If the final few weeks of the 2018 season taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of people that aren’t real happy with the way the current college football playoff is formatted — or at least the way it’s run by the committee.
Because certain people with real power feel slighted in year five of the playoff system, the talk is heating up about changing it to an eight-team format. This is the third year in a row that the Big Ten champion has been left out of the playoff, and you know Jim Delaney is throwing an epic toddler temper tantrum.
The current playoff deal is a 12-year contract with the bowls and with ESPN. When it was first announced that the playoff was going to happen, most felt that even with the 12-year deal, it would most likely shift to 8 teams before that deal ran its course.
If you’ve gobbled up any of the college football news over the past few weeks... you already know that it is certainly shifting towards that model.
The most basic concept is the one that makes the most sense, and should appease pretty much everyone involved:
- Power 5 conference champions get an automatic bid
- One slot is reserved for the best Group of 5 team
- Two at-large bids
- Opening round games (quarterfinals) played on campus
- Semifinals would continue to use the NY6 Bowl rotation
- Championship would continue to be a stand-alone game at a TBD location
It’s not rocket science, and it’s what most people seem to be suggesting if they do go to 8 teams. The format isn’t the problem... the regular season is. Some of it seems to get swept under the rug in the discussion, and it’s perhaps the most important part of the whole thing.
- What do the conferences do with their conference championship games?
- Should every conference be forced to play 9 conference games?
- What criteria (if any) do the two at-large teams need to meet?
- How will the committee function with five-eighths of the decision out of their hands?
Seriously. Will the teams playing in the championship game be playing their 16th game of the season? There are real health and safety issues here — along with good old logistics, so it’s not as clear cut as it may seem.
The only thing I can say with certainty, is that an 8-team playoff would greatly benefit the Notre Dame Fighting Irish — but then I look back at the 2015 season. Notre Dame ended the regular season with a 10-2 record and the #8 ranking. Would those results have translated into a playoff bid?
The Power 5 Champions were:
- Clemson Tigers ACC
- Oklahoma Sooners Big 12
- Michigan State Spartans Big 10
- Stanford Cardinal Pac 12
- Alabama Crimson Tide SEC
The best Group of 5 team:
- Houston Cougars AAC
The next two highest ranked teams:
Notre Dame was ranked #8.
This all means that if the CFB Playoff followed the seemingly universal model that we laid out, the 2015 season would have 3 teams from the Big Ten in the playoff, and the #18-ranked Houston Cougars. Notre Dame would have been the first team out. Regardless of the ridiculousness of one conference having 3 teams in an 8-team playoff, the 10-2 Irish would be passed over by a 12-1 Houston team. Notre Dame’s only 2 losses that season were by a combined 4 points to playoff teams; Clemson and Stanford.
Is that really what we want? No one is mentioning a ranking floor for the Group of 5 team, but shouldn’t they have to be at least ranked in the Top 10? As they say.. the devil is in the details, and this devil could and should have quite a bit of detail.
Of course more spots would mean a better chance to be “IN,” but this is college football... shit happens. If it was an 8-team playoff this year, what in the hell would we have on our hands if Pitt or Northwestern or both had won their conference championship game?
I think an 8-team playoff would benefit Notre Dame in theory, but a season like 2015 is proof enough that it’s not perfect — and probably won’t be every year. That’s alright... this is college football after all, and imperfect systems are tradition.