Should the NCAA expand the College Football Playoff? | The Tylt
Should the NCAA expand the College Football Playoff?
Critics of expanding the College Football Playoff are adamant that creating more playoff spots would cheapen the regular season. That's some lazy reasoning. Opening up the playoff race only makes more exciting football where multiple games have playoff implications. Here is Manie Robinson from the Greenville News:
If the College Football Playoff included 24 teams instead of four, the number of legitimate contenders remaining this week would expand to 70 teams with fewer than three losses. Approximately 30 games would be instantly injected with intrigue...
Instead of a double-elimination tournament, the regular season becomes a marathon. Perfection is not required. Endurance and resilience are prized. A postseason appearance would be a laudable achievement, not a consolation.
The bowl system is as obsolete as the NCAA. There are too many games to generate compelling matchups. They have diluted the pageantry by inviting six-win teams and obnoxious corporate sponsors.
Rarely does change work out the first time around. But the College Football Playoff is one of those exceptions. Four is the perfect number of teams for the postseason. It keeps the significance of the regular season elevated and adds excitement without having to add more games that put players in harm's way.
Don't believe it? Just ask the players who put their bodies on the line for a chance to play a national championship. Here is former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, who won a national championship in 2015:
[Four] is the right number. It's a physical grind. It was hard, man -- tiring, beat up, but at the same time, it's football. But you don't want to [have] wear and tear with another game. What you've got to realize is when does the NFL hit every day at practice? They don't hit much. So we've got to get less of that [hitting in practice]. Really, they should cut it back.
Coaches, who have to deal with the grind of a football season, are also in favor of keeping the playoff to four games. Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff explains:
There are those who would like to see more teams in there to give them an opportunity for their teams, which I totally understand, but at the same time, they say, ‘But don’t take away our bowl experience.’ I think a lot of times, people who want a bigger field — which I completely understand — just want more football. That’s not a bad problem to have, but when you sit back and think about the importance of the regular season and the matter of not wanting the players to have to go back-to-back-to-back against quality opponents, then you realize that maybe four is the right number.
It's easy to look from afar and say what is better for a sport. But if the people who put their bodies through the grind are saying the field should remain four games, maybe people should listen.
Expanding the CFP would not be as difficult as many people make it out to be. Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports came up with a simple format that gives automatic bids to champions of the Power Five conferences and then awards the last three bids with a clearer rubric based on record, strength of schedule, etc.
Is it perfect? No, but it allows more teams to compete in the playoff and creates more excitement around the postseason. Here are more details from Kurtenbach:
Four bowl games would host the first round 1-8 games, two games would host the semifinals, and the playoff can maintain its Super Bowl, Final Four-style of bidding for the final.
Yes, it'd be an extra game, but there wouldn't be a team in the field that wouldn't be interested in playing it. And the larger field wouldn't do a thing to hurt non-conference scheduling and the stronger games that we've seen as a byproduct of the playoff era — schools would be foolish to jeopardize their at-large chances with a weak non-conference schedule.
Even Nate Silver and the data-driven people at FiveThirtyEight agree that an expansion of the playoff would be fair, giving both spots to champions of the major conferences and at-large bids to the most deserving schools while still preserving the sanctity of the regular season.
Here is Silver with the details:
If you expand the playoff to eight teams, you’re able to accommodate almost all of the second tier. However, about 75 percent of the additional teams you’d add with the seventh and eighth slots are from the third tier instead. This may be too tolerant, placing too little pressure on teams to perform and schedule well in the regular season. An alternative would be to include eight teams, but with automatic bids for major conference champions. (Technically you could do this under a six-team playoff, too, but it might not be advisable.6) Presumably, teams from outside of the power conferences would object to this, but you could accommodate them by guaranteeing a sixth slot to the best independent or minor conference team. That would leave two at-large positions.
I’ve run the numbers on how this would work out — and it seems like another good option. By definition, we’re now including every major conference champion. While you’d have the occasional fluke conference champ like the 2012 Wisconsin team, that might be an acceptable price for reducing the subjectivity in the process. Non-champion teams from major conferences would sometimes make the playoff but would have a lot of pressure to schedule well and perform well. The majority of one-loss teams from major conferences would make it, but they’d be at risk if they fail to win their conferences. And taking a second loss would knock a team out the vast majority of the time.
Four teams in the playoffs assure a certain standard of teams will be competing for a national championship. Adding more would only dilute the product, and hurt a school that earned a shot at the national championship all year, only to have it potentially be snatched away by a team that stumbled into the playoff with two or three losses.
That kind of mediocre football doesn't belong in college football. Joe Cox of Saturday Down South breaks it down:
The future of college football is a longer playoff. It’s more games that mean less, and the devaluation of the regular season until it’s the equivalent of college basketball. (Do casual fans even turn on a game before late February?) It’s all just a warm-up for the annual Big Dance. But there won’t be any Lehighs or Florida Gulf Coasts, no Cinderella runs from Butler to amaze the fans — just mediocre teams ruining the achievements of the best squads in college football, in the name of a few more games and a “clear” champion.
The road to Hell is often paved with good intentions. For the SEC, the road to ruination is paved with a College Football Playoff, and the bigger the Playoff, the wider the road to being just another group of teams slogging through more-or-less meaningless games into the late season spectacle. Today’s it’s Alabama fans who will tell you that parity isn’t a good thing for the top dog. Tomorrow, it might be the whole league.
The core argument from people who want to keep the four-team is to protect the sanctity regular season. They are right.
College football has the best regular season in all of sports. Every game is important, and a loss can be devastating. That razor-thin margin is what makes college football the best.
Adding more teams would only make the regular season meaningless. That's when you get an NFL situation where games don't really matter until the end of November and beyond. Every week is a playoff game with so few spots in the College Football Playoff, and the sport should keep it that way. Here is Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated with more:
If you expand the field to eight, the best teams won’t play as many meaningful games. Those early-season losses will mean a little less. Sure, it would still be college football—still exciting and quirky and heavy on pageantry. But it would not be as tense.
Proponents of the eight-game playoff say even more games would matter. But is that really true? Sure, in the last two weeks, more games would have had an effect on the field. But what about in September and October? Would Ohio State-Oklahoma have felt as important? Or Alabama-USC? Why should we suck some significance out of the biggest games on the dubious grounds that it might add tension to a few others?