College Football

Peach Bowl Makes Case For CFP Expansion

January 1

By RJ Young
FOX Sports college football analyst

The Peach Bowl was a de facto home game for the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs, who traveled just eighty miles down the road to face undefeated, eighth-ranked Cincinnati at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta – and were nearly bitten by the Bearcats.

Cincinnati lost 24-21 yet took a larger bite out of the argument against expanding the four-team College Football Playoff – to 16, or even, to cite the FCS model, 24 teams – with their performance against Kirby Smart’s squad.

That Georgia arrived undermanned due to several of its best players choosing to protect their NFL futures against injury only serves to show how little the game mattered.

When UGA captain and linebacker Monty Rice can’t be counted on to play the final game of the season in a New Year’s Six bowl for any reason short of injury, then what is the meaning of playing the game for the rest of the team he was picked to lead?

But that could be different.

It would "Just Mean More" if a game like this Peach Bowl was a part of a larger tournament to decide who the undisputed national champion in the sport is.

The way college football crowns national champions (yes, plural) each year is nonsensical, gloriously impossible and wildly infuriating in the 21st century.

The NCAA doesn’t even technically designate an FBS national champion. It allows selectors it designates to perform that honor – and their criteria range from mathematical equations to polls based purely on opinion. Like Dabo Swinney ranking Ohio State No. 11 in his latest coaches poll ballot.

The contest between the Bearcats and Dawgs demonstrates not just how much the game mattered for Cincy, who was missing important players on both sides of the ball, but how much games like this should matter. 

Nearly every year since the inception of the BCS (and now the CFP), at least one non-Power 5 team rises to the level of national title contender.

And each time that contender goes toe-to-toe with a team like a Georgia, as the Bearcats did on Friday, the case for growing the playoff becomes a little more clear. Shouldn't such a thriller between two of the top teams in the country have stakes – especially when the underdog only loses in the final minute?

Cincinnati proved its credentials with its play on the field as another so-called Group of 5 team to finish the regular season undefeated. They furthered their argument, and those of their peers, on New Year's Day. 

Would they remain undefeated if put in a bracket with No. 1 Alabama? That isn’t a question worth asking.

The only one to ask is, what does the scoreboard say? 

It says the Bearcats deserved more. It says UGA might actually have gone on a run toward the national title, if only this game had given them a chance. And it says it's beyond time for the CFP to expand.

RJ Young is a national college football reporter for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young. Subscribe to The RJ Young Show on YouTube. He is not on a step mill.


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