We still haven’t seen what a four-team College Football Playoff looks like, and already some are calling for an expansion – making it an eight team playoff, although it’s hard to believe that will erase any of the arguments about ‘deserving’ and eligibility we have now.
The way it seems right now, the SEC has a small chance of putting two teams in the final four, although things will change with the remaining games (Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl, conference championship game). It also means one of the big conferences – Big 12, Big Ten and maybe the ACC if Florida State actually lose to someone, won’t have a team in the semifinals. Maybe two conferences won’t make it, depending on how much the committee love the SEC by the time to make the final decision.
For now, it looks like being a conference champion is going to mean a lot. Even if Mississippi State don’t lose again yet don’t play in their conference title game, they won’t be preferred to other one loss conference champions who are currently behind them: Baylor or TCU in the Big 12, Ohio State in the Big Ten. But what if there were eight teams in the playoff? We wouldn’t have to worry about a conference being left out, and there wouldn’t be any outcry about SEC bias and getting two teams into the final dance.
ACC commissioner John Swofford has gone away from the “party line” and said he wants to see an eight team playoff. That means cancelling conference championship games so school presidents don’t have to face their worst nightmare: A two-semester college football sport. The additional playoff round (quarterfinals) recoups the money conferences lose from not playing their championship games, something the Big 12 don’t do anyway nowadays. It means one more bye week. Maybe it even means an opening for a non-Power conference team, although the P5 schools probably don’t see it that way.
Some see that expanding the playoff even further cheapens the regular season. College Football fans always pride themselves by following a sport in which one loss means everything. In which every game has a playoff-like meaning to it. It may not be completely true: You can lose, but if you have a big name and history, and the timing of your loss is spot on (just ask TCU), it might have different meanings. And making it an eight-team thing doesn’t take away arguments.
If we had an eight-team playoff right now, these schools would be in: Alabama (9-1), Oregon (9-1), Florida State (10-0), Mississippi State (9-1), TCU (9-1), Ohio State (9-1), Baylor (9-1), Ole Miss (8-2). There are ten more teams in the top 25 with only two losses that are in power conferences. It seems that making it about more teams just dilutes the quality, and expands the argument about who belongs to make it in. And because it’s an eight-team playoff all of a sudden, don’t Marshall have a say in things. They are undefeated, right? Shouldn’t they get a chance.
There’s the version of a six-team playoff, going with how the NFL makes things work. In this year’s scenario, it means everyone gets a team in, while the SEC has two, and it doesn’t feel like someone gets shortchanged. Well, maybe Baylor (or TCU eventually), but everyone knows the Big 12 isn’t going to be sending more than one team, if any at all depending on how things play out in the final weeks. It makes a bit more sense.
But shouldn’t we wait and see for the four-team system to work for a while? Eight teams sounds great. Maybe at some point we’ll finally have playoff games with teams actually hosting games instead of worrying about bowl game affiliates. But everyone complained about the BCS for years, and only now that it’s gone it seemed to have made sense to many, especially when it’s about four teams and not just two. Moving ahead too quickly and expanding the yet-to-be-played playoffs might be pushing a point too far and too soon.