The inaugural College Football Playoff last month was nothing short of memorable and exciting. It brought as much excitement and hype for college football fans as each new Star Wars movie does for its fans. Though the playoffs turned out to be a major success, the decision process of who gets in and who doesn’t is only going to get more controversial in the future.
This year, it was the Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU that got snubbed big time. Both arguably deserved to make the field of four more than Ohio State. With only four spots, one major conference will have its champion not in the playoffs and that doesn’t take into fact if conference independent Notre Dame is great or if two teams from a single conference are in the top four. During the 2011 season, Southeastern Conference rivals LSU and Alabama finished the regular season #1 and #2, so it is possible that two teams from one conference could make the playoffs with only four spots.
The eight team field this past season would have been #1 Alabama vs. #8 Michigan State, #2 Oregon vs. #7 Mississippi State, #3 Florida State vs. #6 TCU, and #4 Ohio State vs. #5 Baylor. This eight-team field would have been incredible to watch, and who’s to say Ohio State would have actually won the championship if it were eight teams.
The problem with the BCS was the two “best” teams in the country were determined by a combination of human polls and computer rankings. Many years, it was thought the two “best” teams playing in the BCS championship were not actually the two “best” teams. Despite the CFP (College Football Playoff) Selection committee – comprised of Athletic Directors, former coaches, and former players – is a better alternative to the BCS, there is still the possibility for major error.
By the playoff only having four teams, there is still a high probability that the best team won’t be selected into the playoff. That may be the case since not every power conference champion makes the field and teams in smaller conferences such as Boise State or Marshall have virtually no shot at being at least fourth in the rankings.
My idea for increasing competiveness and a better overall playoff is to increase the field to eight teams. The champions from the power 5 conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 12) would have each of their champions clinch a berth in the playoffs. Regarding the remaining three spots, one would go to the top ranked non-power 5 conference team (Mountain West, Sun Belt, Conference USA, American Athletic, and MAC) and the final two spots would be for at large teams.
This system would give teams with one or even two losses the opportunity to compete for a chance to play in the playoffs. Basically, it will eliminate the TCU and Baylor controversy for future years. When determining the playoff field, there shouldn’t be that much controversy of who gets in and who doesn’t.
The competitiveness in my opinion would increase with a larger playoff field. The reason for this is because with more playoff slots, there are opportunities for more teams to compete for a spot in the playoffs. Whereas with the four team field, teams are eliminated from the playoff hunt when they have as few as 1-2 losses. In the case of Michigan State, they had two losses, but they were at the hands of two very good teams that ultimately played in the college football championship. With regard to smaller schools such as Boise State, it is pretty much one loss and they’re out of contention. Boise State loss a road game week one against Ole Miss and lost at Air Force in their fifth game. Ole Miss finished the season 9-4 and Air Force had an even better record at 10-3. After losing their second game, they won nine straight games to close out the season including beating Pac 12 South champion Arizona.
For the people who think a two loss smaller school shouldn’t make it, that’s fine. However, what about an 11-0 Marshall team. Marshall went into week 14 11-0, but their ranking was 24th. Even though Marshall didn’t finish undefeated, it’s safe to say they wouldn’t have climbed twenty spots to make the playoffs. Having an increased playoff with a berth for conference champions in the major conferences, the best smaller school would clinch, and two additional at large spots, would leave the doors open for many teams after losing a game or two. The chance to make the playoffs shouldn’t be over after one loss for any team.
Rivalries Will Still Be Competitive
If there are any Alabama or Auburn fans that saw this article, gave it a chance, and then read it until this point, continuing to read will bear good news. Do not worry; rivalry games will not be affected by an eight-team playoff. Most notably, the Alabama vs. Auburn rivalry. There is speculation that this year if there was an eight team playoff, Alabama wouldn’t have tried to win that rivalry game. This would have been the case since Alabama was ranked so high, win or lose it would have still made the playoffs. However, a solution to that problem is that the four higher seeds (#1-4) could host the first round on their campuses. Having that plan in place would have teams playing competitively the entire regular season. Similar to how one loss could remove a team from making the four team playoff, one loss would remove a team from hosting the first round on their campus’.
Season Wouldn’t Be Extended
The college football bowl season as we know it is about three weeks long. It began this past year on December 20th, and finished January 4th (The actual football championship was January 12th, but I’m referring to the final actual bowl game). Within that period of time, there were three Saturdays. My idea is that the three rounds of the eight team playoff would be played during those three Saturdays. The round of eight would take place the first Saturday, the final four the second Saturday, and the first Saturday of January would be the national championship.
Health Of Players
To ensure the health of the players, I think there are two solutions. One of them is to increase the amount of scholarship players a team can have. When asked about the possibility of an eight team playoff on the Dan Patrick Show, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer responded, “”You can’t. You better give us 110 scholarships then, because you’re down. I can’t speak for Oregon, I can speak for Ohio State. That when they added — When they had 85 scholarships there were 12 games. Now there’s 15. And the last three they added aren’t against smaller — they’re heavyweight prizefights. You just can’t do it.” Increasing the number of scholarship players to 110 is a great idea; so collegiate athletes don’t have to play as many as 16 games in a single season.
Another solution on top of increasing scholarships is to lessen the regular season by one game. I think having the regular season be 11 games instead of 12 would not only ensure the health of players, but also, increase competitiveness. Each team would have eight conference games and three non-conference games.
Bowl Games Will Still Be Relevant
It’s only eight teams making the playoffs, not the entire top 25. There will still be plenty of great teams that don’t make the playoffs, take for instance this year. Despite eight teams making the playoffs, teams like Kansas State, Missouri, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, and Arizona would all be eligible for big bowl games. Not only will the level of bowl games remain high, but with an increased playoff field, there will be more exciting and thrilling games for college football fans.
All in all, the eight-team playoff will make college football better and give the fans what they deserve. With regards to TCU and Baylor, there shouldn’t be that much controversy about who was more deserving of making the playoffs. Limiting the playoffs to four teams creates a reality that the best team in college football may not be selected into the playoffs.
Having only four spots doesn’t guarantee every major conference champion a spot, makes it virtually impossible for a smaller school like Boise State or Marshall to make it, and eliminates teams with as little as 1-2 losses from competing to make the playoffs. The current four team playoff system had a lot of controversy this past year, and it’s not going away. The eight team playoff would be perfect for college football.