The NCAA Men's Tournament is an event that's celebrated across the country. With a field of 68 teams ranging from blue-blood programs to Cinderella hopefulls, fans from nearly every state have a rooting interest and a reason to tune in. The same cannot be said for the College Football Playoff.
The CFP has become an all too familiar scene these days. As Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame took the stage on Saturday night, the rest of the college football world was reminded once again of just how big the gap is between a handful of elite programs and the rest. Unlike the unpredictability that fuels much of the excitement for the NCAA Tournament, the CFP often provides a very predictable outcome among very predictable participants. No surprises, no upsets, no Cinderellas.
During the seven years that the CFP has been in existence, both Alabama and Clemson have led the way with six appearances each, with each capturing two national titles. Ohio State is next in line with four appearances over the last seven years, including the first national championship of the CFP era in 2014. The Oklahoma Sooners have also made four appearances but have failed to make it into the championship game in all four attempts. Notre Dame made its second CFP appearance this weekend but was blown out for the second time - this time against the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide.
The harsh reality for the majority of the college football world is that it’s Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State feasting on a yearly basis - with everyone else fighting over the scraps of what little remains. For most college football fans, the predictability of the college football playoff has made the reality of a playoff far less exciting than most originally expected. The predictability has also had a massive impact on recruiting, as top-tier high school athletes from across the country seek out an opportunity to play for one of the few programs that have made the CFP into a second home.
While the rich get richer year after year, I find myself more and more appreciative all of the highly ranked athletes who have the courage to challenge the elite college football programs as opposed to those who join them.
Looking at Michigan’s 2021 recruiting class, there were a whole host of recruits who could have opted to join the college football elite. Xavier Worthy was heavily pursued by the No. 1 team in the country, but ultimately chose a struggling Michigan program over an Alabama team that just punched it’s ticket to the 2020 national championship game. Donovan Edwards was one of the highest rated running backs in the country, holding offers from three of the four teams in the 2020 CFP - Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. In spite of those tempting offers, Edwards chose to remain home with the mission of taking the Michigan Football program back to the top.
“The mission is to change the program around. The plan is to bring the program back to where it’s supposed to be”.
With guys like Worthy, Edwards and quarterback JJ McCarthy (to name a few), Michigan’s 2021 class is just the latest example of highly ranked recruits who turned down offers from perennial CFP teams and instead chose to challenge them. These highly ranked recruits arrive in Ann Arbor with the intention of building an elite football program that can challenge the predictability of today's college football. Their mission, like so many others who’ve chosen the same path, is to bring some much needed parity back to the college football world.
As college football fans, we appreciate you.