As mentioned yesterday, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer shared his thoughts on college football's seemingly inevitably shift from the current mess of a system in place to one similar but with a champion actually crowned as the result of beating two of college football's best four teams in consecutive games. Meyer outed himself as a traditionalist and in favor of the current system with much of that to do with his 2008 team being "completely out of gas" after taking out (what was likely one of college football's best four teams in that moment in time) Alabama. Florida, of course, went on to beat Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game in Miami in a predominately defensive slugfest to win that year's national title.
While there's certainly nothing wrong with championing traditions worth fighting for (and lord knows Ohio State has plenty), there's little fruitful about championing a broken system for the sake of convenience or because of circumstantial evidence that the current rules and regulations benefitted you once upon a time. It's roughly akin to liking the current tax rate (lol) because you got a $400 refund last year without doing your due diligence to realize that while you might bet $120 less next year, numerous other social benefits would greatly outweigh the modest reduction.
Perhaps more interesting, however, was Meyer's comments to the Atlanta Journal Constitution relating to the timing of such a so-called "four team event":
Have you heard about having the semifinals before Christmas and the championship after? "I think that's what they are talking about. Two games after Christmas? Good luck."
My question is why? Arguments are thrown around carelessly often about finals weeks immediately following conference championship games, the need to spend time with family during the holiday, having time off, etc, but besides the start of a new semester (or quarters in the Pac-12; RIP Ohio State quarter system), what exactly is taxing about playing one game January 1st and another January 8th?
We've seen plenty of excuses made over the years after long layoffs where by which one team is said to be "flat" or "out of shape" because of having "too long of a layover." In other years, when better fitting the overarching narrative, we've heard things akin to "so and so came out battle ready because they had a long layover; the other team only had 10 less days off, which wasn't enough time for them to heal an injury and prepare for the game." While clearly the truth falls somewhere between, injuries aside (which happen in any week at any time regardless of conditioning or otherwise in a sport as physically taxing as football), playing a game January 1st and another a week or so later hardly seems like a stretch.
Playing a game December 17th and then another January 3rd on the other hand? A bit different animal all together. While arguably the team that comes out best prepared and executes best is going to win any given game, momentum is almost completely eliminated in such a scenario. Sure some teams can get banged up and have nothing left in the tank after a battle in the trenches against a world class opponent, but often times other teams (particularly rhythm based offensive attacks like Oregon's, the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners, and perhaps some of what we may see with the speed based quick execution Tom Herman looks to implement) can get a bit out of sync with irregular layovers. It's not that 45 days or 50 days or 60 days or however many arbitrary number of days off is a killer; it's that if a team is used to having 7 days off, then all the sudden they have 14 days off then 17 days, the muscle memory and comfortable psychological routine gets tossed out the window. Sure, it's "fair", in that it effects both teams equally, but much how some teams lay an egg after a bye week (think about how many of Jim Tressel's 2003-2005 teams were guilty of this), scheduling irregularly like this could produce a similar effect.