The first weekend of December is here, which means college football is ready to dust off the pointless, redundant relic that is “Conference Championship Weekend.”
Don’t let the sport’s television partners tell you this is a good idea. Being some zombie fan getting fed establishment nonsense is no way to go through life.
Remember, the people who run this sport once claimed the BCS would have to be pulled out of their “cold, dead hands,” which means they'd be out here justifying how Clemson, the unbeaten, reigning national champion, doesn’t deserve to play for a national title this year.
A four-team playoff arrived as a concession, but it’s still the same leadership, so there is more to do. That includes reforming the postseason to replace this waste-of-time weekend with the first round of an eight-team playoff.
If you think you’ve read this column before, it’s because you have. I write it every year because every year it becomes increasingly true.
Let’s look at this year’s conference title games (playoff committee rankings are projected):
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Wisconsin, a rematch that is not needed (the Buckeyes won the first meeting 38-7). Ohio State needs to not lose by, say, 35 points and it will make the playoffs. Wisconsin can’t advance.
No. 2 LSU vs. No. 4 Georgia. LSU just has to not lose by, say, 35 points and it will make the playoffs. Georgia must win to advance.
No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 22 Virginia. Clemson probably has to win to make the playoffs, although maybe not. Virginia can’t advance.
No. 5 Utah vs. No. 14 Oregon. Utah needs to win and then have Georgia or Clemson lose before then winning a debate to advance. Oregon can’t advance.
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Baylor, in a rematch that is not needed (the Sooners won the first meeting 34-31 in Waco). Oklahoma needs to win and then have Georgia or Clemson lose before then winning a debate to advance. Same for Baylor, maybe. Baylor might be hopeless no matter what.
No. 19 Cincinnati at No. 18 Memphis, in a rematch that is not needed (Memphis won the first meeting 34-24 just last weekend). Neither team has a chance to advance.
Unranked Hawaii at No. 20 Boise State, in a rematch that is not needed (Boise State won the first meeting 59-37). Neither team can advance.
Unranked Louisiana at Appalachian State, in a rematch that is not needed (App State won the first meeting, 17-7 at Louisiana). Neither team can advance.
Unranked Miami (Ohio) vs. unranked Central Michigan … forget it.
In none of those games does the winner move on while the loser goes home, you know, the way postseasons usually work. In at least two of them the losers are almost certain to advance.
There are five rematches, none of which are needed. In two of the other championship games, an unbeaten team won the league outright but has to play again even though the sport repeatedly claims the regular season matters. Only the Pac-12, with two one-loss-in-conference teams playing, makes any sense.
This is stupid. It always is.
Instead, there could be an eight-team playoff that hands out automatic bids to five league champions (each could be easily determined without the title game), one to the best of the rest (inserting Cinderella into the equation while rewarding the top seed) and two at-large bids. Games could be played on campus locations for the first round either this weekend or next (switching with the Army-Navy game).
In that case:
No. 8 Memphis at No. 1 Ohio State
No. 7 Baylor at No. 2 LSU
No. 6 Oklahoma at No. 3 Clemson
No. 5 Utah at No. 4 Georgia
Which one sounds more appealing? Which one is more exciting? Which one would draw in more viewers and more money and more excitement and actually show that the people who run the game care about the game? Which one would be played in wild, hyped, on-campus venues, not far-off NFL stadiums?
This is patently easy and simple. There is no debate.
But … money?
Sure, there are some conference championship games that are very profitable, namely the SEC. Four first-round playoff games though are a much bigger television product than championship weekend and in an expanded playoff, the SEC could get two or three teams in every year, including multiple home games.
There’s money everywhere.
LSU-Georgia should be fun, just like the similar Alabama-Georgia was last year. The SEC is usually the only game with anything at stake. But LSU doesn’t even have to win and the alternative is that Georgia would get to host a playoff game. It’s not like the Bulldogs are losing out.
As for the other championship games, most of the time the ratings aren’t big (last year’s ACC title game drew a meager 2.5 rating), tickets aren’t in demand (get-in prices are under $60) and often the winners don’t even get into the playoff (three years running in the Big Ten).
The eight-team model would add no additional games for the players. It would further strengthen the regular season by eliminating the title-game bailout for losers and make more games matter (like the Pac-12 race, or last week’s Cincy-Memphis game, which was essentially a play-in).
Home field wouldn’t just deliver incredible environments and be a boon for local fans and communities. It would also increase the importance of a top-four seed and give No. 1 (or even No. 2) the easier draw it earned.
Instead we get a postseason designed and run by too many people who can’t think ahead, who prioritize taking care of third-party bowl executives/cronies and who are focused on protecting fiefdoms rather than stewarding the sport.
Eventually the cold, dead hands will consider something better.
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