As we get ready for the Super Bowl this weekend, I thought it might be a good time to reflect upon what, in my opinion, would be the perfect college football playoff. We all have opinions on the recently retired BCS and the upcoming College Football Playoff (CFP), but few have attempted to justify what they think is a good system. So, I’ll try. First, let me say, that in its current form I think the CFP is bad. I say that not because I don’t want to see teams play head-to-head to arrive at a proper champion, but because I don’t think there are enough teams. Four is far too few teams for me personally, and as much as I’ve been the cheerleader for eight teams even that isn’t enough teams.
My new number is 12. I think that number is both reasonable, and fair. The question is how we get there.
If we must, we can take conference champions and a few at-large teams, but are those truly the best teams in the country? Of course not.
Best to Worst
Consider this scenario: Vanderbilt rolls through the SEC regular season and wins the SEC Conference Championship game, but in the process, their quarterback, and best player, sustains a season-ending injury. Their backup has never played, or is terrible. At that point, is Vanderbilt still one of the best teams in the country? No. Are they among the top-12 best in the country? Probably not.
What that means, is even though Vanderbilt won their conference championship game, we as fans and those on the committee know that the Commodores are without their best player they don’t stand a chance in the playoff.
Sure, anything can happen, and they could win in the playoffs, but Vegas will tell you they’re a 12-point underdog. Like Vegas or not, how often are they wrong?
Worst to Best
Certainly, in many scenarios the 12 best teams will be conference champions who deserve the chance to play in the CFP, but what if a team like Ohio State loses two of its first five games, but beats everyone else by double digits. There’s a good chance they won’t play in the conference championship game even if they beat the eventual conference champion during the regular season.
Are you saying that if Ohio State rolls in the remaining games and beats the eventual conference champion that they don’t deserve to play in a 12-team playoff because they have two or more losses?
I can’t say that, and if you are then you’re just being stupid.
The committee needs to have the autonomy to pick the 12 best teams at the end of the year and seed them accordingly. They also don’t need the pressure – real or imagined – to release rankings every week. We don’t ask the college basketball committee to give us weekly rankings late in the season, so why should we expect the football committee to do the same?
Yes, basketball is much easier to seed because of the number of teams, but the rules for the committee should be the same where possible.
Can We Please Play at Home?
Now that we’ve solved the number of teams and the selection process let’s discuss location. This is easy, take neutral site locations off the table until the semi-finals.
Why? Because if the presidents and networks expect fans to show up to multiple games before semi or final then they have to realize traveling is expensive. Expanding the playoff to 12 games will already water down the conference championship games that they’ll want many of those same fans to attend, so why not throw them a bone and give them a round or two at home?
Also, make those true home games. Whatever the teams would do at their home games in the regular season should be permitted during the first round of playoffs. Any pre, halftime, or post-game traditions should be honored including the number of student tickets offered.
What about the bye, baby?
It’s true, four teams will have a bye, and some of those teams won’t like having the bye, so we have a few options here:
- The top-four teams will automatically have a bye week.
- Two of the top-four teams will have a bye week. The first two teams would have the opportunity to play in the first week or pass their bye to the third or fourth seeded team.
Whichever team takes the bye, the lowest seeded team in their quad would automatically take the bye and the highest-seeded team would take their place.
In Major League Baseball, the higher seeded team chooses their off day, in my CFP the higher seeded team chooses to play or sit. There should be some incentive to being in the top-four, right?
Is my plan perfect or does it solve every problem? Of course not. But, I think it provides a happy medium for fans who want to be able to attend some of the playoff games and the powers-that still want some (read: all) control over which teams make it.
So, what do you think? In my scenario would your team have made a 12-team playoff this year? Which team in this seasons final top-12 would be excluded under my playoff scenario?