Dabo Swinney is one of the foremost College Football Playoff experts roaming the face of the planet. Or, at the very least, he has nearly unmatched familiarity with the topic as the Clemson Tigers seem to make it into the final four most years. So it’s interesting to hear him zig when so many are zagging in the field of playoff expansion.
Swinney, speaking this morning at media availability before tomorrow’s Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame, made the case for keeping the playoff at four with a very astute and unpopular point.
“Everybody wants to expand the playoffs, but I think it’s already expanded,” he said. “If we lost to South Carolina we probably aren’t here, that was a playoff game. You lose to Pitt, you’re not here, that’s a playoff game.”
He is correct. Clemson’s schedule necessitated an undefeated season this year. Every game was, in retrospect, a playoff game. Not a sexy playoff game, mind you, but a playoff game all the same.
As a coach of a team that will always have a real opportunity to make the knockout round, Swinney understands a four-team system benefits him personally. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll have a team with top-four talent. But this doesn’t make his realization any less true.
He is the guy able to step outside the matrix and see what’s really going on. The program is coded in a way that aligns with his interests, but Swinney possesses more awareness than others who want to offer a solution in search of a problem.
One of the reasons college football has the best regular season of every sport is, like Swinney says, because it’s not a regular season at all. It’s a playoff in clever disguise. A lot of time and energy could be saved on lobbying for a bigger field if people accepted that truth.
So while the coach of Clemson may not be the perfect vessel for such a truth delivery, he’s still on point. It isn’t really a four-team system at all. It’s a 20- or 30-team bracket that changes every week, with each misstep. There’s some beauty and serenity in acceptance.
Go ahead and give it a try