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What Happens When Players Start Opting Out Of The College Football Playoff?

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 01: Blake Corum #2 of the Michigan Wolverines runs with the ball for yardage away from Terrion Arnold #3 and Kool-Aid McKinstry #1 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during second half of the CFP Semifinal Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2024 in Pasadena, California. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 27-20 in overtime. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Outthrough here.

If you’re a Bears fan who wants Chicago to replace Justin Fields with the No. 1 pick they just secured, your scouting options during bowl season were tragically limited. Superstar quarterbacks Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels all opted out, as did … oh, let’s say 700 other transfer portal entrants and NFL prospects. As such, there’s now a growing line of demarcation between the traditional bowl games and a College Football Playoff that attempts to work within the bowl model but promises to consume it entirely.

For me, the TV viewer, this will be a good thing. At least, for the moment. Once the CFP expands to 12 teams a year from now and January Madness becomes a reality, there’ll be more kick-ass games to watch, and the best players for each school will, in theory, suit up for them. As it stands now, there’s no reason for any of them to throw down in the Xpert Solutions Bowl Sponsored By CreamQuest if there’s nothing in it for them. But a playoff game? That’s different. Not only is there an undisputed national title within your team’s grasp, but this is also the potential NIL windfall and enhanced draft stock that winning these games offers you. Look no further than this dreamy young fella for proof of concept:

This is why no player to date has opted out of the CFP. You’ve already seen how big showings in it have either boosted or reinforced the draft stock of C.J. Stroud, Joe Burrow, and every Georgia defender. More players, like Michael Penix up there, stand to reap similar benefits. Because if that man torches the Michigan defense on Monday night … well shit, I’m already prepared to trade my firstborn to move up in the draft to get him.

You’ve also seen top NFL prospects opt out of both the NFL scouting combine and even their own school’s respective pro days. The risk of injury, or of a bad showing that gets you written up by a petty scout, isn’t worth it when you already have your game tape as your resume. But there’s a sweet spot to the CFP that allows big names like Keon Coleman to put down more valuable game tape, and against the best possible competition. That means that the CFP is becoming the definitive showcase for brand-name talent, more so than any combine, pro day, or private workout. That’s enough to tip the scales in favor of risking injury to participate.

At least, big schools and the NFL are both hoping that’ll be the case moving forward. No seriously, hope is the entire game plan for future CFP participation levels. The loose confederation of conference executives, coaches, ADs, and college presidents in charge of FCS legitimately do not believe any players will ever opt out of the CFP, and have not accounted for any other scenario:

CFP executive director Bill Hancock, who will be exiting his post upon completion of the first 12-team playoff event, told CBS Sports he has no concerns about players opting out of the new format… 

"I find it hard to believe [a player would sit out]," Georgia coach Kirby Smart told CBS Sports before the season. "The culture in the SEC, I don't think [suggests] it will happen. That $30 million that is on the line, that could cost them another $15 million if a team [thinks] they're not going to play through the contract."

The thing here is that precedent has already been set. When players first opted out of bowls, as Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette did, the take-industrial complex inevitably responded with a round of HOW COULD YOU. But neither player’s draft stock or NFL career suffered for it, and a flood of opt-outs followed in their wake, to the point where I’m aghast when a brand-name player like Bo Nix doesn’t opt out of a bowl. Maybe Nix hired his uncle Jethro as an agent or something.

Few other college players are likely to be as shortsighted, even with the stakes that the CFP offers. Their agents are gonna openly wonder if It Just Means More to play in these games without a guaranteed payday, especially once the CFP tourney grows many teams, and many billions of dollars, larger. And once a player opts out of it—and it will happen—more will follow. Schools will panic. Stephen A. Smith will make grim faces. The NCAA will issue a sternly worded statement that no one will read. Boosters will start up a million “One More Month” funds to keep their players on the field. Dr. Pepper will make a lot of expensive ads that you won’t be anywhere near as invested in as they think you are. A backstage war will consume the playoff every late December to make sure these games aren’t populated exclusively by understudies.

But again, Bill Hancock and Kirby Smart don’t think any of that will happen.

This is billion-dollar dam made of window glass. This isn’t like the NCAA men's tournament, where NBA prospects never opt out. The injury risk in basketball is less pronounced, making the Q rating/NIL boost—oh, and the prospect of winning a national title with teammates you love—that much more worthwhile. The CFP is gonna need more than that to keep participation at 100 percent. Right now, the benefits of opting in are visible, but also poorly defined. You’re not guaranteed to go X spots higher in the draft, and NIL payouts already vary from player to player and sponsor to sponsor. It’s disorganized in the way that college football always has been, and that’s at direct odds with the EXTREMELY organized way the NFL does business. The expanded playoff is the college game’s attempt to professionalize itself, but it stands to fall apart if that attempt doesn’t include the most fundamental part of any professional endeavor: paying people what they’re worth, and doing it directly. The first player to walk away from the playoff will be the first one to say it.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Five Throwgasms

Bills at Dolphins: Before I dig into this game, let’s give a big round of applause to Victoria Zeller, who commandeered the Jamboroo over Christmas break and reminded me that oh yeah, good defense IS fun to watch … unless it’s being played against my team, in which case I hate it.

