So here we are just a few days removed from the reveal of this years top four teams selected by the committee for this year’s College Football Playoff. Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama are our four teams and everyone but the state of Ohio believes they got it right. This allows me to bring up the idea of an expanded playoff (Ohio State fans rejoice) but instead of the eight-team playoff that everyone seems to think we need to jump to, I will now present to you the best option for any expansion to the College Football Playoff.
We can all agree that the regular season needs to be meaningful. We should be able to agree that winning your conference should mean something (Looking at you Ohio State and Alabama fans who back to back years benefited by getting in without even playing for their conference title). Going undefeated should mean something. Here is how six would make all three things matter.
Meaningful regular season; For the people calling for eight and sixteen team playoffs, you clearly don’t want to value the regular season. With the current four-team playoff, the regular season is very meaningful because two losses almost automatically eliminates you from being in consideration. While I will point out how egregiously bad Ohio State’s loss to Iowa was this season, we would probably have a different conversation if Oklahoma didn’t beat the Buckeyes at home week two. If that was the case, we are comparing a one-loss Big Ten Champ vs a one-loss non-division champ Alabama. As fans, we love to see the Alabama vs Florida State, Oklahoma vs Ohio State, USC vs Texas type games in the regular season because it gives us great match-ups that otherwise wouldn’t be seen until the playoffs. In the current four-team playoff it does not benefit any power five teams to schedule each other because one loss outside of conference means there is zero room for error in conference. You want more Alabama vs Mercer? Clemson vs The Citadel? Oklahoma vs UTEP? Georgia vs Samford? Need I continue to who Kansas plays to ensure one win? (Southeast Missouri State) The point is, expansion is really good for the regular season if you want to see good games.
Conference Champs matter; The CFB selection committee has made it clear that winning your conference really doesn’t mean much. This is not good for college football. Playing one less game, not being crowned the best team in your conference on the field and then representing the said conference in the playoff makes zero sense. Expanding to 6 would ensure each of the power 5 conferences have the potential to be represented. How often has there been a conference champion with three losses in the playoff era? Zero times. Going back to 2010: Only the 2011 Clemson Tigers were a three-loss conference champ. They also got absolutely pummeled by 3 loss Big East champ West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. So you might ask “What happens if there is a three loss power five conference champion?” You would then you use the committee to compare resumes of the three-loss conference champ and the likely two loss non-conference champ. The committee isn’t even there now to tell us who the top three teams are. We see it clear as day that 1 loss Clemson and 1 loss Oklahoma are playing the best football right now. The remaining spot would be for an at-large team whether that be a one or two loss non-conference champ, or even the potential to add in a Cinderella from the group of five provided they are undefeated.
How would that set up in the bracket? Taking this year with the expanded playoff you would have (1) Clemson and (2) Oklahoma with a bye. (3) Georgia would play (6) Ohio State. (4) Alabama would play (5) USC. The reason I wouldn’t have UCF in this season is that they didn’t make up the game against Georgia Tech and they had to wait until their conference title game to play a ranked team that it took them two overtimes to take care of.
If the playoff was expanded to 8 then you would have to have Wisconsin at 7 and then a giant discussion on who is 8th between Miami, UCF, Washington, and Penn State for the final spot. To me, there will never be a three loss team worthy of competing for a National Title so sorry Auburn fans but you’d be on the outside looking in (DON’T BLOW A 20 POINT LEAD TO AN AVERAGE LSU TEAM). And quite frankly does anyone of those teams have a shot at the eighth seed against (1) Clemson? Miami just proved they didn’t. UCF barely handled Memphis, Washington didn’t have USC on the schedule but they did suffer both of their losses outside of Husky Stadium against Arizona State and Stanford so a trip to let’s say the Peach Bowl wouldn’t be ideal for them. Penn State did lose both of their games close and on the road to Ohio State and Michigan State by a combined 4 points so maybe they are the best option to fill the eight?
What I’m getting at is realistically there are never eight viable teams that have a shot at the National Title. Never have been, never will be. Why risk the top contender losing a key player in a game against an eight seed that they will likely 95% of the time win by 10-21 points? If Clemson lost Kelly Bryant in a game against Penn State they would be in big trouble the rest of the way, their only loss this season came when an already injured Bryant went out before halftime with a concussion on the road against an amped up Syracuse team. People need to stop looking at this like it will be anything remotely close to March Madness and start making decisions for to make the games more exciting and to encourage teams to go start a series with a team they would normally never play.