By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - How many prayer candles are burning at the NCAA offices these days?

Needless to say, but I'd like to have the matchbook concession that goes along with it.

The candles are lit because it's mid November and the NCAA needs losses. And not just anybody losing.

The powers that be need two of the four unbeatens to be beaten. That's why they're saying their prayers and causing fire hazards (and, boy, they thought they had it last Saturday when both Alabama and Notre Dame were on the ropes).

Because what they have now, with a playoff system still two years away, is a colossal mess.

Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame are the culprits. All haven't lost yet and all four will be screaming at the top of their lungs if they stay unbeaten and get left out of the final dance.

Of course, of the four, the only somewhat "sure thing" is that Kansas State stays unbeaten. That looks doable for the Wildcats.

Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame all could lose (two of them almost did), either against key rivals or in conference title games (Alabama, Oregon) or against Southern Cal at the end of the regular season (Notre Dame).

Yes, I know that Ohio State and Louisville also haven't lost, but the Buckeyes are ineligible to play in a bowl and the Cardinals won't be able to climb high enough to matter.

I hate to be so harsh to Louisville, but cold reality is cold reality. The Cardinals are good, but their schedule isn't good enough.

What the NCAA would really like would be for Oregon and Kansas State to be the ones that lose. Having Alabama and Notre Dame still standing at the end would be a dream scenario.

Quite frankly, any of the other three against the Irish would be a dream scenario, but a traditional power like the Crimson Tide facing Notre Dame would be a bonanza.

Alabama is the current bully on the block and Notre Dame is Notre Dame. Either you love the Irish or you hate them, but either way you pay attention to them.

There's a reason they have their own television network because people want to see how they do.

The NCAA, and America for that matter, doesn't want Alabama and LSU again like last January. That's great if you're a SEC fan, but for the rest of us, that game is more like a regional matchup. Yawn.

We have time yet and time can do bad things to undefeated teams, but there's still a chance all of those candles may work.

Work for now, that is, since the playoff system still won't be in effect in 2013, we're likely going to have the same problem next year.

There will undoubtedly be a handful of deserving unbeatens, but only two will get the call and the others will rightfully gripe. In other words, what we're hearing now we'll be hearing again in 52 weeks.

Now, an optimist would say a playoff is coming and that it's going to be really good for college football. Agreed.

The catch is, it can't get here quickly enough even though it will only be a four-team field when it's implemented. Eight or 16 teams involved would have been ideal, but that's just for dreamers.

Meanwhile, for our college football playoff fix for this year and next, we can turn to the Football Championship Subdivision (I still prefer calling it Division I-AA), Division II and Division III.

They've been having full-fledged playoffs seemingly forever. Wait, you mean a 24- or 32-team tourney can be held, with a rightful champion being crowned, and the student-athletes can still study and pass their courses?

What a concept. Wouldn't it be nice if the big boys of college football could do the same? Imagine the office pools? Imagine the excitement?

Wake up now, because it won't happen. Four teams will have to do. Alas, it will be better than what we have now.

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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