It has been the topic of conversation for quite some time now, but it has come to fruition. After watching how the bowl games unfolded on New Year’s Day, it is now time for the College Football Playoff to expand from four teams to eight. The system of using a four-team system while there are five power conferences has created far too many issues in the young life of the CFB Playoff; and moving to eight will solve (most of those) issues. Besides, literally every level of NCAA football outside of Division I FBS uses the large tournament format. By no means am I suggesting FBS move to that, but here are the steps to move toward a new eight-team CFB Playoff that I am proposing.
Abolish Divisions in Every Conference
This is an idea I got from the wonderful Joel Klatt of FOX Sports. This way, the true top two teams in each conference will battle it out for the conference championship. Look at the SEC. There is almost always a huge divide between the SEC West and East divisions. This season, the Kentucky Wildcats finished 7-6, good for third place in the East. Had there been no divisions, Kentucky would have finished eighth in the conference. That truly shows the divide between the two divisions. Taking out divisions make conference play that much more important which leads me into my next point.
Require Power 5 Conferences to Play Nine Conference Games
The Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 already do this. Looking at you ACC and SEC. Adding in an additional conference game to total nine helps prove top dog in each conference. It also opens the window for only three non-conference games. This would help eliminate instances of the Alabama Crimson Tide scheduling the FCS Mercer Bears in late November or the Clemson Tigers playing The Citadel Bulldogs late in the season as well. Teams will have to schedule tougher teams to bolster their case for a birth in the CFB Playoff.
Automatic Bids for Power 5 Winners
With divisions within conferences eliminated, this means the undoubtedly two best teams in that given conference are playing in the conference championship. Because they are the best of the best and have earned the right to be there, the winner of each Power 5 Conference Championship Game clinches an automatic birth in the CFB Playoff. It does not matter if it is a down year for the conference as a whole or anything, they are the Power 5 conferences for a reason. If you win your conference championship game as a Power 5 team, you are in.
Non-Power 5 Automatic Bid
This is going to stir the pot with a lot of people, but it also makes sense. Outside of the Power 5 Conferences, there are an additional five conferences in the FBS, and a few independents. While these conferences do not present a highly contending team every year, there are a few every now and then. What I say is this. You take all the conference championship game winners from these five conferences (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt), and whichever team is highest ranked, they earn an automatic bid to the CFB Playoff.
It is a controversial idea, but gives hope to a Cinderella team that otherwise would have no chance at making a four team CFB Playoff. For this year, it would have been the #12 UCF Knights. They finished the season 13-0, with a marquee 34-27 win over the heavily favored #7 Auburn Tigers out of the SEC. This win proves that in any given year, the underdogs out of a smaller conference can compete with the big boys. These teams deserve to have their shot.
If this system had existed last season, the non-Power 5 bid would have been to the Western Michigan Broncos. Western Michigan went undefeated up until bowl season, and were ranked as high as #14. They faced the #8 Wisconsin Badgers in the Cotton Bowl, and the Broncos narrowly lost 24-16. In the earlier half of the decade, had this system existed, the Northern Illinois Huskies could have potentially found themselves in the CFB Playoff with this bid after all the good years they had in the MAC. Most of these non-Power 5 teams that make a run are senior heavy, meaning it is likely going to be a different team every season that earns the non-Power 5 bid. It keeps things exciting and fresh, and like I said, gives the little guys a voice and a chance.
With six bids automatically clinched (Each Power 5 Conference, one bid for non-P5), this leaves two more spots open for grabs. These two spots are for at-large teams. These are for the teams that are near the top of their conference, maybe lost their conference championship game or just missed it. This would also potentially be a spot for an independent like the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Sorry Army, BYU, and UMass, I do not imagine you guys making a run to the CFB Playoff as independents anytime soon. So, one of these spots would have been taken this season by the Alabama Crimson Tide, and last season by the Ohio State Buckeyes, both controversial picks for the CFB Playoff in the last couple years.
Behold, this is what the CFB Playoff would have looked like this season, with this system. The two at large bids would have gone to Alabama and Wisconsin.
What the #CFBPlayoff needs to be: -8 teams -Automatic bids for Power 5 Conference Championship Game winners -2 at-large bids (such as Bama this season, Ohio State last year, or an independent like ND) -Automatic bid for highest ranked non-power 5 conference ch-game winner (UCF)
So, (in my mind) I will have fixed college football with this eight-team format. This system will decide the true king of the college football world. It would create an extra game for the eventual winner, so If too many games played is your concern, then eliminate another non-conference game. This makes scheduling the two non-conference games even more important than they would be with three games.
Now I am not saying this system will be controversy free, but it will create far less problems than the current four-team playoff. The six automatic bids will leave practically no argument, so the only problems that could arise would be who is selected over who for the two at-large bids. All in all, this is the best system for college football to move to. What do you think? Tweet me, @JB_WSU.