Was that College Football Playoffs National Championship game awesome or what? Were these playoffs amazing? In its fourth year, the college football playoff has been much better than the old BCS method. Guess what? I just perfected it. Expansion.
Sure it was a lot of fun to watch the Almighty Alabama rally over Georgia for their fifth title in nine years. The two best teams emerging from the best conference in the nation playing for all the marbles down in Atlanta. And please, don’t @ me if you’re a Southeastern Conference (SEC) hater. The best football in America is played there. But you know what, there’s a better way to do the College Football Playoffs that everyone will love.
Colleges and conferences will get (even) richer, fans won’t get bored watching meaningless bowl games, and ESPN won’t have to worry about filling programming with talk of Southeast Louisiana State versus San Juan Polytechnic. Plus, and this is the essential part, those lovable underdogs will finally get a shot.
What’s Wrong with the Current Format?
Realistically, there are only three main issues I have with our current college football playoffs. But they all boil down to one overriding factor: I love good (I mean good) college football and hate having to wait to see it.
Unnecessary Bowl Games
Ok, so maybe it’s not so much the current college football playoffs format I have a problem with. Instead, I have to wait five weeks between conference championship weekend and the national championship game. In the meantime, I have to get my college football fix watching Ohio (the Bobcats not the Buckeyes) trounce UAB (Alabama-Birmingham, if you didn’t know), 41-6, in front of 13,000 people in the Bahamas Bowl in a stadium that holds 23,000. It makes zero sense to have these games played with teams that barely finished above .500. Talk about participation medals.
College Football Playoff Scheduling
Did you guys see Nick Saban crying over the schedule of the playoffs? His team had to play a game on a Monday in New Orleans, but couldn’t get home to Tuscaloosa until the next day cause they didn’t leave until 1:00 am. Man, that whole four-hour drive must have been awful. Wonder how Georgia felt about having to fly home from Los Angeles after playing on the same day as you?
And then Saban had the nerve to complain about not having adequate time to prep. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! You’re the greatest college coach EVER! You tied the legend Bear Bryant for most national titles by a head coach with six. And you had a month knowing you’d play one of TWO POSSIBLE TEAMS if you beat Clemson. It’s not like you had just two days to study eight subjects before finals week like your student-athletes.
Instead, to appease Little Nicky, why not start things earlier and make it one week between games like your regular season? Or like the NFL? Where most of your players will end up. After all, it’s about preparing these young men for life after college, right?
Still Arguments Over Who the “True” National Champ is
The biggest issue with the BCS was that a computer decided which two teams would play one game for the title. If you were a team that went undefeated or had one tough loss to a great team, there’s a chance you didn’t get picked for the championship game. And when you weren’t one of those top two teams you always had a chip on your shoulder and would say “oh, we should’ve been in.” That sentiment would only escalate if it were a blowout in the actual title game.
Guess what? That is still happening! The University of Central Florida Knights went 13-0 (the only team in the country to do it) and beat Auburn in their bowl game. They “claimed” the national title and had a championship parade in Disney over the weekend. I love it. You know why? They have an argument. You can decide how legitimate that argument is, but they have one.
How Do You Perfect an Already Great Thing?
Every conference has a championship game nowadays. It’s supposed to help the College Football Playoff selection committee decide between a conference champion with a loss or two (i.e., Ohio State or USC) and a team that didn’t make its title game (Alabama). However, what if those conference title games automatically punched your ticket to the tournament? I wonder if a format like that would work in college sports? Hmmmmm.
Better Regular Season Matchups
If you have a chance to make the playoffs without winning your conference title, you’re going to take it. So, given the idea of ‘strength of schedule,’ you’ll see more premier games between powerhouse schools at the start of the year. You may also see more Power Five schools schedule those “lesser” programs in non-conference play if they think that school would win their league. For instance, UCF may go to Ohio State. Or Boise State could end up visiting Georgia. Maybe even Toledo taking on Stanford. It forces coaches and Athletic Directors to better their schedule even more because they know there’s a chance of an “at-large” bid at the end of the year.
