Back in the day when a college football national champion was determined by the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) system, Bill Hancock, who was the chief administrator of the BCS then and is the head of the College Football Playoff structure now, and I got into a debate about the value of a 4-team playoff.
I was for it. He was against it, arguing that any playoff would devalue the regular season, which was the main artery for college football.
Hancock had been part of the NCAA structure as college basketball turned into basically a one month and one week season (March and a week in April) with the increased popularity of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, a set of circumstances which continues today at a severe cost to the college basketball regular season (almost no one pays attention until early February).
When college football went to its four-team playoff format a few years ago, Hancock switched his argument, but was adamant that anything beyond four teams would severely damage the importance of the regular season.
As we approach November, which is when the chatter of the Final Four teams chosen by the CFB Playoff selection committee kicks it up several notches, the arguments about which teams deserve inclusion in this season's semifinals at the Sugar and Rose Bowls will increase.
But the basic mathematical formula remains. Five conference champions and perhaps an independent such as Notre Dame, which is once again a player, can not be squeezed into four spots.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
My argument--which not surprisingly Hancock disagrees with--is that with 8 spots open, there is no problem of inclusion. Every deserving (still subjective) Power 5 champion will have a spot, as well as three other openings for deserving at-large teams.
In my opinion, the scheduling issue of extra games is easily solvable, by playing the four quarterfinal playoff games at the campuses of the higher seeded teams the third week in December, with the winners advancing to the semifinals which would remain as they currently exist.
But that is an argument for another time.
What should be noted this season and at this time is how spectacular the 2017 college football regular season has been in terms of story lines, excitement, importance and yes, relevance towards the playoffs.
Look at what this season has already produced and what is still possible.
SEC--Alabama is clearly the No. 1 team, but Georgia could run through the regular season unbeaten, setting up a match up with Bama in the SEC title game in which TEAMS make the Final Four. Auburn could also sneak into the playoffs, as well.
ACC-Clemson has a loss, but remains a serious contender. Miami is lurking.
Big Ten--Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State are all in the hunt.
Big 12--TCU is the surprise leader now, but Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are still breathing.
Pac-12--Washington and Washington State are the survivors, but Washington has the better chance.
Independents--Notre Dame's only blemish is a one-point loss to Georgia.
Group of 5--UCF and USF don't have the rankings or schedule to climb into the Final Four, but the winner of their game next month will be the front runner for a playoff spot.
Each week has produced head scratching moments such as Oklahoma losing at home to Iowa State and Clemson losing at Syracuse.
There have been stunning trends, such as Florida State staggering out of the blocks with a 2-4 record.
There are all sorts of possible scenarios that could create chaos.
What if Alabama and Georgia are both unbeaten in the regular season, TCU is unbeaten, Notre Dame has one loss, the Big Ten champion is unbeaten (Wisconsin or Penn State) and the Pac-12 champion has one loss? And a once beaten Clemsoln or an unbeaten Miami is the ACC champion? That's seven teams for four spots. Who gets left out?
The fun part of all of this is that many of the answers will be provided during the next few weeks of the REGULAR season, even before conference championship games are held.
Each week doesn't need marquee Top 25 match ups for excitement or drama or significance.
No other sport has that.
And while I think adding four more playoff teams won't hurt the regular season that much--although I think that cutting from 12 to 11 regular season games would not be harmful--I can see the arguments to follow the theory, "If it ain't broke, so don't try to fix it.[/membership]