College Football Playoffs Do Not Need Changed

By Nicholas Volinchak

For the fourth straight year, I am reminded of one thing: there are no changes needed to the college football playoffs.

I will admit, in year one, I was one of the ones that thought it needed to be changed. It only took a matter of months for me to realize the error of my ways.

This year might have been the biggest shocker of all when Alabama was named as the number four seed instead of Ohio State.

I have identified seven groups who had an issue with this. They are as follows:

  1. Ohio State fans
  2. Big 10 fans
  3. USC fans
  4. PAC 12 fans
  5. Alabama haters
  6. SEC haters
  7. People who genuinely have complained from day one about the playoffs

That pretty well covers it. The Buckeye fans held a legitimate gripe on paper. They won the BIG 10 Title. I do not think USC fans were as put off as the Buckeye fans. I believe that they thought their conference championship should have amounted to something if the Buckeyes did not. After all, these are both two loss conference champions, and the committee told us that those matter.

Well, I mean, except for last year, when it didn’t.  Then it benefitted Ohio State. But this time it didn’t, so the committee, well, the committee got it wrong. The Buckeyes won the BIG 10 Title! They beat Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Two of the three were undefeated when they played.

But they lost to Iowa, who was not ranked. They also didn’t lose in September. No, they lost that game at the beginning of November. It is not like they lost that game either; they got stomped.

The most common retort I hear with that is that Alabama played Mercer.

MERCER!!?! (I am screaming this in my best Jim Mora voice, a la the famous Playoff speech)

It is enough to give me a headache.

Alabama did not lose to Mercer and still get voted in; it is just the fact that they played them. This is something the BIG 10 stopped for the 2016 season.

Alabama had the largest point discrepancy in the country this year. You can absolutely say that they played an easy schedule. I will not argue with you. There is nothing they can do about the conference schedule. I think it is fair to say there have been years in the BIG 10 where it was a bad conference. That probably did not change your opinion of why you thought the Buckeyes should be in the playoffs, though.

There are so many problems, in my opinion, with expanding the playoffs. Let’s take a look at a few of them.


Where Do These Games Come From?


There are a myriad of things that could happen to extend the playoff season. We could

  • Reduce a week of the regular season
  • Eliminate a week of bowl prep
  • Extend the post-season by a week
  • Start the season a week earlier

Really, there is nothing stopping them from doing this. At this point, it might seem as if I am not going anywhere.

The reality is that the competition committee and the NCAA in general are not likely to view an extension of the season positively. There is a legitimate concern for both the health of the players and how it affects their education.

While we can all scoff at the educational component of that, they have to save face with it. That is one of those things you just do not take lightly. The NCAA will not want to deal with this, and that is enough for them to kibosh extending the season.


What Does it Mean for Bowl Games?


There are approximately 14,000 bowl games played in December. In fact, I think you can actually bid on naming rights on eBay at this point.

All jokes aside, the bowls appear bloated. While they are fun, how would the expanded playoffs affect them?

Would they force some teams that have sub .500 records into bowls? That is a problem that it seems like the NCAA just finished cleaning up.

Does it put the burden on some of the smaller schools that might be strapped financially? There was a big story about how New Mexico State could only play in one bowl if they became bowl eligible.

It sounds crazy, but the NCAA literally just says: Congrats, now buy all of these tickets.

It could come down to one of these smaller teams making it into a playoff and not being able to afford to do it. What would happen then?

This is all conjecture, of course, because we do not if there would be some immediate and direct financial assistance given to playoff teams.

To keep away from that issue, they could always just split the conferences: Power 5 and Group of 5.


But What About UCF?


To piggy back off the last sentence, even splitting things into two separate groups would have significant limitations.

UCF, the only undefeated team in college football both prior to the committee vote and after the bowls, would be left out. Considering this year they beat a team that beat both teams in the college football playoff finals, that would not be good.

I was pulling for the same thing to happen in year one of the playoffs as well. I had a cousin who went to school at Marshall and knew Randy Moss, which I always found cool. Since then, I followed their program.

They were undefeated up until the week before the conference title game in 2014 in which they lost to Western Kentucky. That might have been the best game I ever watched. Both offenses were superb. Neither team had a defense, so we will not go there.

I thought to myself: if Marshall goes undefeated, as dominant as they were, should they get into the playoffs? I mean, they were beating teams by like 30 points.

My mentality was always that if the playoffs expanded, it should be to HELP a team like this to get in. It should not further exclude it.


So How Many Teams Get In?


Honestly, I stand by my opening philosophy of the seven groups. I do not feel that unbiased fans should have felt as if Alabama should have been held out over Ohio State. There is not much more to say to a two-loss team who last late in the year to an unranked squad.

So the question becomes: how many teams should the playoffs expand to so that your favorite team gets in?

I got it: we can change it every year so that if your team is one of the four best, it will only be four teams. If they have a really bad year and need 32, then by all means: the more the merrier!

I jest, but am kind of serious: is this really going to be something that they can never get right? My key point in all of this is that there can never be a perfect amount of teams. Thus far with four teams, we have seen consecutive arguments for five and sometimes six. If it expands to eight, I think you will see two to four teams each year that have legit gripes about being excluded.

Need proof? Here is how an 8 team playoff would have looked this year:

#1 Clemson vs. #8 USC

#2 Oklahoma vs. #7 Auburn

#3 Georgia vs. #6 Wisconsin

#4 Alabama vs. #5 Ohio State

While we get that awesome Alabama/OSU matchup that would surely generate huge rankings, we have big problems.

You mean to tell me the only undefeated team in the country gets left out? Should a one loss team in Wisconsin who played no one get in (Iowa only ranked coming off of the OSU win)? How can a three loss Auburn team get in over the likes of Penn State or Miami?

Go ahead and expand that to 16 teams, and I can make cases for at least six other teams and why they should be in.

The point is this: expanding it to 8 teams is not going to magically make the college football playoff system right. 16 is not going to do it either.


What Now?


Most of us thought that the change to the playoff system was going to be a win over the BCS. While we argue over the teams that get in, I do think it is superior. Teams have 12-13 weeks to put their best feet forward. What happens in November has more impact than September. If there is one thing about college football, it is a game of momentum. Ohio State did not have it on their side this year. Neither did Miami. Penn State will tell you the same thing. Alabama did not either, they just happen to have the best loss of the bunch.

The reality is that on Monday night when we watch the College Football Playoff Finals, we will be watching the best two teams in the country play.

If this year proves anything, it is that the committee did just that: it did not make it so only one team from a conference could get in. As a result, the top two teams will play, and to the victors will go the spoils.