The days of an undefeated national champion are not completely nonexistent, but one may begin to wonder how frequently an undefeated team will be crowned national champions in college football now that the playoff format is prepared to be implemented next season.
This year, the Ohio State Buckeyes dropped the ball and deprived college football fans of a true two-undefeated-team national championship game. Because of the impressive performance by Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten championship game, the Buckeyes lost their first game in two seasons. This loss means the undefeated and ACC champions Florida State Seminoles would not be facing an undefeated Buckeye team, but instead a one loss SEC champion in the Auburn Tigers.
The four-game playoff will add another game to the season, increasing the likelihood that a team will have an off day, or perhaps face an opponent that is just having a red hot day. Undefeated seasons have been hard enough to come by, and now that an extra game has been added, they will happen even less frequently; if the playoffs expand, any and each subsequent expansion will offer another opportunity for teams to falter along the path to a national championship.
In recent history, the SEC has been the dominant conference in all of college football, so one must accept the decision to put their championship football team in the national championship game. That said, the Michigan State Spartans certainly have a right to be heard in regards to their argument that they are also a deserving one-loss team; they did beat the undefeated and underrated Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game. Also, their only loss was to a Notre Dame team who played in the national championship game just one year ago and the loss that the Spartans suffered was very early in the season.
Notre Dame lost four games following its run to the national championship game last year; those games were all too high quality opponents in the Michigan Wolverines, the Oklahoma Sooners, the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Stanford Cardinal. In comparison, the Auburn Tigers lost to the LSU Tigers this season. The Tigers lost three games to Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia. One could argue that the loss the Spartans suffered at the hands of Notre Dame is completely comparable to the loss that Auburn had at the hands of LSU.
Arguments are all moot at this point, as the Spartans will be facing off against the Stanford Cardinal, not the Seminoles, in the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is, of course, a premiere bowl game in all of college football, and the Spartans are very humbled by the invitation to compete in Pasadena.
The stage will present the Spartans with an opportunity to show, on a national stage, what the country missed out on by placing too much value on a conference by putting the Auburn Tigers in the national championship game. The Spartans will be facing off against a team very similar to themselves in the Cardinal; the game may not be flashy or overly exciting, but a demonstration in physical dominance and high quality defense by the Spartans should result in a victory and catch the eye of many fans around the country who will probably be wishing they could have seen the Spartans’ extraordinary defense take on Jameis Winston and the Seminoles.