For years college football has wrestled with how to perfectly judge results across a widely diverse competitive landscape.
Polls, algorithms, committees and most recently some combination of all three have been utilized in their chase for competitive perfection.
We all waited breathlessly for non conference clash of the titans games that could determine the championship fate of college football. We bickered all season over strength of schedule, nitpicking conference flaws and arguing passionately for one school over another to represent college football in its quest to determine a champion.
No sport has gone through more trial and error to figure out the best way to determine who is actually best.
So that's why it's so jarring to type the next sentence: this year, results don't matter in college football.
There is no way to argue for one team's schedule over another. There is no path for conference superiority. There is no credible way to distinguish a team's failure from COVID restrictions from competitive inferiority.
With the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big 10 and Pac 12 all reeling from COVID outbreaks in some form or another, how in the world can college football expect to accurately produce a four team field of challengers for the title of national champion?
They could, as has been, push back the dates of the college football playoff to try and allow for make up games and further scheduling flexibility.
But what happens if after the Thanksgiving holiday, COVID infections soar on teams? We'd likely need spring football after all to settle the title of college football's best.
So here's what I suggest we do in college football: forget about crowning a champion.
The results of this year's games don't matter nearly as much as just actually playing the games.
Seniors deserve a chance to finish their careers with closure. NFL prospects deserve to finish the most important job audition of their young lives. And underclassmen deserve the chance to develop and continuing working towards the goals they sought when committing to a school.
We've seen across sports that competition can happen in the middle of a pandemic, its just going to be a bit different.
Teams should play as many games as they can between now and mid December. If a game is cancelled because of COVID, the healthy team should be allowed to quickly rearrange their schedule to play any remaining healthy opponent, in or outside of the conference as long as local COVID policies and protocols are followed even if it means playing a team more than once.
Then, when we get to mid December, just pick four teams that would make for the best entertainment. Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame should all play each other whether they remain atop the rankings or not. Or pick four other teams. Or expand it to 8. Who cares, it's a glorified preseason tournament. I just want to see big college football teams playing around New Years, not the ultimate pursuit of championship glory.
For years, college football has battled to find perfection.
This year, it's not perfection versus flawed; it's having college football versus not having college football.
It could be simple, fun, entertaining but ultimately hollow.
And it would be the most honest college football has ever been.