Some of the best minds at some of the top educational institutions in this great country are working diligently even as we speak on the method by which we can all enjoy a playoff system for college football.
So, naturally, you may abandon all hope.
Just to keep afloat the daydream that a meaningful, reasonably sane system of deciding the national champion can actually be delivered without the introduction of firearms, these same geniuses plan to convene twice this month in Chicago with pretty much the same set of going-nowhere ideas on the table.
The problem is that there are competing interests from multiple directions, as the interests of the individual conferences do not necessarily match the interests of the bowls, which do not necessarily match the interests of the individual schools, which do not necessarily match the interests of all the various media generals behind the scenes, which do not necessarily match the interests of the athletes, which do not necessarily match the interests of educators.
I know -- educators? How did they get a seat at this table?
Next someone will suggest the fans have a say.
So, yes, it's complicated.
Even though college basketball has figured out how you can boil 346 Division I-A schools into a successful tournament funnel that yields a viable, dynamic, hyper-successful product by the beloved name of March Madness that plays out over three weekends, college football simply can't manage to even agree on a format despite having 224 fewer teams to sort out.
Take something as simple as Pitt-Penn State.
There is essentially universal agreement that Pitt and Penn State should play each other in football every autumn, and most of those in agreement know in their heart of hearts, their spleen of spleens, that this traditional rivalry should be the last game of the season for both schools because, that way, even if your team stinks, you can still save your whole miserable year by beating the snot out of those reptiles three hours up or down the road.
But do we have such an arrangement? Not hardly. We have some kind of limited engagement scheduled for later this decade, but to be real, you're more likely to find weapons-grade uranium in your garage than you are to witness the full restoration of Pitt-Penn State to its proper place in college football's national tapestry.
Against such a backdrop, a college football playoff seems like fantasy, but let's play along for at least the rest of this column.
The various proposals are roughly these:
-- The so-called Plus One solution, in which two teams are selected to play for the national championship after all the bowl games, as though those two teams would be perfectly obvious as all contentiousness miraculously rinses away.
Last year, there was a minimum of squawking when Alabama and Louisiana State University played for the national title, as they were by most interpretations the top two teams in the nation, even though Alabama already had won an Alabama-LSU game earlier in the season. Under the Plus One miracle, would they have played a third time?
Scratch Plus One.
-- The Four-Team Playoff.
Really? All kind of problems. Who picks 'em? A selection committee like with basketball? A newly launched Bowl Championship Series 2.0? Do they have to be conference champions? Where will the semifinals be played, campus sites? What international relief agency will be responsible for the horror in the camp of the No. 5 team?
-- The Three Plus One Solution.
This is supposed to be the three highest-rated conference champions and the highest-rated at-large team. Again, what relief agency will tend to the fourth highest-rated conference champion?
This seems to be getting us nowhere.
In situations like this, professional consultants often say the problem needs a new set of eyes.
Maybe we should turn the whole thing over to the Roger Clemens jury, being careful not to wake those who've nodded off.
Hey, what about this? I wonder if the Commissioner of Baseball, Alan "Bud" Selig, might figure out a way to have the participants in a college football playoff determined by the result of baseball's All-Star Game.
Uh-huh. One school from each state in the cities represented by members of the American League and National League starting lineups, plus a wildcard bracket based on the home states of both leagues' bullpens.
It's a start, Bud. Lay your magic on it.
If anyone asks me (likelihood of zero), my preference is not the Plus One or the Three Plus One, but the Plus 16, or as I like to think of it, the Plus 122-106.
I say death to the 75 bowl games. Appoint a committee as in basketball. They put 16 teams in a one-and-done bracket as in basketball. It plays on four successive Saturdays in December, only one more than in basketball.
Interest would be gigantic. Profits doubly gigantic. No one would whine when it was over. It would eliminate the Busted Tailpipe Bowl. It's a win, win, win, win.
And, of course, it's absolutely impossible.