Sunday night, San Francisco and Baltimore will clash in Super Bowl XLVII, arguably the greatest sports spectacle in the world. While the Super Bowl is an impressive thing in and of itself, the process to get to the game every year is equally exciting.
The NFL playoffs are everything right with football and are the number one example of why college football's postseason—whether it be the BCS system or the new four-team playoff beginning in 2014—will always be behind the times.
The playoffs are exciting every year for one reason or another, but this season was exceptional. Of the 10 games so far this postseason, all but two were a one-possession game heading to the fourth quarter. Green Bay vs. Minnesota in the wild card round and New England vs. Houston in the divisional round were the only exceptions.
Meanwhile, in the level of football just below the NFL, the nation's premier college football programs get to slog through the BCS for one more season before switching over to a four-team playoff. While the new postseason format is an upgrade over the perpetually awful BCS system, there is still so much more that could be done.
While it's not as meaningful as the college football regular season, the NFL's regular season still has plenty of meaning and counts for quite a bit. Sure, there will be games at the end of the season where teams play the second-string players to give the starters a rest before the playoffs, but that's smart coaching and, more importantly, the NFL doesn't suffer for it.
College football administrators have long argued they don't want the college postseason to look like the NFL's because it will devalue the regular season—currently the most meaningful in sports—and cost schools money due to dropping attendance numbers. While that is a possibility, the money that could be made from hosting up to three playoff games would definitely offset the cost.
Plus, wouldn't it be amazing to see a playoff game between Oklahoma and Ohio State for the right to go to the national championship at The Horseshoe? The atmospheres of college football stadiums—particularly those of the most storied programs—are second to none, including those in the NFL. Make no mistake, atmospheres in the NFL are great, but the connection college football fans have to their favorite teams is much stronger than any fan has to an NFL team.
However, in regards to ticket sales, college football has kind of dug its own grave in that regard, building colossal stadiums they have to fill each week. Only three of the 24 biggest football stadiums in America are NFL stadiums, the biggest being New York's Metlife Stadium, which boasts a capacity of 82,566, making it the 15th biggest stadium in the country. The rest of those 24 are college stadiums, including all of the top 14.
Why would college football not want to model its postseason after the NFL playoffs? After all, the NFL is a billion dollar industry and by far the most popular sport in the U.S. The details would be a bit complicated with working around finals and maintaining the untouchable image of "amateurism" the NCAA wants to keep in place. However, if we're talking about the money to be made—which administrators have proved is the most important thing to them thanks to realignment—there's no question this is the way for college football to go.
There is progress being made. Abandoning the horrific BCS system is a great start, but the four-team playoff—with bowl sites hosting the semifinals—isn't as different from the current BCS system as you'd like to think. As long as college football refuses to adopt the NFL's way of determining a champion, it will always be behind in terms of both money and popularity.