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The Time Has Come: Expand the College Football Playoff

BY DREW DUFF | BALL STATE SPORTS LINK
After the final week of college football ended on Saturday, it was clear that the selection committee would have their hands full.

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Navy’s program reached new heights this year under backup quarterback Will Worth (No. 15) (Courtesy: Jonathon Newton/The Washington Post)

Many unprecedented events have taken place this season. From the record setting surprise of Navy, to that unbeaten and unbroken team in Kalamazoo, college football continues to be jam-packed with drama and excitement until the very end. And while that may be thrilling for us fans at home, it makes the committee’s job that much harder.

Upon the release of the final rankings yesterday, the reactions were mixed. Many felt that allowing a non-conference champion into the final four was warranted, given how the year ended.

But it begs the question: just how valuable are conference championships?

It was thought of as one of the most important criterion. Now, nobody knows for sure. On the committee’s website, it lists “conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes…, and other relevant factors” in how they select the best four teams.

According to this list, does it makes sense that Big Ten champion Penn State was left out, yet Ohio State, who lost to the Nittany Lions on October 22nd, made it at #3?

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Penn State’s reaction after forcing a turnover to secure their first conference title since 2008 (Courtesy: Max Petrosky)

The final rankings are always controversial. No system is perfect (though most people would never return to the BCS). The playoff has proven to be effective at selecting a national champion.

Shouldn’t we always be working to improve that system? A great case can be made for both Ohio State and Penn State’s admission into the playoff, so why not expand and allow them both in?

This is now year three of the current four team structure. It’s time that the College Football Playoff gets a desperately needed upgrade.

Many have been tossing around ideas for new formats, ranging in a wide number of teams. I believe I have come up with a fair and unbiased system that allows for a happy median among all differing philosophies.


So, how would it work?

There would be 12 teams. The top 5 spots would be reserved for each Power 5 conference winner. Applied to this year, here’s how it would look:

  1. Alabama (SEC)
  2. Clemson (ACC)
  3. Washington (PAC-12)
  4. Penn State (B1G)
  5. Oklahoma (Big XII)

The next 7 teams would be awarded at-large. Simply put, it is the best 7 teams in the country after the conference winners. They would be:

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan
  3. Wisconsin
  4. USC
  5. Colorado
  6. Florida State
  7. Western Michigan

Why Western Michigan? Oklahoma State, Louisville, and Auburn all finished ahead of them in the final poll. So what makes them so special?

Under this system, AT LEAST one at-large bid must be reserved for a Group of 5 team. In order for a G5 team to qualify for a bid, they must have 10 wins and a conference championship. Western Michigan finished with an unblemished 13-0 record and defeated Ohio in the MAC Championship game.

A big reason for Western Michigan’s success is spirited head coach P.J. Fleck

More than one G5 team can be invited to the playoff. This year, Temple shocked Navy 34-10 in the AAC Championship game and finished 10-3. They would be eligible for an invite, but only if the following criteria are applied correctly (in order of importance):

  1. Conference championship (Top 5 + G5 at-large)
  2. Record vs Top 25 opponents
  3. Strength of schedule
  4. Quality of losses
  5. Number of wins

I felt that 9-3 Florida State held the advantage over Temple in quality wins (three – including #10 Miami vs. one – #19 Navy) and strength of schedule (ranked 5th vs 83rd). However, if there was a situation in which a second G5 team beat out the next P5 team, then the G5 team would receive the bid.

In total, there would be 11 playoff games. The first round would feature the 5-12 seeds, with the top four seeds getting a first round bye. Here’s how the bracket shakes out:

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The opening round games would be played at select sites, naturally whoever the higher seed is. From then on, each game would represent a specific New Years Six Bowl:

  • Game 5: Outback Bowl
  • Game 6: Cotton Bowl
  • Game 7: Rose Bowl
  • Game 8: Sugar Bowl
  • Game 9: Peach Bowl
  • Game 10: Fiesta Bowl

Just like the current system, each bowl would rotate to a different game number every year.

I will reiterate that perfection can never be achieved in any selection process. Under this system, the argument could be made that this is too many games for a student athlete to play in one year. Not to mention how grueling just one game is on the body.

To counter, the FCS has had at least a 12 game tournament since 1982. Their version of the playoff system has only grown and expanded over the years. Not to say the FCS model should be copied, but the selection committee could learn a lot from this system.

If we have the chance to improve on the excitement that is college football, then what are we waiting for? What’s most important is being fair, and this system provides equality suitable for all fans.

1 Comment on The Time Has Come: Expand the College Football Playoff

  1. Drew, Have you seen this recent proposal for a new college football playoff??? https://www.newcollegefootballplayoffs.com

    Like

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