The first College Football Playoff is more than a year away, but label Ohio State coach Urban Meyer as a reluctant embracer of a system that will select the top four teams in the country for semifinals and a championship game to satiate longtime critics of the two-team Bowl Championship Series format.
“I think it’s great. I’m not complaining, and I hope we can get involved in it. I hope Ohio State is good enough,” Meyer said. “But then they’re going to want to go to eight teams, and then, ‘Let’s go 64.’ And you can’t do that with major college football. So I just worry where it stops.”
Ohio State’s second-year coach won BCS titles at Florida in 2006 and 2008. He has a team at Ohio State, coming off a 12-0 year in which it was banned from postseason play but finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll, that is expected to contend for the final national championship game under the BCS.
“I loved the old system,” Meyer said.
In 2006, he guided Florida over Ohio State in the first national championship game that was separated from the bowls.
“It felt like the Super Bowl,” Meyer said. “It was the coolest thing for our players, the fans, to be a week removed from all the bowl games. And I thought it was the answer.”
The clamor for more inclusion has never stopped, though. Almost every year since the BCS first guaranteed a matchup of No.1 vs. No. 2 in 1998, there have been debates about who was left out.
“That’s not going to stop,” Meyer said. “There’s going to be someone (who will) finish fifth in (2014), and their fans and others are going to say ‘What if?’ ”
Such controversy has long been part of the mystique of the college game, even when just the polls identified the national champion.
“I don’t think there has been a mistake in the college football champion since at least 2006,” Meyer said. “I think the best team in college football has won the championship every year. “I’m not sure basketball can say that because there’s so many games (in the NCAA Tournament), and someone gets upset. At the end of the day, from Florida, to LSU, to Florida, to Alabama’s run, and Auburn, I don’t think the BCS has missed. The team at the end of the day that held the crystal ball was the best team in college football.
“How many sports can say that? I mean, we had our rival (Michigan) finish fourth in the Big Ten this year in basketball, and they wound up playing for the national championship.”
The four-team College Football Playoff is going to present its own challenges, especially for the finalists. The first year, the semifinals will be on Jan. 1, 2015, in the Rose and Sugar bowls, then the title game will be on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.
“During that time you’ve just played a major game. School is starting. You’re in recruiting. Your midsemester enrollees (early signees from the recruiting class) will be showing up on campus,” Meyer said. “The magnitude of all the moving parts with 105 football players as opposed to a small group of basketball players — I think basketball is great with what they’re doing (in the postseason), but don’t try to compare the two.
“For me, it’s going to be absolute chaos.”
The wear and tear on the players should not be discounted, either.
“You’ll find a way to do it,” Meyer said. “A lot of it will come down to dealing with injuries. I know when we won the national title in ’08 (at Florida), if they had told us after that championship game that we had to play another game, I’d have been — I mean, every coach, every player was pretty worn down, because we’d played (Florida State) at the end of the regular season, we played Alabama in the SEC title game, and then we played Oklahoma. And before that we’d played LSU, South Carolina, Georgia.
“By the time you get there, you are so punch-drunk. And the safety of the players, I worry about that. So you’re going to play 15 games? Careful, careful. You’re really going to have to start talking about how you’re going to practice during the year.”
Only two teams will have to deal with a 15th game.
“But those teams better be right on it,” Meyer said.
That’s because the semifinals promise to be intense.“Killers,” Meyer said. “Those will be games with championship-game intensity.”