I feel like an undefeated UCF this year not making the postseason as well as the lack of a Big Ten champ should be reason enough for expansion. Maybe PAC-12 too, if you’re not into defense (zing!) I am aware that this isn’t enough for some people though so I have just a little bit more to say than that.
One of the biggest reasons I hear against expansion seems to come from old school fans, who just shrug expansion talk off as whining and think drama and controversy are just part of the game. If this is your opinion and you happen to be reading this then with I don’t really think you enjoy the product on the field so much as the atmosphere surrounding it. That’s fine I guess but thats what I thought the WWE was for ever since it went PG, but that’s another article. I prefer my drama to occur on the field like oh I don’t know the Double Overtime Rose Bowl we just witnessed. I also prefer my controversy to only be over the occasional close call, and that’s only because I don’t think we’ll ever fully be able to eliminate human error from officiating in football. I get sometimes players behavior will be in the discussion, but I’d much rather the discussion be about the actual product on the field than about “who is the real champion?” or “who’s a better person?” If you would prefer that debate maybe you actually would enjoy professional wrestling more (I kid, I kid, but not really.)
Another reason I hear against expansion is that it should be hard to get into the postseason, an argument I actually am sympathetic to. Here’s the thing though, an 8 team playoff would still be literally THE smallest playoff out of any sport today. Not having a quarterfinal round in any other sport would just seem weird wouldn’t it? Even the NFL allows 12 teams into its playoff and there’s no perception about that being a cake walk to get into.
So here’s my proposal. The playoff should have every Power Five Conference champion getting an automatic bid, making conference championships more meaningful as Alabama got in this year and Ohio State last year without even winning their conference. If you can’t get in the post season by winning your conference then what’s even the point? It’s essentially a meaningless award if it doesn’t result in at least a shot at the next level. Could you imagine a division winner in the NFL not getting a chance to be in the big game? What’s even the point in divisions in that case? I understand this is college so it’s a little different, but the NFL’s post season model has been undeniably successful. I suspect the ratings will be as high as ever despite record lows during the regular season due to largely to, surprise surprise, off the field controversy. Hell the NCAA already produces a ratings bonanza every March with a basketball tournament. College football should take notice, especially considering the powers that be seem to at least be mildly aware their post season is in the winter months when everyone is stuck inside otherwise they wouldn’t subject us to an “Insert Sponsor and Random Object Bowl Game” every day in December.
So aside from Power Five champions getting an automatic bid and my little tangent about ratings, what to do with the other three spots you may ask? Well, give it to the next highest three ranked teams, with one exception. Any Group of Five school that wins their conference with an undefeated record (ala UCF) gets an automatic bid, but only if they’re ranked. This way the GoF can’t intentionally schedule cupcake schools and will have to play a few better teams to at least earn respect. This system would also minimize the impact of the subjective ranking system without doing away with it entirely.
The only question after answering the who would be the how, as in how does seeding work? While I do think power five champions should get automatic bids I don’t think they should automatically be the top five seeds. The rankings could be sorted with the already existing playoff committees ranking system. Again, it seems like to me at least, a great compromise giving a nod to the history of reliance on polling while also taking steps toward a more objective and less disputable national champion.
Now I am against any further expansion and think 8 is the perfect number, at least for now. Jumping from 4 to 16 seems excessive and I doubt the Conferences are remotely prepared to organize that successfully. Also, as much as I mocked the excessive amount of bowl games it is nice to be able to watch random games throughout the month rather than the alternative, which is trying to catch eight games all in one wild weekend. Maybe one day we can have the discussion of twelve teams copying the NFL system of giving the top ranked teams a much deserved bye week as well as keep the number of meaningful games going on to a small enough number people actually have time to watch but today is not that day. I’d both settle for and demand at least eight, and so should you.