Sunday, December 2, 2018

8 Team College Football Playoff: It's Time

I feel like every year when we see the reveal of the College Football Playoff field of 4 teams, I am one of what seems like a vast majority of college football fans that are pleading either for their team to have a shot or for an expanded playoff field.  I have been saying for years that an expanded playoff of at least 8 and maybe even 16 is needed.  I feel this season, maybe more than any other, proves that it is time for this to happen.

Here is the craziest part of this realization: the CFP committee got it right this year.  There were 3 or 4 teams that had a legitimate claim on that final playoff spot.  Ohio St. had possibly the best win of anyone this season, demolishing Michigan in embarrassing fashion.  Georgia had 2 losses, but they were the only team to even compete with Alabama, who needed another miracle comeback to pull out the SEC Championship.  UCF just finished their second straight perfect season.  However, Oklahoma seemed most deserving after avenging their one and only loss by beating Texas in the Big 12 Championship game.  I look at the 4 teams that will be playing for the championship, and they are exactly who they should be.  However, the fact that these four are the right four show that the system is flawed and needs to be fixed.

This is the fifth year of the College Football Playoff, and something that has been an issue since its inception is how in the world can you have a playoff a four when you claim to have a "Power 5" conference group.  It makes no sense.  One of your conferences, who are all said to be of equal standing, is guaranteed to be left out of the playoff.  On top of that, this is the second straight year only three conferences will be represented in the Playoff (Alabama made it as a non conference champ last year, Notre Dame is conference-less this year).  Both years, the Pac 12 and Big 10 have been the conferences left out of the party.  Ranking these top teams not only is judging the quality of that team, but also the quality and priority of a conference.  For instance, the SEC will never be left out of the CFP no matter what the best record is coming out of the conference.  There is a definite priority of some conferences over others.  I'm not even going to touch the fact that Notre Dame is still allowed to exist outside of the conference system.

Another argument I have always made for an expanded is the fact that about 2/3 of the college football landscape in FBS starts their season knowing they have no chance at winning a national championship.  UCF just finished their 2nd straight undefeated season, even destroying a team that ended up in the ACC Championship Game this season, and they were never even considered a serious option.  There must be a way that every team can have a legitimate shot at winning a title every year.

A lesser issue I have with the current system, and actually how the system has always worked, is the fact that we now have to wait a month to see these top teams play again.  I have always found this odd.  No other sport would even consider taking a month off between its regular season and postseason.  All momentum is gone, all continuity is gone, teams come out rusty as if they were playing the first game of the season.  It really produces a product that is less than the best.

This really is an easy problem to fix I think.  Go to an 8 team playoff.  Everything currently in place can stay the same.  It would just add one wild weekend of football to set up the current four team format.  This weekend would take place two weeks after championship weekend, which is the current start of bowl season already.  There wouldn't be a need for more travel and neutral site games as the first round can simply be a home game for the top seed.  The field would consist of the conference champs from the Power 5 conferences, the top Group of 5 team, and two at large teams.  The committee can continue to do what it is doing, however their primary function would shift to choosing the last three teams and seeding the playoff.  If this were to take place this year, here is what it would look like.  Tell me this doesn't sound worth it!

1.  Alabama (SEC Champ)
2.  Clemson (ACC Champ)
3.  Notre Dame (at large)
4.  Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)
5.  Georgia (at large)
6.  Ohio St. (Big 10 Champ)
7.  UCF (Group of 5 team)
8.  Washington (Pac 12 Champ)

On Saturday, December 15th, here would be the quarterfinal matchups.

Washington at Alabama
Washington proved earlier this year that they are not afraid to play in the south and go toe to toe with a big bad SEC team.  The Huskies started this season beat up, playing a sloppy game, and still almost beating Auburn in Atlanta.  They are now at full strength, playing their best football, and would give Bama a run for their money.  I'm not saying they could win in Tuscaloosa in a game like this, but it would be worth the watch.

UCF at Clemson
This game would be a lot more intriguing if McKenzie Milton hadn't tried to get his leg ripped off a couple weeks ago.  With that said, the Knights have shown the last two weeks that they are much more than Milton as they have continued their winning streak.  So you would have the most hungry team in the playoff facing, potentially, the most untested team in the field.  Clemson played their way through a weak ACC without ever really needing to break much of a sweat.  It would make an interesting dynamic for a playoff game for sure.  It definitely would add some weight to UCF's game on the big stage; much more weight than the Fiesta Bowl against LSU, who has been irrelevant since their loss to Bama last month.

Ohio St. at Notre Dame
No one would argue about seeing these two powerhouses face off in a playoff game!  Notre Dame and Ohio St. share something in that they are the only two teams to defeat Michigan this season.  This would be a fun game to watch for sure!

Georgia at Oklahoma
Which team deserved to make it to this year's playoff?  Well, this rematch of last year's semifinal classic would help determine which team truly is best.  Honestly, I think Georgia is the better team, but Oklahoma is the more deserving team.  It would be fun to see Kyler Murray and that Oklahoma offense go up against an SEC defense (which we will see when they play Bama).  It would also be fun to see an SEC team Georgia have to go on the road to Norman and play the Sooners.

You are crazy if you think this wouldn't be beneficial to the sport.  Everyone wants to see it, all 8 of these teams have earned their opportunities to play for the title.  How is this a bad thing?  Make it happen NCAA!

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