College football is exciting because it’s not a copycat league like the National Football League. In college football, you will see a multitude of different offensive schemes and styles of play, but also the different traditions that come with every team and university. There’s the classic campuses, the roaring, the youthful energetic crowds and, of course, the unforgettable rivalries. But there’s also domination.
In week one, No. 1 ranked Clemson trounced Georgia Tech in Death Valley while No. 2 Alabama did much the same to Duke in Atlanta, which is basically the Crimson Tides’ second home. These weren’t surprises, they were givens, and unfortunately, when it comes to Clemson and Alabama, that’s something that is much too common in college football right now.
Since 2016, Clemson and Alabama have played each other four times, once in the semi-finals of the College Football Playoff and the other three times in the National Championship. The past four National Champions have been either Clemson or Alabama, flip-flopping every other season with the most recent being Clemson. Alabama alone has been dominating the college football landscape, going all the way back to 2009, winning five National Championships since that time.
No matter what sports talk show you watch or listen to, most will say it’s Clemson and Alabama and everyone else is just, well, there. No one else seems even in the same league as the other two.
As a fan of college football, that’s disheartening.
Last years National Championship, which was Clemson and Alabama’s fourth meeting in five years, third in the title game, was the lowest rated National Championship game since the 2011-2012 title game that consisted of two SEC teams, with Louisiana State University and, you guessed it, Alabama. Alabama won. And if you look at the trend of lower-rated National Championship games, most of them are when two southeastern based teams are in the game, thus cutting off major markets from out west and the northeast. This only puts one geographical spot in the entire country that would seemingly care about the title game.
Yes, we all know that college football in the southern states is considered Saturday church, since it has a feel and texture to its very core of something special that’s not replicated anywhere else in the country. But that’s not the only issue. It’s also that, honestly, even in the south, there’s really only two teams to choose from.
Is this the NBA? Or, well, maybe the former NBA that consisted of only two viable teams to compete for an NBA championship: the Golden State Warriors and whatever team had LeBron James. The NBA — until this past offseason full of free agency moves that helped diversify the league more than it has been in years — was an extremely top-heavy league where you knew it was going to come down to two teams every year. It was a given.
Here’s the deal: a sequel is fun and surprising, a trilogy can be great, a quadrilogy or tetralogy is unexpected, but not necessarily needed, and a pentalogy is just getting ridiculous. When you start getting into a fifth part of a franchise, it’s watered down and tiresome, with little story left to tell — even in sports. Rocky V couldn’t even do it, and everyone loves Rocky. Clemson and Alabama are becoming the horror movie franchise of sports right now, because just like we don’t need another Saw movie, no one wants to see these two teams face each other again. This isn’t to say both of these teams can’t be fun to watch, even beatable by some of the teams they play. It’s that watching the same story play out over and over again, no matter what situation it is, sport, movie or television, it starts to lose interest when the outcome appears automatic.
The question becomes — who can beat these two dominant forces and take them out of the playoff? Of course, it’s hard to compete against big money schools who pay top notch for coaching staffs like Clemson and Alabama have. That’s one issue. The other is — who is left? What coordinator is the next great coach and if he could be the next great coach, would he even have enough time to prove it before the university fires him for not producing in year two? Nick Saban is the standard, even if some universities don’t want to admit it, but that’s the reality. Every athletic director since about 2010 has been in search of the next Saban — which doesn’t exist — and have gauged productivity by “Saban-metrics,” to rebuild a program in two years and dominate for the next decade.
It took Dabo Swinney longer than expected at Clemson and Saban failing in the NFL to become great, but both are dominating the game of college football now and for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, there’s some team that can compete with these powerhouses and knock them out of contention, but it may first take a lot of investment to make that happen. But as of right now, everyone is expecting the Tide and Tigers to be facing off in New Orleans on January 13 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.