Friday, January 2, 2015

Reflections on the first College Football Playoff

What's not to like about the College Football Playoff?  Yeah, I get that we already have folks clamoring for eight teams instead of four and that TCU, and the Big 12, feels jilted but seriously, the playoff has to be considered a smashing success in year one.  This season we've been treated to debate about the weekly rankings, the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Selection Committee, the odd drop in one week of TCU as a final four team to being on the outside looking in, and getting to know Larry Culpepper and his "ice cold Dr. Pepper here!"

Let's look at the winners and losers from this inaugural playoff:

Winner - ESPN.  The Rose Bowl earned a 15.5 household rating and the Sugar Bowl a 15.3 rating, which provided a 38% increase for the 5PM Eastern time slot compared to the same time on January 1, 2014 and a 125% increase for the primetime matchup compared to last year's ratings numbers.  The 15-plus overnight rating is the best for any primetime football game this season since the NFL season opener (Green Bay-Seattle on NBC.)

Loser - ESPN programming.  It wasn't the Worldwide Leader's best night for how it handled the broadcasts, ranging from the lack of social media hashtags to inconsistent branding to various odd graphics to a lack of player profile vignettes.

Winner - Allstate.  The insurance brand implemented a fully integrated campaign on the Sugar Bowl broadcast that was engaging, consistent with their other marketing communications work, and topical.  It was the perfect way to handle the amount of advertising inventory they had as title sponsor of the bowl game.

Loser - SEC West.  Admit it--aren't you gloating a bit that Alabama's loss to Ohio State was the final dagger in an unforgettable bowl season for Mississippi, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU and the Crimson Tide?  Texas A&M (3-5 in conference) and Arkansas (2-6) were left to uphold the honor of the conference division that was everyone's darling during the regular season.

Winner - Selection Committee.  Let's hand it to the folks that spent many hours in a conference room in Los Colinas, TX during the regular season, discussing and debating the merits of the four potential playoff teams--they got it right by including Ohio State as the fourth seed in the semi-finals.

Loser - Florida State.  Yes, it's easy to pile on but there are too many questions about off-field issues in Tallahassee combined now with the less-than-classy quick departure of the Seminoles at game's end versus the customary midfield handshakes with opponents.  And, what the heck was Jameis Winston talking about in the postgame press conference, anyway?  (In Winston's defense, he was one of the few FSU players who stayed on field and congratulated Oregon players for their victory.)

Winner - Kirk Herbstreit.  Herbie affirmed again last night why he is the number one college football analyst, on any network.

Loser - The BCS.  Thank goodness the playoff was in place this year--a BCS National Championship matchup likely would have been an undefeated Florida State versus number one ranked Alabama.  Last night provided the last shovel of dirt on the BCS's coffin.

Winner - Lincoln.  The Matthew McConaughey commercials that are the stuff of SNL skits and late night comedy jokes were all over the fourth quarter portion of last night's Sugar Bowl broadcast.  It was a good move for the auto brand given the late game drama of Alabama's failed comeback against Ohio State.

What can we expect from next Monday's national championship game?  Well, get ready for a week of speculation about what unis Oregon will trot out at AT&T Stadium and more antics from the soda-hawking Culpepper.