To no one's surprise, all those years of hand-wringing over the many-pronged challenges of hosting a college football playoff have proven to be a massive waste of everyone's time. As the buzz of the semifinal round wears off, the lofty rhetoric that opposed a playoff system fell flat on its face, upended by the thunderous applause of everyone who tuned in to watch.

All 28.27 million per game, to be exact.

It's hard to imagine the inaugural College Football Playoff getting off to a better start. Both games were high-scoring affairs. The top-ranked team in the land was upset by late-bloomer that squeaked into the playoffs on the shoulders of a third-string quarterback.

In a matchup of the past two Heisman winners, the villainous defending champs were defeated in glorious fashion by maybe the country's most exciting offense. And, as if bidding formal farewell to the BCS era, the two teams knocked out of the playoffs were the two teams that would have been placed in the BCS title Ggame, according to that system's formula.

You'd be hard-pressed to write a more poetic result yourself.

The excitement of the semifinal round almost overshadows the fact that there's still a game -- the most important one, believe it or not -- to be played.

But at the moment, it feels like a victory has already been declared. The playoffs are here to stay.

And they're only going to get bigger.

The concept of playoff expansion is nothing new. Even before a four-team bracket was set in stone, observers have insisted that a larger field was inevitable. Some considered the four-team version just a test-drive to make sure all the accompanying parts worked before rolling out the playoff on a larger scale.

Unexpected complications or failure could have threatened such a move. Instead, the opposite happened: College football's first playoff went better than anyone expected.

That success makes much of the anti-playoff whimpering sound even more baseless than it was. ESPN's Ivan Maisel complained last spring about how the playoffs were upsetting the traditional habits college football coaches employ to get their team ready for a single bowl game. The prospect of playing two bowl games, he argued, was an inconvenience -- and not worth the change, he suggested.

Evolving game preparation seems like an interesting storyline and a compelling new wrinkle of the playoffs, but it's a stretch to say that creates any disadvantages. If anything, it demands more from coaches. How does that do anything but create even more intrigue?

Concerns about the precious slate of bowl games proved to be largely unfounded. While it's true that games like the Fiesta Bowl -- which featured Boise State upsetting Arizona -- suffered a big decline in ratings from past years, the game also took a back seat to the playoff matchups and set a ratings record in his Wednesday afternoon time slot. Boise State on its own turned a $1.5 million profit for participating, after expenses.

Clearly, there's still enough money to go around. And money is what matters most.

There is, of course, the pretense that academics have been a major concern regarding any playoff system. The risk of having playoff games that overlap with end-of-semester finals is a genuine consideration for every team, but playoff participants aren't close to the scheduling crunch that is sometimes suggested. Even if another round were added to the playoffs, the timeline for such a playoff is easy to work out, even if it means spilling over into the winter semester (as is already the case for the national championship game).

School is no obstacle. No one complains about the sheer havoc a long March Madness run can have on college basketball teams. Players on those teams are forced to miss at least two school days a week for three weeks straight. Even the prescient placement of spring break can't account for all of that travel time. Let's not forget, either, the conference tournaments played one week earlier, which can take teams out of three or more days of school.

An expanded playoff system won't bring football players close to the levels of classroom absentia basketball programs live with every year.

"When people talk about being out of school -- there is nobody out of school less than a football player. Nobody," said Jay Bilas earlier this month in an interview with Sports Illustrated NOW. "Football players only play once a week, and half their games are at home (so they don't have to travel and miss class."

Big playoff money is waiting to be made. And with student-athletes poised to demand a payday from their schools in the near future, the stimulus package of expanded playoffs couldn't come at a better time. Everything is perfect right now, or pretty darn close to perfect, and in the logic of greed, that can only mean one thing:

Get bigger.

Expand or die, College Football Playoffs. Just not too quickly. The current system has a 12-year contract with ESPN, so there's no reason to rush an altered product. Plus, if history is a template, there's little to be gained by instantly rewarding fans with the gratification they need.

