If there’s anything 2020 might be good for, it’s expediting the process of killing off the four-team College Football Playoff.
On Sunday morning, we found out who was going to make the Final Four. It was Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame. There were relatively easy cases to be made against No. 3 and No. 4. Ohio State played six games. Do they “look” like one of the best teams in the country? Sure, I guess. But when their best win was against Indiana, did the resume stack up? And considering they had nearly half the amount of games played, or “data points”, as the committee likes to call them, what is that worth?
The Big Ten Conference dropped the ball in how it scheduled the 2020 season, but Ohio State didn’t pay any price. Maybe you don’t think they should have, but I do. Incompetence, which is what the Big Ten was defined by this year, should not be rewarded. The College Football Playoff committee did that anyway.
Then there’s Notre Dame, who got smoked by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday. This was a rematch of a game Notre Dame won earlier in the season, but the difference is that Clemson was a full strength, most notably with their star quarterback Trevor Lawrence playing in this game. He was injured the first time these two teams met.
Did anyone watching on Saturday really believe had Trevor Lawrence been healthy, Notre Dame would have won that game earlier in the season? If you do believe that, you need to get your eyes checked.
At No. 5 was the Texas A&M Aggies. We already saw them get blown out by 28 points against Alabama, but some actually thought we needed to see that match up again, because, well, #SEC, or something.
Then there were the Oklahoma Sooners at No. 6. And while I understand why Oklahoma did not get a serious look, there’s a case to be made that this is the most improved team in the nation and one of the most-dangerous teams in the nation. They’ve vastly improved on both sides of the ball, seen young players like QB Spencer Rattler grow leaps and bounds, while also welcoming back key players from suspension for the second half of the season. But a two-loss team had never made the playoff, and it seemed unlikely the Big 12 would produce the first one.
Protect the Regular Season
The first thing the college football decision makers need to do a realize is that they still have the best regular season in college football. Every game truly counts. That’s part of what makes it the most dramatic sport in the country. A loss in September can knock you out of the national conversation. What other sport can say that? None.
That’s why a 16-team playoff is too much for me. It would dilute the regular season in college football. And just ask college basketball how its doing as a sport with a regular season that no one pays attention to until the calendar flips to march. Sure there are the diehards, but the casual sports fan is not focused on college basketball until after the regular season ends. College football cannot make that mistake.
With 16 teams in the Playoff, you would have possible three-loss teams in the postseason. That’s a credibility killer for the sport.
Go to Eight Teams
What the College Football Playoff should do is move to an eight-team playoff. These spots would be reserved for each Power 5 Conference Champion, one Group of 5, plus two at-large bids. The committee would simply be in charge of picking two at-large teams and then also selecting the ranking numbers. That’s all they need to do.
Since it’s inception, this committee has done nothing but change its rules on nearly a yearly basis to justify whatever decision it is they want to make. In the opening year of the Playoff, TCU and Baylor got hosed because we were told they didn’t have a 13th data point from a conference championship. Then from 2016 to 2018, one team each season made the Playoff without a 13th data point. They were, in order, Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame.
By going to eight teams, each conference would have a representative, the Group of 5 would finally have a shot, and there would be two more with a shot. It would preserve the importance of the regular season, while making the Playoff much more fair and less arbitrary.
On top of that, I would make the first round Playoff games at the campus of the No. 1 through No. 4 seeds. College football’s greatest trait is its pageantry, and that would be on full display in the first round of the Playoff.
This all seems like a relatively easy fix, but nothing in college athletics happens as easily as it should. There’s too much money and power at stake.
But if there’s any good that might come out of a hellish 2020, it’s the (hopeful) expedited process of saying goodbye to the incredibly-flawed four-team College Football Playoff.
**Want to win a $20 gift card? Go sign up here and join our conversation! The best poster each week wins a gift card to your favorite establishment!**