Let's Have a Real Playoff
Calls to expand the College Football Playoff to eight teams are wrong. Go right to sixteen.
I’ve been seeing calls recently for the college football playoff to be expanded from four teams to eight teams. There is some merit to that. The difference between team #4 and team #5 isn’t all that great, and when you have ranking systems playing all sorts of mathematical jiujitsu in the last week of the season to see a Power 5 school jump a non-power 5 school, the farcical nature of a four-team playoff becomes evident.
But expanding to eight is not the magic number. Expanding to sixteen is. And you can do it without messing with the current playoff structure.
In my playoff scenario, all ten conference champions automatically make the tournament. The field is then rounded out with six at-large teams. Independent schools would be eligible to make the field as an at-large selection.
The first two rounds of the tournament would be held at the home field of the higher-seeded team. The Semifinals and Finals would still take place in accordance with the current Playoff Structure i.e. two bowl games and then the National Championship Game.
What would the bracket currently look like under this system? This.
# 16 Buffalo (MAC) at # 1 Alabama (SEC)
# 9 Indiana (Big Ten) at 8 BYU (at-large)
# 13 Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt) at # 4 Clemson (at-large)
# 12 Marshall (CUSA) at # 5 Texas A&M (at-large)
# 14 Iowa State (Big 12) at # 3 Ohio State (at-large)
# 11 Oregon (Pac 12) at # 6 Florida (at-large)
# 10 Wisconsin (at-large) at # 7 Cincinnati (AAC)
# 15 Nevada (MWC) at # 2 Notre Dame (ACC)
This of course would be subject to change as we get closer to the end of the season. The likelihood, for example, that Indiana or Iowa State will win their conference titles is remote. But it is still a fun thought experiment that could produce some unique and entertaining matchups. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see an in-state Coastal Carolina-Clemson game with national title implications?
This format does give us some advantage over a four or even eight-team setup.
It provides opportunities to schools that are shut out of the top-4 process. While Central Florida did get to claim a share of the 2017 National Championship, wouldn’t it have been better to just settle it on the field?
The difference between finishing at the top of the final poll and finishing in the 3rd or 4th is stark. There’s a big difference here, for example, between Alabama getting to play Buffalo and #3 Ohio State having to face Iowa State.
The matchups create matchups that you don’t see very often. Clemson has never played Coastal Carolina. Wisconsin hasn’t played Cincinnati since 2000. The one Florida-Oregon matchup occurred in 1929. The combination of scheduling and bowl contracts make some of these matchups impossible. What better way than to make them happen in a playoff, much the same way that the NCAA tournament brings interesting and unique matchups to life.
This is the best way possible to improve upon the current format, and I will try to update this on a week-to-week basis the rest of the season.