Fixing the Playoff Schedule
If the conference title games are the first weekend of December, and the title game is the second weekend of January, that’s five weeks to have an expanded playoff. Let’s assume you continue to take that second December weekend off to keep America’s Game (Army-Navy) the star of the weekend. That’s still four weeks (rounds) to decide a champion. In football, that seems to be a good number. Furthermore, those “meaningless” bowl games can now be playoff games that people will actually want to watch!
“But what about the health of the players? Won’t all those extra games increase their chance of getting hurt?”
Yes. Yes, it would. If you continued to practice the same way you do every day. This was addressed during the last playoff by a couple of Alabama players who said they hit every single day in practice. That doesn’t happen in the NFL. Maybe this type of playing schedule would force coaches and trainers to collaborate on a practice plan with less hitting and more resistance training. Similar to the NFL. It’s almost like it would be training these athletes for the next level or something.
The Almighty Dollar Helps
As we all know, college football is a massive money maker for everyone except the student-athletes. According to Forbes Magazine the college football playoffs, last season generated more than $600 million for the 126 FBS schools. However, not all of that was distributed evenly. By expanding the playoffs, those smaller conferences (known as the Group of Five) can have a right to negotiate for better revenue sharing. Also, if something like the Idaho Potato Bowl can generate roughly $13 million for a $450,000 sponsorship, imagine how much that goes up when it’s a first or second round game that means something?
By the way, Wyoming beat Central Michigan in that bowl game by a score of 37-14 with a crowd of 16,512 watching in a venue that holds over 36,000. I wonder if more people would go to those games if they really mattered? I wonder how much more revenue could be generated with those added fans too?
How the College Football Playoff Should Work
The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA, already has something like this. They have a 24-team playoff with the top eight teams getting a bye-week. Now, I’m not going to go crazy with 24 teams, but what’s wrong with that? Just so you all can see my “theory” in action, here is how I would have had things set up with 16 teams. I did my best to pick the six at-large squads, and seeding, based how I feel the College Football Playoff Selection Committee would have if they had this format to work with.
University of Central Florida (American Athletic Conference)
Clemson Tigers (Atlantic Coast Conference)
Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12)
Ohio State Buckeyes (Big 10)
Florida Atlantic Owls (Conference USA)
Toledo Rockets (Mid-American Conference)
Boise State Broncos (Mountain West Conference)
Southern California Trojans (Pac-12 Conference)
Georgia Bulldogs (Southeastern Conference)
Troy Trojans (Sun Belt Conference)
At-Large (Wild Card) Teams:
Alabama Crimson Tide (Southeastern Conference)
Wisconsin Badgers (Big 10 Conference)
Auburn Tigers (Southeastern Conference)
Penn State Nittany Lions (Big 10 Conference)
Washington Huskies (Pac-12 Conference)
Miami Hurricanes (Atlantic Coast Conference)
Official Seeding & First Round Matchups
#1 Clemson vs. #16 Troy
#2 Oklahoma vs. #15 Toledo
#3 Georgia vs. #14 Florida Atlantic
#4 Alabama vs. #13 Boise State
#5 USC vs. #12 UCF
#6 Ohio State vs. #11 Washington
#7 Auburn vs. #10 Penn State
#8 Miami vs. #9 Wisconsin
Still, Tweaks to Be Made
Listen, no plan is perfect (although this one is pretty good). There most certainly would have to be some tweaks to the selection process to appease the Group of Five (no more than two teams from one conference?). But overall, if “some is good, more is better”. Imagine if you get two powerhouse teams making the title game (like this year)? What if a Cinderella team came out of nowhere to make the championship?
Whether these first-round games would be good, Clemson will annihilate Troy, you’re going to watch. You’re going to spend money. And that’s all the powers-at-be care about.