Nick Saban can basically say whatever he wants and because of his credibility in the world of college football, it tends to get traction.
Even Saban feels his most recent ideas on college football scheduling and even the playoffs are a bit “far out”, though. They do make sense, but Saban’s vision for college football’s future does require a ton of change.
Heather Dinich of ESPN reported that Saban envisions college football’s optimal playoff structure looking a bit more like March Madness.
“We should play all teams in the Power 5 conferences,” Saban said Wednesday. “If we did that, then if we were going to have bowl games, we should do the bowl games just like we do in the NCAA basketball tournament — not by record but by some kind of power rating that gets you in a bowl game. If we did that, people would be a little less interested in maybe bowl games and more interested in expanding the playoff.”
Saban’s main point in his thoughts on the CFP is that it’s so record driven, and sometimes total record doesn’t tell you the whole story of a team. He also doesn’t necessarily like the six win bowl eligibility mark. He basically insinuated that it waters down the level of games being played. Everybody knows that most college football teams schedule “cupcakes” at the begging of the year, and Saban’s Crimson Tide are no strangers to that phenomenon.
“You eliminate the six wins to get in a bowl game and now you can have a different kind of scheduling that is more fan interest, more good games, bring out the better quality team,” he said, “and whether you expand the playoff or have a system where it’s like now — we take the top 12 teams and decide what bowl game they go to — just take them all.
“In this scenario, there would be more opportunity to play more teams in your league, as well as to have more games that people would be interested in. We all play three or four games a year now that nobody’s really interested in. We’d have more good games, more public interest, more fan interest, better TV.”
One gets the sense that Saban doesn’t like the fact that the beginning of the year is such a piece of cake, and in true Saban fashion, he has a logical reason for it. It’s hard to know how your team really stacks up on a national scale when you’re playing far inferior talent for the first three-to-four weeks of the season.
Of course, there are big game exceptions for television purposes (see Alabama and Florida State’s week one matchup this season) but Saban sees the practicality of those big early season tests as well. Not only do they test a college football team, but it gives a coach a much better barometer of where his team is at — which allows him to change the way he goes about the rest of the season.
“I would rather play Florida State,” Saban said. “Not just Florida State but a good team in the beginning of the season because I think it does a lot for your team and your team’s chances of being successful. First of all, you have a better offseason when the players have a big challenge in the first game. It really tells you regardless of the result where your team is, legitimately.
“And if you play a really weak team and you win the game 45-7, you still don’t really know for sure if your team is really good or not good. You know exactly what you have to work on to get better, where your strengths, where your weaknesses are, maybe some changes you need to make. And I think it really helps you when you go play big games in your conference, especially on the road down the road.”
Playing glorified scrimmages for the first few weeks of the season won’t help anybody, including the fans. Take away the desperate need for teams to have perfect seasons entering CFP selection time and perhaps the overall quality of college football being played goes up.
Perhaps Saban knows what he’s talking about.