There are two things that every man is convinced he can do:
1—Drive a race car
2—Call football plays.
Based on what I’ve been reading and hearing the past two weeks I must add a third thing that every male is absolutely, positively sure he could do:
3—Design an eight-team playoff to determine college football’s national championship.
It seems that all of college football’s angst, anger and bitterness (to quote my dear friend Tim Brando) would come to an end if the suits who run college football would just put aside their needs, desires and egos and simply give the public what it wants: to double the size of the current playoff field.
I know this goes against the popular narrative, but I gotta say that I remain unconvinced that an eight-team playoff would be substantially better than what we have now, warts and all. And the current system has some warts, to be sure.
Now the IDEA of an eight-game playoff has some appeal. It would be fun. It’s just the implementation that I’m skeptical about.
So I’ll tell you what: Given everything that has happened in the first five years of the College Football Playoff, I’m willing to listen to an argument for the eight-team playoff. But you gotta convince me. So before we argue, you have to answer these questions:
1--How do you pick the eight teams? Do you still use a selection committee? If you think there was controversy over Oklahoma, Georgia, and Ohio State for the fourth spot this year, how about the debate among UCF (12-0), Washington (Pac-12 champ), Florida (9-3), LSU (9-3), Penn State (9-3) and Washington State (10-2) for the No. 8 spot? Think UCF would be a no-brainer? Then keep reading.
2--If you don’t want a selection committee because it’s too political, do you just give each of the Power Five conferences an automatic bid? Does the conference championship game winner get it? Are you prepared to accept Northwestern (8-5) and Pittsburgh (7-6) in the playoffs? Do you deny an automatic bid to a conference champion that is not ranked in the Top 12? And if you do give automatic bids, how to you pick the remaining three teams if you don’t have a selection committee?
3--Do you eliminate conference championship games? I’ve heard that most of them are meaningless because they don’t contribute to the playoff. That is true but it is also irrelevant. They were not created for that purpose. And exactly who is going to make this decision to do away with the conference championship games? The CFP is not a governing body but an association of 11 conferences and Notre Dame. There is no commissioner (although that would be a very good idea).
And what do you when the SEC says “Not only no but Hell No!” to shutting down its ultra – successful championship game?
4—What about the Group of Five? One of the reasons we need to go to eight, I am told, is to give the Group of Five teams a chance—a possible pathway to access the playoffs. That’s a noble gesture but exactly how is that going to work? With an eight-team playoff this year it’s a pretty reasonable bet that UCF (12-0) and ranked No. 8 by the selection committee, would have received the final spot.
But what if UCF was 10-2 and ranked well outside of the top 10? Do you give the highest ranked team in the group of five an automatic bid? Right now that the highest ranked team in that group, regardless of record, gets an automatic bid to a New Year’s Six bowl.
I could be wrong but I don’t think the commissioners who run the CFP would be nearly as magnanimous with playoff spots as they currently are with New Year’s Six bowl slots. If a vote were taken, this time with a playoff berth on the line, would Washington (10-3), the Pac-12 champ that played Auburn to a 21-16 game in Atlanta and played a significantly tougher schedule, finish ahead of UCF for the No. 8 spot? Just asking.
5--Where/when are you going to play the quarterfinals? Unless you change the college football calendar, the playoffs this season would start on Dec. 15 with the top four teams hosting games on campus. Specifically:
No. 8 UCF at No. 1 Alabama
No. 7 Michigan at No. 2 Clemson
No. 6 Ohio State at No. 3 Notre Dame
No. 5 Georgia at No. 4 Oklahoma
The semifinals would remain on Saturday, Dec. 29 while the championship game would still be on Jan. 7.
Looks pretty exciting right?
But how do you execute it?
Well, let’s take Alabama. Final exams in Tuscaloosa are Dec. 10-14. Do players get exempt from final exams in order to concentrate on the game? Do they go through their regular exam schedule, squeeze in football preparations and then play football on Saturday? Do you play the game a week later or a week earlier? Do you move final exams to accommodate the playoffs?
By the way, Fall Commencement at Alabama is Dec. 15. Do you move graduation day for a football game?
By the way, National Signing Day is Dec. 19. Are you going to tell Nick Saban that he has to babysit recruits while trying to prepare a team for a playoff game?
I know nobody cares about this but: What about the players? What do they get?
Unless the regular season is shortened or conference championship games are eliminated, here is what happens most years with an eight-team playoff:
Two teams will play 16 games.
Four teams will play 15 games.
Eight teams will play 14 games.
I haven’t heard anything about additional scholarships for the schools (which ain’t gonna happen) or additional benefits to the players for expanding the playoff and—we must assume—expanding the amount of money the schools make from it.
Now I am sure there are completely valid answers to all of these questions and that the implementation of an eight-team playoff is lot simpler than I make it out to be. I can be convinced.
The floor is yours.