When Eight Equals Sixteen
The big surprise this week in the College Football Playoff rankings was TCU coming in at No. 3, jumping an undefeated Florida State, while Ohio State and Baylor continue to be on the outside looking in.
Look, the playoff formula that will work best is literally right in front of us this weekend.
Some have suggested to expand the playoffs to as many as 16 teams. Want it to get that large? That’s easy – make it an eight-team playoff field instead of four.
Que? What was that? How do you get 16 teams without a 16-team field? Doesn’t make sense to you? Let’s dive in, shall we?
An eight-team field system that would give automatic bids to the big-five conference champions (SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC) plus three at-large entries would create a domino effect that would make championship Saturday more exciting than ever because it turns the conference title games into (ta-da)…playoff games.
That would mean, in essence, that the following teams would be in a playoff scenario this weekend: Alabama, Missouri, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Arizona and Oregon. Next – tell the Big 12 that they must create a championship game; let’s say that Baylor was playing TCU again this weekend. That makes 10 teams each participating in a play-in game for the five automatic spots.
And guess what? Rivalry Week then basically turns into playoff games themselves, in a lot of ways. Approximately 16 teams playing for their playoff lives at the end of November and early December.
Now let’s look at what this year might look like with an eight-team playoff field: Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Baylor, TCU and Florida State would almost certainly get in, and let’s add Arizona and Michigan State to that group. Do you think first round match-ups of Michigan State at Alabama, Baylor at Oregon, Arizona at TCU, and Ohio State at Florida State sounds good? (First round games played at the higher seed’s stadium).
Oh yes, there is that “risk” of having Missouri, Wisconsin or Georgia Tech join the party, but that’s the nature of an expanded playoff – Cinderellas exist.
The best part – we wouldn’t have to worry about this “one true champion” nonsense that is coming back to bite the Big 12 right now.
Four teams? Sounds like a great idea, and it actually is. It’s a good starting point. But this thing needs to evolve, and I believe it will.
But since we’re currently stuck with four teams making the playoff, what are the chances that TCU drops out from number three in the final rankings? Can Baylor earn enough style points to impress the committee? I say no (unless the Cyclones muck up the Frogs’ plans).
The thing that gets me – why is Florida State getting a massive shaft in evaluation (in my opinion)? Look, I dislike that group as much as the next guy (apparently so does the committee), but if TCU is being rewarded for scheduling Minnesota in the non-conference (and no one else), why doesn’t Florida State get credit for scheduling Oklahoma State (at a neutral site), Notre Dame and Florida? The Seminoles can’t control how weak the ACC is. But neither can TCU with the Big 12, a conference with two other decent teams and a group of mediocre (and down-right bad) teams. Don’t agree with me? Will a good Big 12 team outside of the Frogs, Bears and Kansas State Wildcats please step forward (not so fast, OU).
The bottom line – TCU, Baylor, Florida State and Ohio State are all worthy of making a playoff. So make this simple – expand to an eight-team pool. That way we can honestly have “one true champion” without someone staying at home that shouldn’t.