team Playoffs

I like one and hate the other, which one do you think will land on my good side?!

Since I’ve been clamoring for an increase in playoff teams, you’d think it would be the latter, BUT YOU’D BE WRONG! Jimmy Lake was interviewed recently and asked his opinion on what College Football should do to rectify the wrong that has been the Pac-12 being on the outside-looking-in on the College Football Playoffs in most years since its inception. He feels – as I do – that every Power Five champion should be guaranteed a spot. So far, so good.

But, he stops at six teams – with an independent school, a school from a smaller conference, or (most likely) another SEC team comprising that final spot – and I am firmly opposed to this. If it’s justified as a building block to an eventual eight-team playoff system, then I guess I’ll suck it up and accept it (what choice do I have otherwise?), but if we’re stuck with a six-team playoff for the long haul, that’s going to be terrible for the sport.

In this scenario, the top two seeds get first-round BYEs. Imagine Alabama and Clemson, every year (or, failing that, Alabama and Ohio State) getting an extra week to rest their players and prepare for their opponents; those games are going to be atrocious more often than not! Don’t buy for one second that these teams would be “rusty”; that’s fucking horseshit. By their ranking, they’re already better than every other team, and now they get the HUGE advantage of playing teams that just had to get mauled for four quarters the week before? Best-case scenario, you get the final scene in the movie Gladiator, but don’t forget that dude was stabbed in the side before he went out there, and he STILL ended up dying in the end (twenty year old spoiler alert). More often than not, you’re going to see the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world winning by 30+ points.

If you don’t believe me, look no further than the NFL when it had the top two teams in each conference getting a BYE. They ended up winning in the Divisional Round about 75% of the time – over the course of MANY years – and those games were usually boring blowouts! That’s in a league with considerably more parity than in college football, so do the math.

Why not just skip the six-team playoff and go back to the top two teams meeting in the championship game? Because that’s what this would be, more often than not.

It’s only fair to have an eight-team playoff for three straight weeks (or, shit, 16 teams over four weeks, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose). Eight teams would give you all Power Five champions, another SEC team (because of course), and the other two slots could LEGITIMATELY go to independent schools, or undefeated teams from smallish conferences. Make Alabama and Clemson play every playoff week, so it’s fair when it comes to the semifinals and finals, that both teams are equally tenderized!

As for the 9am start times, bring ’em on! To read about it from the beat writers, you’d think this was a fate worse than being tortured in a dungeon, but what do you expect from a group of alcoholic night owls? Under the guise of “Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children?!” they’ll say how much of a hardship this is for college student athletes. Oh mercy me! You mean they have to wake up at *GASP* 5am?! What EVER will they do? Why don’t we chain them to a ship and have them row across the Pacific Ocean while we’re at it?!

Here’s the deal: as a frequent tailgater who loves getting his drink on in a University of Washington parking lot, is this ideal? No, of course not. I can’t get my swerve on in a few precious hours before gametime! If I had my druthers, every UW home game would start at 7pm and I’d be nine sheets to the wind by the time I stumbled into the stadium!

But, this is bigger than my desire to be publicly intoxicated! The Pac-12 has an image problem. We have an East Coast Bias problem. Poo-poo that all you want, but Pac-12 After Dark is entirely worthless when it can start as late as 11pm in the eastern time zone. No one who’s anyone (by that, I mean, voters for the AP and Coaches polls) is staying up until 1am to watch our little Junior Varsity football exhibition. You know when they’re watching? Noon! You know what time is noon eastern? 9am pacific!

It’s a necessary evil. And, it’s not like one team is going to have to suffer more than the rest; this would be something where the burden is shared among all the Pac-12 schools. I don’t mind it if my team has one or two of these games per season, if it gets us seen by the rest of the college football world, I’m all for it.

Of course, playing at 9am alone won’t do the job. Playing exciting football, having fun doing it, and actually WINNING games against non-conference opponents are all of utmost importance. But, you can’t deny that we’re hemorrhaging talent to the SEC and Big 10, and that’s a direct result of being seen as the most inferior of the Power Five conferences.

Also, not for nothing, but it doesn’t help our image problem when you’ve got Pac-12 coaches openly complaining about 9am starts. Cut that shit out! If you’re too much of a crybaby to play at whatever time of day they set for you, then how are you ever going to beat those other elite programs if/when you do get to the playoffs?

I love Chris Petersen, but his yearly complaints about late starts always drove me nuts. I can’t imagine how much he’d resent a 9am start time!