As of New Year’s Day, four college football bowl games were canceled because of Covid protocols, and two more (Gator and Sun) were held as scheduled only after substitute teams were found (Rutgers and Central Michigan) to replace two that had to withdraw (Texas A&M and Miami) for the same reason.
As of January 1, 2022—just in Colorado—because of the Coronavirus-Covid-Delta-Omicron scourge:
The Avalanche had not played a hockey game since December 16, postponing seven games as the National Hockey League suspended play for the duration of 2021 (and also canceled participation in the Beijing Olympics coming up in February);
The Nuggets had canceled a home game against the league-leading Golden State Warriors, after being idled by the ravaged Brooklyn Nets on December 19;
The CU Buffaloes had postponed or canceled three games since beating Cal-Bakersfield on December 18; and
Even the Broncos were forced to cancel a practice—last Thursday.
All of this is worth noting because the College Football Playoff Management Committee announced, two days before Christmas, its policy regarding Covid interference in the four-team playoff that began on New Year’s Eve:
The policy states, in part, that:
“If one team is unavailable to play, the unavailable team shall forfeit the game and its opponent would advance to the championship game.
“If both teams in one semifinal game are unavailable to play in one semifinal game, the game would be declared “no contest” and the team winning the other semifinal game would be declared CFP National Champion.
“If three teams are unavailable to play, in the other semifinal game, the team unable to play shall forfeit the game, and its opponent would be declared CFP National Champion.”
Fortunately, the four playoff teams managed to avoid the Covid calamity and, with victories by Alabama and Georgia setting up a rematch, the title game remains on for January 10 in Indianapolis—though still vulnerable for a few more days.
But here’s the rest of the CFP Management Committee’s policy:
“If the team’s unavailability is determined after the Playoff Semifinals have been conducted, the national championship game in Indianapolis may be rescheduled no later than Friday January 14. If one team is able to play and the other is not, and the game cannot be rescheduled or is rescheduled and cannot be played, then the team unable to play shall forfeit the game and the other team shall be declared CFP National Champion. If both teams are unable to play on either an original or rescheduled date, then the game shall be declared “no contest” and the CFP National Championship shall be vacated for this season.”
I have a problem with that I hope ‘Bama and the Dawgs are both in the flower of health come next Monday. These ARE the two best teams in college football at this time, and it will be sensational to see them square off with the title on the line. (Forget about the SEC Championship Game. Neither team will rout the other this time, and Georgia might even prevail.)
My problem is if Omicron or any other version of the Covid curse infests one or both of these teams. A “forfeit” is NOT acceptable. Nor is “no contest” and a vacated national champion.
For decades, college football’s national champion was decided by vote. Either writers and broadcasters, or college coaches—depending on which poll you wanted to recognize (if they differed) decided which team would be crowned No. 1. Yes, it provoked many howls. But if the CFP title game can’t be played, deciding a champion should revert to the old-fashioned way.
I, for one, would cast a vote for Georgia. Yes, the Bulldogs were embarrassed by the Crimson Tide December 4. But I consider that an anomaly.
One need look only to the Orange Bowl and Georgia’s domination of a very good Michigan team to see the real Dawgs. The final score was 34-11, but the game had been decided by halftime. It was 27-3 at the break (and not that close). Talk about a no contest.
Georgia became the first team in CFP history (eight years) to score on its first five possessions, and outgained Michigan 330 yards to 101 in the first 30 minutes. A defense that allowed less than a touchdown per game in the12-game regular season would have done it in the CFP Semifinals if the Wolverines hadn’t scored a meaningless touchdown and two-point conversion with 4:25 left in the fourth quarter.
Sometimes a team needs a wakeup call. Alabama gave Georgia one. But remember what they say about waking the sleeping dog. Or, in this case, the sleeping Dawgs.
Regardless of the outcome, though, I hope the national champion is decided on the field.
Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 13 books, seven of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at firstname.lastname@example.org.