Since the College Football Playoff began in the 2014-15 season, the topic of expanding the field to go beyond just four teams has been a popular one and was once again a talking point at the Big Ten Media Day last week.
After Nebraska first-year head coach Scott Frost and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh voiced their support for expanding the field, #5 Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was asked what he thought of the current structure of the College Football Playoff format.
Dantonio told reporters that while he can see why expanding the field would be a popular idea, he also knows that there are other factors that need to be considered, including the toll an extended season would take on student-athletes.
“As long as we’re in it, that’d be ideal, so if we were No. 8, I’d like to have eight,” Dantonio joked. “But I do think that when you start talking about a bigger picture playoff, you’re asking for more of a grind down on the players. TThere area lot more things to have to look at. But my wife continues to tell me, ‘If you’re not qualified to speak on something, don’t.’ So I don’t know those things, I’m just going to line them up.”
Frost suggested expanding the field to eight teams with Power-5 conference champions automatically earning a spot in the field and three teams would earn at-large bids. Harbaugh also said his plan would be to expand to eight teams first, but eventually going to a 16 team field.
The question of expansion was a particularly relevant one at this year’s meetings considering the fact that the Big Ten was been shut out of the College Football Playoff last year. A two-loss Big Ten Champion Ohio State team was left out of the field last year and two SEC teams (Alabama and Georgia) received spots in the four-team field.
Dantonio admitted that the fact the conference was left out of the field a year ago is something that is a bit of a concern, but noted that losing two games and missing out is the nature of college football in this era and added that he feels strength of schedule and winning a conference championship should play a bigger role in deciding who gets in.
“I think it’s a concern, but I think when you’re trying to make it to the playoff, everything’s a concern,” he said. “The margin for error is very small, if you lose two games, you’re probably on the outside looking in if there’s a lot of one-loss teams that are (conference) champions. I think the champions component should pay dividends and a strength of schedule should pay dividends as well but I don’t make those decisions, I’m just part of the players - I have my opinions. They lost to a couple of good football teams, but they probably didn’t lose close and not losing close cost them.”
The Big Ten has been represented in the College Football Playoff in three out of the four years. Ohio State made the playoff in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons and won the National Title in 2015. Michigan State is the only other Big Ten team to make the playoff and lost in the semifinals to eventual National Champion Alabama in 2016-17.
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