Someone asked me last night:
“Is this the playoffs?”
“No, this is the Sugar Bowl.”
“What are they playing for?”
“To win the Sugar Bowl.”
Now that we have the four-team College Football Playoff system, it seems that the other bowl games are now nothing more than consolation prizes for the teams which didn’t make the four-team cut.
I have heard many commentators and read articles from writers who poo-poo the idea of expanding the current playoff system. I really don’t understand why not and I have heard all the arguments. I know even with an 8-team field that there would still be controversy on who you would pick to be in it. It’s true that even with the NCAA Basketball Tournament there is still debate there too even with a 68-team field, but you’re going to have the debate regardless on how many teams you put in the postseason. That still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a playoff system.
I have always been an advocate of an 8-team playoff system which would give automatic berths to the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC champions and three at-large berths to the next highest ranked teams. This season it would have been Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Ohio State (Big Ten), Washington (Pac-12) and Alabama (SEC) as the conference champions and then the three at-large berths to Notre Dame, Georgia and UCF who are the next highest ranked teams.
If you really wanted to be completely inclusive, you could give automatic berths to ALL of the FBS conference champions, not just the “power” conferences so then you would have a 12 conference champions when you add the AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt then four at-large berths to make it a 16-team field. I’m not really sure we are ready for that but then that would create yet another controversial subject.
The FCS, which is the next division of the college football system, has a 24-team playoff field.
Bowl games have become the NIT-Tournament of college football. I have to be honest and wonder if players are truly bragging about winning the “Belk Bowl” or the “Cheez-It Bowl”. Bowl committees don’t really want to see the playoffs expanded unless they are included in the playoff games as well as trying to hold onto the traditions of the past. Even with an 8-team playoff you can still keep them in a bowl-format with four quarterfinal games and two semifinal games. This would add four bowl games to the playoffs. What’s not to like about that?
Back in the old days we had to wait until after the bowl games were played to find out who the AP and UPI would vote as the champions. And if the polls disagreed then fans would argue the entire off-season on who was the TRUE champion. At least now we KNOW for certainty who the true champion of college football will be. We may not agree on the teams included in the football “final four” but at least we have a real champion now.
Is there a perfect solution? Probably not but I think just one more expansion of the current playoff system would make the post season a more realistic playoff.