In 1988, we moved to Dublin, Ohio. Just outside Columbus, we were in the shadow of a mammoth horseshoe that was speckled with scarlet every Saturday in fall. With Georgetown and Southern Connecticut State roots, we had a college football void to fill. Ohio State University became that program.

Just over three decades later, with my loyalty challenged via an acceptance letter, I decided to attend the University of Alabama. Oh, how I used to loath those crimson tops and white pants, but I soon became accustomed to the classic look and unmatchable passion of storied tradition. We visited Tuscaloosa when the Crimson Tide hosted the New Mexico State Aggies in September 2019. My support was solidified when the crowd erupted and the band boomed after Alabama scored on its first offensive play of the game. My wife was just happy the Aggies beat the spread.

The College Football Playoff was announced last Sunday. Once again, both Alabama and OSU made the final four, and there’s a possibility they’ll meet for the national championship. I’m a spoiled college football fan, but unlike many “homers,” I’m able to think critically. I’m not entirely sure the Buckeyes should be included.

This has nothing to do with their talent level, but rather the NCAA politics involved. It has been a trying year in college football due to COVID-19, and this was especially exemplified during the Big-10 season. OSU played just five regular-season games, one short of the required amount needed to play in the conference championship. On Dec. 9, the Big-10 rewrote the rules to allow the Buckeyes a chance at the title. They defeated Northwestern 22-10, keeping their heavy crown.

On Dec. 21, the Big-10 altered its COVID-19 guidelines to benefit the Buckeyes once again. Players were required to sit out 21 days after a positive test. Now, it’s 17. OSU was short 22 players against Northwestern. The rule change allows some players to return in time for the team’s semifinal against Clemson on Jan. 1, and the others would be eligible for the national championship on Jan. 11 if they were to advance—most likely against Alabama. Notre Dame fans can always dream, but Santa has other wishes to grant this Christmas.

Ultimately, money was the deciding factor. Exposure equals increased merchandise revenue and higher ticket demand. Also, OSU fans travel in numbers, but that point is moot this year. One thing to mention is that conferences get $6 million per representative in the College Football Playoff. (Ah, now it makes sense.)

There needs to be either an expanded playoff or mid-majors need more opportunities—or both. Mid-majors are 8-4 against Power-5 schools in major bowl games. That’s mostly attributed to the mighty Mountain West of old. Since the College Football Playoff took form in 2014, no mid-major has been selected to participate—including several undefeated teams. This season, No. 8 Cincinnati (9-0) faces Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Jan 1., and No. 12 Coastal Carolina (11-0) faced off against surprise Liberty in the Cure Bowl (sounds made up) yesterday. Would it have been fairer to give Cincinnati or Coastal Carolina a shot?

As a football fan, I don’t think OSU should be there. As a Buckeyes fan, I hope I’m wrong and will support being told so—and I’ll gladly embrace the tense awkwardness of an ideal OSU-Alabama final. The community I lived in versus the culture I generously donated tuition to.

Go Bucks and/or Roll Tide!

(Carl Knauf holds a master’s in journalism and creative media from the University of Alabama. After stays in Maryland, Ohio, New York and Connecticut, he has settled in Rio Rancho, where he lives with his wife and two children.)

Guest Column