In the end, we had it all wrong.
Clemson was crowned national champion although Alabama was the hands-down consensus pick the entire season. Clemson wasn’t exactly chopped liver, though, and it now must be considered one of the top programs in the country. The Big Ten finished 5-4 in bowl games. The ACC was 6-5, The Big 12 4-3, The SEC 6-6 and the PAC 12 3-4, not that it really means anything.
We had 'Bama and Clemson in our final four in our preseason prediction. It tells me we’re a front-runner, too, because the system is stacked against most of the 130 teams competing for the championship. You’ve heard of the State of the Union address? Here's my State of College Football address.
I love college football. The traditions, the pageantry, the crowds — even the pulled pork meals. Unlike the NFL, however, there is no salary cap. There’s an arms race among the blue-blood programs, which translates into new and superior facilities, more amenities and resources committed to attract the best high school talent. The disparity invested in their football programs between the "haves and have-nots" is growing significantly because there’s no ceiling or regulations on what a school can spend. The television money may be equal in the Power Five leagues, but teams like Texas, Texas A&M, Florida State, Ohio State, and many others can raise an additional $100 million a year in donations alone, while the Washington States and Iowa States of the world can’t raise a fraction of that.
Group of Five teams aren’t even in the conversation. There is no path to qualifying for the College Football Playoff because the perception is they play an inferior brand of football. Statistics don’t lie. Few players from the Group of Five leagues play professionally while the NFL is loaded with players just from the SEC — aka the Superior Egotistical Conference. Group of Five schools might as well compete for their own separate championship.
There needs to be a modified system of checks and balances to bring competition and more importantly, parity, to the sport. The power-rich schools need to commit to a national competition inclusive of everybody. They may be playing for the same trophy but few are on equal footing. Eventually, the blue-blood programs may just break away from their respective conferences and have a 16-team super league because that’s where we’re heading. Some network is going to come along and offer billions of dollars to a select few and just like what happened with expansion, the power brokers will follow the money.
The NCAA should create a committee to research what changes are necessary to reduce this gap. They can start by reducing scholarships, mandating the elimination of FBS teams playing FCS teams schools, looking at the number of bowl games and debating the CFP. Any dialogue is constructive because nobody thinks the system in its present form is perfect. They’ll need a passionate, knowledgeable and unflappable individual to lead that committee. You guessed it: that would be me, volunteering at no costs or remuneration. Why? Because only an outsider with no skin in the game can truly be neutral. I’m not talking about draining the swamp here, just cleaning it up a little. Competing on a level playing field will increase the health and the growth of the sport by creating more interest from you, the fans. Everybody wins.
Lastly, for all of you who I’ve been able to speak to and those who reached out to me this season, it’s been a pleasure. Bringing you the information, prognostications, and the opinions — controversial or otherwise — is what inspires and motivates me as a self-proclaimed ambassador of college football. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Remember, you didn’t just hear it here first, you only heard it here, period. Just 228 days and counting until the 2019 season and yes, I have moved Notre Dame up to No. 24 in my preseason Top 25 — please folks, just kidding! See you in August!
Keep up with Ken Schreiber at www.followtheschreib.com, on Facebook at @followtheschreib and on Twitter: @ftschreib.