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A four-team College Football Playoff format does its job — and that’s why it isn’t much fun

The more teams invited, the better the odds that something interesting happens, writes SportsDay’s Kevin Sherrington.

Georgia’s 33-18 win Monday over Alabama was viewed by 22.6 million, up from the numbers posted in the Crimson Tide’s title grab last year but still the second-lowest in College Football Playoff history. Even so, the team tabbed No. 1 in all but the last of the CFP rankings ended up winning it all, meaning the best team probably won, right?

And isn’t that the point, determining a true national champion?

Or are we tired of that already?

Yeah, me, too.

Five of the CFP’s eight titlists have come from the SEC, two were won by Clemson, and Ohio State owns the other. Sort of like the same family winning the lottery every year. Makes you suspicious. But, other than heaping another conspiracy theory on your pile, what can I say? Except for the CFP’s first try, when the committee messed with TCU’s mind the last two weeks, you can’t really argue much with the results. It’s not like any of the champs have been frauds. The winners come from places where college football is practically the fifth gospel. Texas and Oklahoma must believe, or else why transfer their membership?

The problem with the CFP isn’t that it doesn’t work, because it does, nearly to a fault. The problem is that it’s just not much fun.

What we need is an expanded playoff, like the 12-team proposal Bob Bowlsby and his pals came up with last summer. Frankly, what was not to like? More slots would mean more money to spread around to more schools. More bowls would actually matter. Fewer players would skip out on their last games. Best of all, more invitations would make it a party.

For the record, unless you’re inviting a Kardashian, two couples do not make a party. The more you invite, the better the odds that something interesting happens, my best case for expansion.

Look, let’s not kid ourselves: Opening a pathway for Group of Five schools to the national championship game won’t dramatically alter the kind of results we’ve seen over the last eight years. Might have no impact at all. It’s hard to belly-up against four- and five-star talent quarter after quarter, much less week after week. ESPN’s Todd McShay projects three players from Georgia’s stultifying defense will go in the first round. Bryce Young would probably second that notion.

Cincinnati got its chance against Alabama in the semis, and look what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Cinderellas. They make great storylines. I was reminded of this the other day while watching Hoosiers again, by myself, as usual. What makes Hoosiers great — besides Gene Hackman and the fact the kids could actually play basketball — is that it’s based on a true story. Jimmy Chitwood? His real name is Bobby Plump, and, in 1954, his jumper from the right elbow gave tiny Milan, enrollment 161, the state title in a historic win over Muncie Central, a school 10 times its size.

If Milan and Muncie had played 10 times, the big-city school probably would have won nine, as Plump once told me. But Milan made the most of its epic opportunity, and Plump hasn’t paid for a drink in Indiana since.

Milan made history nearly 70 years ago, yet still we marvel. Why? Because it’s the kind of story that happens maybe once or twice a generation. That’s what makes it special. David slays Goliath every week in the NFL, and it’s no longer a big deal. Like watching Nick Saban win a title every year or Hoosiers every week.

One more basketball comparison: The fun of March Madness doesn’t kick in when Jim Nantz officially introduces the Final Four. The excitement is in the first weekend, the province of the outrageous. Like 2018, when the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, previously renowned as a chess power, beat blue-blood Virginia by 20. The Retrievers — an overnight sensation in their Academy-issue unis — didn’t make it out of the weekend. That’s the thing about the tournament. For all the upsets, we still end up with the usual suspects. But, for 48 hours, UMBC was the story of the tournament and a reason to believe in the possibilities of the improbable.

A 12-team playoff wouldn’t afford the same possibilities the 64-team NCAA field does, but it’d beat the prospects of the same four teams every year. And until some SEC team beats Oklahoma or Clemson or Ohio State or one of its own for the glass football, we’d welcome a fresh storyline.

Who knows? One of these days, maybe even in my lifetime, the CFP might gift us another Milan.

But, at the moment, it’s not looking good. Three days of meetings in Indianapolis revealed zippo progress on expansion, meaning the status quo will prevail until 2025, at least. Too bad, but I get it. Getting so many schools with such disparate notions to come to a consensus, even one in their best interests, is asking a lot. Like getting the fam to agree on dinner.

Find more college sports coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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