Lincicome: From Mayo to Cheez-It. The college football title game remains southern fried

  • Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks with Alabama head coach Nick Saban before the SEC title game in Atlanta. Georgia plays Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday.

    Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks with Alabama head coach Nick Saban before the SEC title game in Atlanta. Georgia plays Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday. Associated Press/Dec. 4, 2021

Updated 1/8/2022 8:20 AM

Few things are more American than wanting to know who is No. 1. Foam fingers and top 10 lists are testimony to our need to know.

Systems and protocols are devised to remove doubt, including the clumsy and oft adjusted system used for college football, once again about to offer us either Alabama or Georgia.


It does seem to be always Alabama or someone, often a neighbor, or a sharer of the same regional cuisine, grits being the constant. This redundancy is not necessarily good for variety nor for college football itself, but until the rest of college football figures out how to stop it, we are stuck with Luke, Bo and them.

Bless their hearts. Y'all come back, hear.

It gets worse. What is loosely identified as the Southeastern Conference will soon be joined by Texas and Oklahoma. This will make 14 teams and will stretch geography like a mouth full of pulled pork, will be stacked higher than a plate full of fried catfish, will be tougher than mule jerky.

OK. Enough making fun of food and phrases. This is serious. Alabama and Georgia have already done this just a few weeks ago, Alabama winning, of course.

College football is the buttermilk of the South (okay, just one more) and proud, mighty proud to be so.

After all, street parades and saloon arguments are never held over which school inflicts the world with shrewder brokers or louder lawyers.

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Measurements of worth are made by how eagerly thick-necked children can punish each other. It is not a perfect system.

Georgia might have Atlanta, but Alabama has Nick Saban, crotchety and competent, a coaching tradition in Tuscaloosa dating back to and beyond Bear Bryant.

In order to meet again each had to defeat a team from the north, the wrong team from Ohio (Cincinnati) and the right team from Michigan (Michigan). Easily, too, with each team wondering in the aftermath, wasn't Clemson supposed to be here?

Playing a whole season of football only to end up where it left off is a kind of circular madness, like cable news endlessly dressing the same story in different clothes.

This was not the idea when the College Football Playoff format was established to find the best college football team in the land, to end the healthy arguments that carry the sport from one season to the next.


It was assumed that a Notre Dame or a Southern Cal or, once upon a time, a Nebraska, the usual suspects, would remain usual, with only Ohio State managing to do so.

Hoping to find a Gonzaga or a Villanova, a Loyola, to verify and invigorate the competition like basketball does, instead college football ends up with the same clump of territorial tyrants year after year.

As the result of this redundancy, the bowl system -- which was sworn to be a sacred part of college football -- has managed to both wither and bloat at the same time.

Bowl games should be rewards for a season of success, not life defining or character changing ordeals. The bigger the end of things gets, the less vital are the beginnings.

None of the 42 other sanctioned bowl games were sell outs. In fact, four of them were canceled altogether, including the Wasabi Fenway Bowl, always the place to be in winter.

Once pedigreed affairs such as the Orange Bowl or the Cotton become excuses to have a New Year's parade. Ratings are down, sponsorships last only as long the marketing manager keeps his job.

The big game is isolated for emphasis, separating it from the scuffling world of Duke's Mayonnaise Bowl and the Cheez-It Bowl, yet butting up against the pro playoffs.

When college football sets off the final game from the traditional bowls, already past due by New Year's Day, it devalues all others. The bigger things get at the end, the less significant are the things at the start.

What an unfortunate and disturbing circumstance this is. Gloom settles upon the loser of a national title game much more heavily than it does the loser of the Tax Act Texas Bowl. The world is upside down when happiness is easier to find at the bottom than at the top.

Well, as long as Alabama is happy. Or Georgia. Things get weird when they are not.

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