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Clemson, Alabama Meet Again In Third College Football Championship


It is year three of the college football playoffs. Tonight's championship game in Tampa is a rematch of last year's title game between Clemson and Alabama, when Alabama earned its eleventy-billionth (ph) national title in a 45-40 win. Ratings for this year's two semifinal games were higher than last year. Before these playoffs, for decades we let polls or the dreaded Bowl Championship Series aka the BCS decide who is the national champion.

Now, it seems like all is finally right in the college football world. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports was the co-author of the book "Death To The BCS" so you got to think if he's happy, then maybe college football really did get something right. He's with us from Tampa. Hey there.

DAN WETZEL: Hey, thanks for having me on.

MCEVERS: Yeah. So after three years, I mean, has this college football playoff been everything you'd hoped for?

WETZEL: Well, I think like almost every other fan, coach, player, it is a vast, vast improvement over the old system. Playoffs are a great way and an American tradition on how we crown champions from the NFL to Little League to "Dancing With The Stars" to everything else.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

WETZEL: It has been a very, very good step forward for college football, which often begrudgingly moves to the future.

MCEVERS: This is college sports though, right? So, I mean, it would be weird if we didn't complain about something. I mean, what...

WETZEL: Of course.

MCEVERS: ...Do you think the playoffs could do better in the future?

WETZEL: You still have this kind of clunky system where we're still involving bowl games, which are independent third party businesses that are still running college football. The NCAA is technically not crowning the champion tonight, even though this is an NCAA sport, which is a little bizarre but that's a little bit of the cronyism and the tradition that they've been unable to weed themselves fully from.

There's certainly a lot of interest in expanding it. A lot of teams feel that they have a better chance of winning the championship in any year. This year, we had two semifinals which were blowout games. There's nobody sitting there saying, hey, these aren't the two best teams playing for the championship tonight.

MCEVERS: You have been a proponent of expanding it from four teams to eight teams. Why?

WETZEL: I would expand the playoff, but I would also reform some of the other parts of college football. The sport will be better when these - maybe not the championship game a la the Super Bowl is - could be played on a neutral site as it is tonight in Tampa. But when the quarterfinals and semifinals are being played on campus in the college towns in the great stadiums of college football, anybody who's ever been to a college football game knows the game is only part of the fun. It's the grand venues and the on-campus excitement and the pageantry and the beauty of the backdrops that make college football so great.

MCEVERS: I mean, players have said that, you know, a longer season, more games, an NFL-length season would be hard on them, right?

WETZEL: Absolutely, and I think that has to be a major concern as you go forward in how many games are they playing. Right now, there's a round of games that are done through the conference championship games which are pretty much obsolete events. And I think if you get rid of those, you could expand a playoff. But to just tack on games and expect young people who aren't making the millions of dollars that they make in the NFL to just continue to play and play and play wouldn't be fair to the student athletes, and I think that has to be a major concern going forward.

MCEVERS: Dan Wetzel, national columnist at Yahoo Sports, thanks.

WETZEL: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOPS SONG, "WAY TO BE LOVED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.