We’ve already argued that the conspiracy against the ACC doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean the College Football Playoff committee isn’t making the best business decision in regards to its final rankings. The committee has spoken, and the playoff will pair Alabama and Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, while Oregon will play Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Baylor and TCU, ranked fifth and sixth respectively, are left on the outside looking in. But from a business perspective, the committee’s first round matchups resulted in the best case scenario.
Alabama and Ohio State are two of the biggest college football brands in the country. Alabama being close in proximity to New Orleans will inflate the ticket market for this matchup, as the majority of Crimson Tide fans will be able to drive to the city. Ohio State has a large alumni base and its national following historically travels well.
Florida State returns to the Rose Bowl, the site of its National Championship victory last season. Much like Alabama versus Ohio State, this matchup features two of the marquee college football brands in the sport. It also features marquee players, in last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and this year’s Heisman frontrunner, Marcus Mariota. Florida State’s massive fanbase will descend on Pasadena, Calif. in full force, much like it did for its National Championship game appearance. Oregon has been dominant over the past 10 years, and has a strong brand that college football fans know. Playing in familiar territory on the west coast can only enhance the ticket market for this game.
So the venues will be packed, but the biggest return could come in TV ratings. An Alabama versus Ohio State matchup is must-see TV. The ratings should be through the roof for that game. Casual fans know about both schools, and a matchup between head coaches, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, has been years in the making. Alabama versus Ohio State would outrate a matchup between Alabama and TCU or Baylor, the other two contenders for the final playoff spot. ESPN, holder of the College Football Playoff TV rights, will be a big winner as a result of this pairing.
Finally, the sponsors should win as well. The sheer exposure in-venue and on TV makes the sponsorship deals well worth the price. The playoff committee delivered two national brand games that will pack stadiums and provide compelling television for the casual fan. TCU and Baylor fans will gripe about their team’s being left out, but people on the business side have to be salivating at the playoff matchups.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.