About a year ago in this column, I tried to persuade the members of the College Football Playoff selection committee to expand the field from four teams to eight.
They obviously did not listen to me, but I’ll try again.
Last time, I tried to use math as a logical way to explain it to them. The NCAA conducts football playoffs in various levels. Division I FCS selects 24 teams, Division II selects 28 teams, and Division III selects 32 teams. That represent between 13-19 percent of eligible teams in those divisions.
Division I FBS currently selects four teams, or three percent. Even a modest doubling to eight teams would only be sending six percent to the playoffs.
But I think the only math the NCAA understands is the kind that has dollar signs in front of the numbers, and that is eventually what will drive the expansion of the playoffs.
Some critics like to claim that an expanded playoff devalues the tradition of the bowl games. But the bowls have been devaluated for a long time now. It started when they moved away from naming bowls for fruits and flowers (Rose, Cotton, Orange, Peach, Bluebonnet, etc.) and started giving strictly corporate names (Outback, GoDaddy, TaxSlayer, Belk, Dollar General… yes, there is such a thing called the Dollar General Bowl.)
But what has devalued bowl games even more is that teams don’t even have to have to be any good to qualify. Almost every 6-6 squad goes bowling. And as has happened in recent years, if there are not enough six win teams to fill all the bowl slots, then 5-7 teams can go. Participation trophies for grownups.
But back to the playoffs. Simple math tells you that with only four spots, at least one Power Five conference is going to be left out each year. In the first three years it was the Big 12, Pac 12, then Big 12 again that were omitted. I’ve always thought that as soon as either the SEC or the Big 10 were the odd men out, then the playoffs would expand to make sure that never happened again.
An eight-team playoff fixes all that. Each of the Power Five conference champions are in. The top ranked team from the next tier of conferences, the Group of Five, is in. This year that would be 12-0 Central Florida. As it stands now, no Group of Five team is ever going to get a shot in a four-team setup. And I can promise you that no team wants to play Central Florida right now.
Then you have two at-large spots for the committee to hash out. This year could have been Power Five champs Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, USC and Oklahoma, along with Central Florida. For the two at-large spots, throw in Alabama and Wisconsin.
Now that would be a heck of a playoff lineup.