The last two college football seasons have been the most exciting in recent memory, if ever.
Fans have been on edge every week, wondering if any loss suffered by their favorite teams will threaten their spot in the playoffs. ESPN promoted the “Who’s In?” slogan the last six weeks of the season.
All of the aforementioned excitement is due to the College Football Playoff. And do you know what else makes the CFP special? It’s limited to four teams.
I don’t know about you, but that makes the CFP the most exciting postseason in ALL of sports.
A lot of people out there disagree with my last two sentences. Several fans and college football “experts” believe that an eight-team playoff would make the CFP close to perfect. Others have been bloviating over how much MORE exciting an expanded CFP would be.
“They can make soooo much money with eight teams.”
“Eight teams ensure that no one deserving gets left out.”
“Just think of the juicy match-ups!”
Let me address those concerns in order.
First of all, of course the college football power brokers would make more money. More teams would mean more revenue in terms of increase in viewership and such, that part is obvious.
However, if the name of the game is finding the best teams in the country, the money would pour in regardless. Fans have been tuning in to the CFP shows on ESPN every Tuesday night the last half of the season. Sponsors have been pouring in lots of money into the CFP advertising pot.
Speaking of the best teams…
The second quote makes absolutely no damn sense if it’s all about getting the best teams. Look at the teams ranked #s 5-8. Iowa, Stanford, Ohio State and Notre Dame were all good teams, check that, VERY good teams. But they were not THE BEST teams.
Why would I tune in to watch a playoff that is not exclusive to the best teams? I don’t want the CFP to morph into the NBA and NHL playoffs. Hell, as much as I bag on baseball from time to time, at least MLB is the closest to getting it right with its exclusivity (only five out of 15 teams in each league makes the postseason).
And as far as the match-ups go, here is what we would have been looking at based on the final CFP rankings:
#1 Clemson vs. #8 Notre Dame. I’ve already seen this match-up, don’t need to see it again. NEXT…
#2 Alabama vs. #7 Ohio State. A conference champ vs. a non-conference champ. No thank you.
#3 Michigan State vs. #6 Stanford. This would be the only match-up featuring conference champs, an old school Big Ten-Pac 12 game to boot. But this game is the ultimate outlier in terms of a game feautring conference champs in this scenario.
#4 Oklahoma vs. #5 Iowa. See the Alabama-Ohio State analysis.
A lot of people like to compare playoffs of other sports – pro and college. Not all playoffs are created equally.
Wild card teams routinely challenge for — and win — the Super Bowl and World Series. Those types of runs are celebrated.
Outliers succeeding in — and winning — the NCAA Tournament work out fine because that event is built around the appeal of Cinderellas.
College football is predicated on exclusivity. College conference commissioners want to be sure the playoff does not negatively impact the regular season.
The rules that are put in place state the CFP committee should pick the four best teams. That means that a conference champ from the Power 5 will be left out. And you know what, that’s what makes the college football regular season so exciting.
Now if college football power brokers want to stage a REAL playoff, it would open it up to TEN teams. That would allow conference champs from ALL FBS conferences to participate.
Imagine teams from “Group of Five” conferences going against the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Stanford. Teams like Houston (from the AAC) and Bowling Green (MAC) would be more than competitive.
However, that would never happen for two reasons. First, the “big boys” from the Power 5 would NEVER share the pie with the “lesser” Group of Five conferences. Second, what would become of an independent like Notre Dame?
Is college football’s playoff system unfair? Perhaps, but you know what they say about life – it’s not fair.
So until Pleasantville arrives and takes over college football, keep the playoff at four teams.