Controversy is great for intrigue, after all, and it hasn't hurt college football's current product one iota. The exclusion of TCU does offer some fodder for why playoff expansion could breed even more excitement, but it's all speculative fun with no real implications.

The college football powers-that-be will let those gossip mill churn on as always, and they will likely proceed in the manner they have established for years prior -- a manner both slow and measured, excruciatingly so. Schools and conferences will see it coming around the pike from a long way off -- and many already do, convinced that the four-team bracket is just a transitional phase to a postseason tournament that features eight or 16 teams.

Eventually, the clamor for such change will rise. Fans are abuzz about this year's college football playoff because of what it replaced: An imperfect two-team championship whose participants were decided by a mix of imperfect formulas and questionable public perception.

Talk about a recipe for disaster. Expansion to four teams brought with it a sense of liberation, but that, too, shall pass. The four-team bracket is loaded with points of criticism. It ensures that at least one of the five power conferences will be absent from competition every year. Just imagine the chaos if Notre Dame fields a competitive team. Schools like Boise State would have to be all the more impressive to warrant their inclusion while an entire major conference goes unrepresented.

And no matter where you draw the line -- look at March Madness and its 68-team field -- debate will always rage about the last-ins and the first-outs.

A larger bracket could solve that by offering automatic bids to major conference champions. Such a system would alleviate the risks of nonconference losses and actually improve the early-season college football slate. Imagine if a team could start 0-4 and still play for a national championship by running through its conference? Teams would be incentivized to schedule challenging opponents instead of puff-pastry programs that are happy when they can keep their margin of defeat within 30.

A mix of automatic bids and a few coveted at-large bids would create an unbiased path to the playoffs for many teams, but the all-important imperfection of subjective selection would still be retained. Such a recipe is available even in an eight-team playoff: five conference bids plus three at-larges.

Logistically, that reality isn't that far off. But because it has no incentive, college football won't fast-track an expanded playoff. There's a brand to consider, and college football is at its best when it withholds from its fans their most precious desires.

There are practical financial considerations, such as how the increasing value of the postseason affects the value of the regular season -- expanding the playoffs too much, or too rapidly, could hurt the revenue earned during the regular season, which no one in college football wants.

Because the College Football Playoff is locked into a 12-year television deal, it wouldn't want to cut its per-game earnings -- and its future negotiations -- by giving ESPN a bargain on an expanded playoff. ESPN, for its part, has no reason to offer an enormous financial package when a long-term contract is already in place. Playoff expansion might not become a reality until the current TV deal nears its end, creating an even playing field where television networks are forced to pay a fair market rate.

By then, fans may already be restless for change. Great football teams will have been excluded, wounds inflicted, scars healed over. The four-team playoff will be loathed for its exclusivity, and the leaders of college football will be reviled as the slowest decision-makers in the history of the earth.

And then, one day, the playoffs will expand. Everyone will be happy. It will be the greatest thing to ever happen, and past will seem like a distant memory.

Few will realize that they've been there before.

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Heisman Winners And National Champions


1938 Davey O'Brien, TCU

At 140 pounds, O'Brien was a slender quarterback, but a dominant player. His Heisman-winning season saw him throw for 1,733 yards and 19 touchdowns, and he still holds the college football record for most rushing and passing plays in a season, with 400 under his belt. O'Brien led Texas Christian to an undefeated season in 1941 and a share of the national championship. After college, O'Brien enjoyed a short stint in the NFL before briefly serving as an FBI agent.


1941 Bruce Smith, Minnesota

Bruce Smith received his Heisman Trophy just two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. At 200 pounds, Smith was a freight train in the 1940s, and he lead Minnesota to undefeated national championships in both 1940 and 1941, the latter being his Heisman-winning season.


1942 Frank Sinkwich, Georgia

A serviceman through and through, Sinkwich wore his Marine uniform to receive his Heisman Trophy. His 1942 campaign was capped by a dominant Orange Bowl performance in which he piled up 382 combined rushing and passing yards -- still an Orange Bowl record. The victory lifted Georgia to a share of the 1942 national championship. (Ohio State was No. 1 in the final AP poll, which in those days was published after the regular season, but didn't play a bowl game.)


