The Case for Expanding College Football Playoffs

Why didn’t we know about these games? It isn’t because we are dumb; it is because nobody cares about these games anymore with the rise of the fresh, new, exhilarating playoff system.

Sugar Bowl 2011. Photo credit Big Ten Network.

The 2015-2016 college football playoffs proved once again why the NCAA ought to expand the tournament to 8 teams instead of 4.  More CFP games equals more drama and excitement in the quest to crown the annual college football national champion.

Let’s face it fellow college football fans—since its inaugural season last year, the college football playoff has undermined and stolen the postseason thrill from the traditional BCS format.  Unless it is your team or school, nobody pays attention to the teams included in BCS bowl games anymore. With the new kid in town, sports fans across America have made the transition to a more thrilling, nerve racking college football playoff format.

NCAA Division 1 FBS football (yes, our league) still remains as the only NCAA-sponsored sport that has a postseason consisting of individual bowl games instead of a tournament.  The traditional bowl system is fine and should stay, but not for the nation’s top 8 teams, which is why I am a part of the many who endorse a new 8 team college football playoff expansion.

Prior to all the bowl games, these were the playoff rankings for top 8 teams:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Michigan State
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Iowa
  6. Stanford
  7. Ohio State
  8. Notre Dame

As you can see, every single 1-loss team was included in this top 8 ranking. The only team that wasn’t—Stanford—had losses to two ranked teams at the time: Northwestern (early on in the season), and a 2-point loss to the Oregon Ducks.  And while Houston was listed at number 18, despite having only 1 loss, the committee rightfully decided that the strength of the Houston schedule disqualified them from any serious playoff consideration. In terms of the 2 loss teams, we can have debates all day long about who may deserve a spot, but the playoff committee has done an outstanding job of selecting who is in and who is undeserving based on the strength of their respective schedules.

The point is, by expanding the college football playoff, we can add to the excitement. The “New Years Six”, which includes the Rose Bowl, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach Bowls, can all rotate between hosting the final 8, which is a total of 4 bowl games, and the semifinals, which consist of 2 bowl games.  The location for the championship game can remain up to the committee—as it is now. Next year, the national championship will be in Tampa, FL.

Currently, with the 4-team playoff system, the playoff semifinal stadium locations are rotated between “New Years Six” bowl locations.  For example, for this past season, the semis were held at the Orange Bowl, and the Cotton Bowl, where good ole’ Sparty got slaughtered.  Next year, the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, GA, my birthplace, will host a playoff semifinal and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix will entertain the other.

So with the Orange and Cotton Bowls being used this past playoff season, it left the Peach, Rose, Fiesta, and Sugar Bowls to host the non-playoff bowls. Did anybody pay attention to any of these? Can anybody even name the teams who played in any of these bowl games? No.  As a matter of fact, until I did some research on, I had no idea that the Peach Bowl was between #9 Florida State against #18 Houston, or that the Sugar Bowl was between #12 Ole Miss and #16 Oklahoma State.

Why didn’t we know about these games? It isn’t because we are dumb; it is because nobody cares about these games anymore with the rise of the fresh, new, exhilarating playoff system.

Similar to the NFL playoff system, fans will be on the edge of their seats as they watch the games, knowing that it is single-game elimination. That means that your team must be on their their A-game, or else they risk ending their season.

As much as it kills me to say it, imagine having the additions of a high-powered Ohio State Buckeyes team, who redeemed themselves with a 42-13 annihilation at The Big House after playing one of their worst offensive games in recent Buckeye history against the Spartans. Or the Iowa Hawkeyes, who were literally seconds away from knocking off MSU in the Big Ten Championship, which would have earned them a perfect 13-0 season and a ticket to the playoff semifinals.

In order for this amendment to have success with ratings, playoff committees must ensure that they do not interfere with the NFL schedule, and that semifinals take place on New Years Day instead of New Years Eve, like it did this past year. The way I see it, quarterfinals can occur a week before New Years, with the semis on New Years Day and championship a week later.

If you love college football as much as I do, you may agree.  The non-playoff bowls had their moments, but it is time to move on to something more exciting and worth watching.

This piece has been edited to reflect the fact that the BCS has been discontinued.

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About Tony Saucedo

Tony Saucedo was a contributor to the Michigan Review.