Northwestern stuns Ohio State with a last-minute game-winning touchdown. Pittsburgh forces three Clemson turnovers in the second half and wins the ACC Championship. Texas beats Oklahoma in a shootout, 51-48. Fun, right? Exhilarating and unpredictable. Dozens of "Did you see that?!?!" moments. But at what cost?
The last two College Football Playoff National Championships have been two of the best games in college football history. A walk-off win to unseat the undisputed champions and an overtime thriller as a rising program, seeking their first national title in 37 years, battles Goliath.
Each game featured the two best teams in college football. If there's too much regular-season and conference championship chaos, we don't get the best teams in the national championship.
Notre Dame wasn't the best (or second-best) team in 2012. That was Florida or Oregon, but thanks to their one-score regular-season losses to Georgia and Stanford, respectively, (and Alabama's loss to Texas A&M), the Gators and Ducks were left out of the BCS National Championship. Consequently, Alabama annihilated an Irish team better suited for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Butler and UConn made our eyes bleed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament National Championship after Kansas, Ohio State, Duke and other elite teams were victims of VCU-, Kentucky– and Arizona-inflicted chaos. The 2011 tourney was fun, exhilarating and unpredictable, but it ended with a thud. The 53-41 rock fight owns the sixth-lowest championship rating in the last 44 years.
What are you willing to sacrifice for an upset-filled conference championship weekend? If you're a UCF fan, a kidney — or maybe two kidneys. Me? Nothing.
Barring a shocking development, Alabama and Clemson will both make the playoff for a fourth straight season (for Alabama, a fifth straight season). It's also likely Oklahoma earns a third bid in four years. If not, Ohio State gets their third bid in five years. Or, with a close loss and the right results elsewhere, Georgia could make a second straight appearance.
Parity is not thriving in college football right now. There's been regular-season chaos and classics this year — Purdue throttling Ohio State, Old Dominion beating Virginia Tech, BYU over presumed playoff contender Wisconsin — but, despite the chaos, we could have three of the same four participants from a year ago.
That's not ideal for a sport that screams "Anything can happen!" from the mountaintops. It is, however, ideal to have the best teams playing the best games in the College Football Playoff.
While there's no guarantee Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma would deliver good national semifinals and another legendary national championship, the potential is far greater than if chaos erupted and we didn't have the four best teams in the playoff.
Above all — above any amount of conference championship chaos and/or classics — I want another instant classic in Santa Clara on Jan. 7. That's most likely to happen with the four best teams.