The CFB Playoff Needs to Expand
Writer: Andrew Martin
In 2014, the last BCS National Championship was played, thus ending an era in college football. The new 4-team playoff system was an exciting and needed change for fans which eliminated controversial computer based rankings. Every year, the committee has had to make hard decisions on who to put in. Should they be politically correct and put in all conference champs? Should they put in the teams with the best resumes? Or do they reward teams like UCF who don’t play a strong schedule, but went undefeated? My problem with this system is why not incorporate all of that into who should make the playoff? To do so, the CFB playoffs would only need to change from four to eight teams.
Last Sunday morning, Dec. 3, we saw the unveiling of the final rankings on the season and who would make the playoffs. Heading into the reveal, we knew who the first three teams would be, but the fourth was a question mark. It came down to two conference champions in Ohio State, USC, and Alabama, who didn’t make it to their conference championship. When examining the criteria for who should get in, you want to look at three main things, resume, win/loss, and conference championship. USC was a little off the radar in this conversation due to having two losses, and not playing a very strong schedule, and that left them with their only argument piece as being conference champions. Ohio State was a two-loss team, played one of the hardest schedules this year, and managed to win their conference championship over #4 Wisconsin at that time. Alabama also only had one argument piece, they played a “cupcake” kind of schedule, and didn’t win their conference championship, but only had one loss.
With the real argument coming down to Ohio State vs. Alabama, or 3rd best in the SEC vs. best in the BIG 10, you have to take a more detailed look at their seasons. Alabama did play a very easy schedule this year, but they only had one loss, and that loss came to a very good Auburn team on the road. Ohio State on the other hand, played a tough schedule, and won their conference championship. However, the Buckeyes had two losses, and their biggest problem was one of those losses being a 31-point defeat to unranked Iowa. In the end the committee put Alabama over Ohio State, valuing win/loss over strength of schedule, and conference championships.
The decision obviously upset some people, as two SEC teams were in. My proposal to improve the playoff is expand the number of teams that get in from four, to eight. That way you can include all power-5 conference champions in the playoff, and then there’s three at large bids available for teams in non-power-5 conferences, plus power-5 schools who didn’t win the conference championship. This year’s rankings are 1. Clemson, 2. OU, 3. Georgia, and 4. Alabama. With an eight-team playoff, Ohio state could be added as a 5 seed, and Wisconsin, a one-loss team could get in as the 6th. Followed by either Auburn, Penn State, or USC, and then you can include a team like #10 UCF who went 12-0 in a non-power-5 conference and won their conference championship.
Ultimately, the CFB playoff is about getting the best four teams in the playoff no matter their situation right now. However, if we have controversy every year about power-5 champs not getting in, and teams playing weak schedules, then why not expand to eight? Yes, I do understand that if it were expanded, there would still be plenty of controversy about the 9th and 10th best teams not getting in, but like I’ve been saying, the eight-team playoff would be able to contain all conference champions, plus three additional at large. We’ll always have controversy with this kind of stuff, but in today's system where we have a playoff that allows teams to play for their chance to get to the title, why not let four more strong teams in to prove their worth?