Anyway, the Bills are one victory away from a Sean McDermott Redemption Tour that no one, save perhaps the last remnants of Al Qaeda, asked for. Jim Nantz is on the call for the Super Bowl this year, so if the Bills make it that far (ha!), I look forward to him lauding Coach Troop for overcoming all of the adversity he faced by alienating everyone in the Bills organization.

Four Throwgasms

Bears at Packers: With the NFL regular season coming to an end, I have scouted all 32 teams and can now report to you that the following receivers are slobs:

  • Jerry Jeudy
  • Michael Pittman Jr.
  • Quentin Johnston
  • Christian Watson
  • Jameson Williams
  • Kadarius Toney
  • Skyy Moore
  • Odell Beckham Jr.
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling
  • Hunter Renfrow
  • Sterling Shepard
  • Curtis Samuel
  • Chase Claypool
  • Brandin Cooks
  • Darnell Mooney
  • Jalen Reagor
  • Kyle Pitts
  • Michael Thomas
  • Van Jefferson
  • D.J. Chark
  • Marquise Brown
  • Rondale Moore
  • Gabe Davis
  • Allen Lazard
  • Randall Cobb
  • Jamison Crowder
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • DeVante Parker
  • Nelson Agholor
  • Laquon Treadwell
  • K.J. Osborn
  • Hunter Henry
  • Hayden Hurst
  • Irv Smith Jr.
  • Allen Robinson
  • Robert Woods
  • Zay Jones
  • Treylon Burks

If you disagree with any of the names on this list, my apologies but you are wrong. That one guy you like? Total fucking slob.

Three Throwgasms

Texans at Colts: All of the games in this week’s three-‘gasm cluster are superficially underwhelming but will ultimately decide three division champions and perhaps a handful of sacrificial-lamb Wild Card spots. If you want to know all of the clinching scenarios involved with these games, you can consult this handy link. Or you can tune into Football Night in America and have Steve Kornacki lay it all out for you. That’s right: It’s an election year, which means that all of us have to pretend that khakis guy is still America’s Most Beloved Nerd. Oh wow, this guy can draw circles around random counties on a map! He must be some kind of Einstein!

In fact, you know what? Fuck it, let’s bring back all of the election year has-beens. Let’s put Chris Matthews back on MSNBC (it’s not like it’s gotten any better since he left). Let’s give Nate Silver $100 million to build a vanity website, and then watch in horror as he’s reduced to a megalomaniacal idiot who tweets out shit like, “Well actually, if you looked at 55 percent of our forecasting models, you’ll find that they were accurate 75 percent of the time.” Let’s give James Carville and Mary Matalin a daytime talk show where they can share coffee with Henry Kissinger’s cadaver. Let’s ask Joe the Plumber what he thinks about stuff. And let’s all make JEB! jokes. Bring it on. I’m ready for all of your usual bullshit, politicos. Play us into the void, Mark Russell!

Eagles at Giants: Roughly every five years, the Eagles make it to the Super Bowl with a core of stud players that promises a coming dynasty, and then it all falls to shit. I have nothing insightful to add here, I just find it entertaining.

Bucs at Panthers

Falcons at Saints

Jaguars at Titans

Cowboys at Commanders

Two Throwgasms

Seahawks at Cardinals: Every year there’s a new addition to the color guy lexicon, and this year it’s TEMPO. You’ve heard that word plenty during football and basketball games in your life, but in football “tempo” now exclusively means hurry-up offense. If your guys are going no-huddle, you are now “going tempo,” or “playing tempo.” There are no slow tempos anymore. There is only one tempo, and it must be adhered to.

One Throwgasm

Rams at 49ers: In case you missed it last week, here’s one enterprising Giants fan attempting to steal a touchdown ball away from Kyren Williams’s mom:

What a horseshit effort of ball security by that fan. It’s like Joe Judge never left.

Broncos at Raiders

Vikings at Lions

Steelers at Ravens

Browns at Bengals

Jets at Patriots

Chiefs at Chargers

Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Born Young And Free,” by Marmozets! Regardless of spelling, I can’t read the word “marmosets” without thinking of Ren & Stimpy, so I’ll let reader Tom do the talking right now:

This song kicks you in the face with riffs right away and then Becca Macintyre's vocals blasts away whatever was left from the initial onslaught. And if rock music isn't about youth and freedom, then we've lost our way as a species.

I was lucky enough to see them perform in San Francisco and highly recommend their live show. The vocals are even more incredible in person and the lead guitarist managed to play perfectly in spite of being so drunk that he was unable to speak after the show. Really made me feel like I was back home in the UK.