1943 Angelo Bertelli, Notre Dame

Before entering the Marines and serving in World War II, Bertelli was an integral part of Notre Dame's famous T-formation offense. Bertelli's quarterback play lifted the Fighting Irish to a scoring average of more than 40 points in his Heisman-winning season. After his college days, Bertelli served on both Iwo Jima and Guam in the Pacific Ocean.


1945 Felix "Doc" Blanchard, Army

One of the fastest men in college football, Blanchard was a three-time All-American who rushed for 1,908 yards and 38 touchdowns over three years at West Point. He won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship in his junior season before entering into active military service.


1946 Glenn Davis, Army

Davis was a prolific offensive star for his entire Army career, accounting for 59 touchdowns and more than 4,100 yards. His Heisman-winning season was also an undefeated run for Army, which claimed a share of national championship that year. (Notre Dame was No. 1 in the AP poll.) Davis served in Korea until 1950 and then resumed his football career with the Los Angeles Rams, winning two championships.


1947 John Lujack, Notre Dame

After Bertelli left Notre Dame, Lujack stepped in as his successor. He was no less prolific than his predecessor: Lujack's greatest moment came when he led the Fighting Irish to a stunning 26-0 victory over then-unbeaten Army. Lujack led Notre Dame to championships in 1946 and 1947, winning the Heisman in his final season.


1949 Leon Hart, Notre Dame

A captain for the 1949 national championship team, Leon Hart was the second lineman to win a Heisman. He played both sides of the ball and received every major award available in 1949. After Notre Dame, Hart joined the Detroit Lions and helped the franchise to three championships.


1976 Tony Dorsett, Pitt

By the time he left Pittsburgh, Tony Dorsett was one of the greatest running backs in college football history. He set a slew of records for rushing at the time, including his 1,948 rushing yards in his Heisman-winning season. Dorsett dominated Heisman voting, beating the runner-up 701-73 in first-place votes, and Pittsburgh rumbled to the 1976 national championship.


1993 Charlie Ward, Florida State

A two-sport star who ultimately opted for an NBA career, Ward was a tremendous pass-run threat under center for Florida State. He led the Seminoles to the 1993 championship with his slippery footwork in the backfield, which allowed him to extend plays and run upfield for an average of six years per attempt.


1996 Danny Wuerffel, Florida

The strong arm behind Steve Spurrier's Fun 'N Gun offense, Wuerffel threw for 3,625 yards, 39 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. His incredible pass efficiency mark of 170.61 was a big reason Florida went 11-1 and won the national title.


1997 Charles Woodson, Michigan

Though primarily a defensive back, Woodson also contributed as a wide receiver and return man for the Wolverines. His prowess helped Michigan split the 1997 national championship with Nebraska. After college, Woodson became a respected NFL player and is still playing professional ball.


2004 Matt Leinart, USC (later vacated)

Although scandals later vacated several wins, including the BCS Championship game, Leinart was dominant as a junior quarterback, partnering with running back Reggie Bush to lead USC to an undefeated season. Despite a Heisman Trophy and championship ring, Leinart turned down the NFL to return for his senior season.


2009 Mark Ingram, Alabama

Ingram won one of the closest votes in Heisman history, edging out Stanford's Toby Gerhart by just 28 points. He did so by setting Alabama's single-season rushing record with 1,659 yards, along with 334 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns. Thanks to Ingram's contributions, the Crimson Tide won its first championship under Nick Saban.


2010 Cam Newton, Auburn

A junior-college transfer given the starting QB job at Auburn, Cam Newton didn't disappoint. His dual-threat work as a passer and scorer led Auburn to the national championship game, where it narrowly edged out Oregon. With a Heisman Trophy to boot, Newton bolted for the NFL after the 2010 season.


2013 Jameis Winston, Florida State

In the face of sexual assault accusations, Winston propelled Florida State to a national championship as a redshirt freshman. The conduct accusations didn't abate with a Heisman Trophy and championship ring, however, continuing into the offseason and his sophomore campaign with the Seminoles.

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