Greenstein: Does college football really need a playoff?
The pro-playoff crowd won't like hearing this: College football has never been more popular.

For the fourth time in five years, according to numbers released Wednesday by the National Football Foundation, college football set an attendance record. More than 49 million fans turned out to watch games at 639 NCAA schools, an increase of nearly three percent over last year and 26 percent since 1997.

The BCS clearly has its flaws, but even those who advocate a 16-team playoff would have a tough time arguing that it has not increased interest in the regular season and its do-or-die nature.

And for those who rail on supposedly "meaningless" bowl games, take note that the 35 games also set an attendance record by drawing an average of 51,806 fans.

Television ratings are also on the rise, with ESPN executive Burke Magnus calling it a "record-breaking year for college football viewership."

CBS' broadcast of the Sept. 25 Alabama-Arkansas game drew a 5.2 rating, its highest for a regular-season afternoon game since 2003.

The Big Ten Network posted record ratings for games involving Ohio State and Michigan, and NBC's coverage of the Michigan-Notre Dame game drew 7 million viewers, the most for a Wolverines-Irish game in 16 years.

Critics can rail on a system that uses biased coaches and secret computer formulas; and one that leaves an undefeated team such as TCU out of the national championship game.

What they can't claim is that college football has ever been more popular.