Tom’s story reminds me that I’ve been to far too many professionally behaved acts in recent years. Bob Mould, The Struts, The Amazons, Noel Gallagher, QOTSA: None of these guys showed up late, or even blind drunk! Even GNR handled their business without Axl telling the crowd to go fuck itself. If not for this shitfaced Marmozets guitarist, rock really WOULD be dead!

Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week: Steelers (-3.5) over Ravens

“Now I’ve lived in Pittsburgh my whole life, and lemme tell you: We’re a tough town. You come here, you better be ready for a fight. And if you’re not, you gotta go. You’re soft, you’re off. I’ve called the FBI many, many times to report soft-igans hanging out on our nicest streets, and the operator always tells me 'Sorry, I didn’t quite get that.' That’s a problem here in America right now, and we’re gonna fix it.”

2023 Record: 8-8

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2023 chopping block:

Josh McDaniels – FIRED!
Frank Reich – FIRED!
Brandon Staley – FIRED!
Nick Sirianni???
Brian Daboll???
Mike McCarthy???
Ron Rivera!!!
Dennis Allen
Todd Bowles
Bill Belichick
Kevin O’Connell
Mike Vrabel
Arthur Smith
Sean Payton
Pete Carroll

(*potential midseason firing)

I know you’re wondering why Matt Eberflus and Robert Saleh are missing from this list. Well, it’s because they’re already confirmed as safe, which I find terribly disappointing. There was also an Ian Rapoport tweet that said Arthur Smith might be safe as well, but Rap left enough wiggle room in there that I’m allowed to dream a little.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Adrian sends in this story I call TOMMY CAN YOU WIPE ME:

I’m just going to start by saying I’ve never told this story for shame or embarrassment. That ends now (bear in mind I am 27). I was about eight years old and Microsoft’s 3D Pinball game was all the rage. When I wasn’t at school, with friends, or annoying my parents, that’s all I was doing. 

Anyway, I was playing one day when I suddenly felt the urge to shit. I’m from New Mexico originally, so you better believe this one was the result of green chile enchiladas and sopapillas. Unfortunately, this also happened while I was in the middle of a fierce pinball game. I had already surpassed my high score. Why get up?

I thought I could squeak out a little fart to relieve some of the pressure. Nope! Push came to shove and right there, on the black leather chair, I let out a mix of watery, chunky poo. Luckily it stayed mainly in my underwear and I was able to waddle to the bathroom to clean up and finish what I farted. 

Where do you think I put the underwear? The trash can would be a good idea, right? WRONG! I balled that shit up and threw it way in the back of my closet never to be seen (or smelled) again. Surprisingly, that worked.

...Until, eight years later. I’d completely forgotten about the rank undies until I was doing a deep-clean of my closet. Thinking as quickly as a 16 year-old can, I grabbed a broom, picked up the soiled undies with it and, threw them directly in the outside garbage can. We didn’t have a huge house and my mom asked what all of the fuss was. I just blamed it on teenage angst (nailed it). I like to think those boxers were burned in a trash heap, but I’m glad I’ll never know.

Thanks for letting me share. And even if this doesn’t make it in, this has been strangely cathartic.

Not wanting to go to the bathroom because you’re too invested in a video game that you can easily take a break from? Adrian, I’ve been there. I bet studies have been done on the phenomenon.

And Now Let’s Go Down To The Sideline To Check In With Charissa Thompson

“Drew, I just talked to Zack Snyder as he was coming out of the Rebel Moon premiere and I asked him if he was happy with the film’s performance. He told me he’s pleased, but that ‘we can’t let our guard down’ when it comes to making the sequel, Return of the Jordi. As for critics who called the first film ‘an appalling piece of shit,’ Snyder told me, ‘Hey, I knew I’d be coming into a hostile environment. That’s where I do my best work.’ He then gave me a smile and did three concentration curls with a nearby brick. Back upstairs to you, Drew.”

Thanks, Charissa.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Krud! Watch your back, Duff Dry! Reader Ben has discovered a competitor in your midst:

Had this cheap beer in Siem Reap Cambodia right after seeing Angkor Watt which was amazing and well worth it. Not sure who decided to name the beer “Krud” but it was an apt descriptor. It only cost about 80 cents, so I can’t complain too much. Fuck Kissinger.

It’s always nice when your expectations are met to your exact specifications.

Gameday Movie Of The Week For Panthers Fans

Saltburn, which explores new terrain—quite literally—in the cinematic depiction of grave-fucking. A lot of people out there REALLY hate director Emerald Fennell’s work, but I’m not one of them. I came into Saltburn expecting it to be trashy, weird, and suitably British. I was not disappointed. Does the final plot twist work seamlessly if you think about it for more than an hour? No. Is it really even a twist? No. But the movie’s well-acted, impeccably photographed, and it includes long shots of both Barry Keoghan’s penis and Oxford, where I spent a semester abroad. I love it when I see a place I’ve been to in a movie. “Oh my God, that’s the Bodleian Library!” Three stars.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Homer, is this the way you pictured married life?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Except we drove around in a van solving mysteries.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.

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