I’ve taken an extended hiatus from picking college football games—because I clearly suck at it—but I remain a steadfast fan of the sport. I am also a fan of this year’s inaugural four-team national championship playoff. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to it; going to be curious to see how the committee determines the four teams. Sure, it’ll be easy to to get your top two seeds, but No. 3 and No. 4 are certain to lead to a season of discontent for whomever is in the top five and not participating in the playoff.
Because the final polls are sometimes skewed and the voters’ criteria one season is not adhered to the following season—and the BCS was a complete and total joke—it’s best to let the teams decide it on the field. But four teams, to me, is just not enough. I advocated last year for an eight-team playoff and I hold to that.
Why eight teams? Because it rewards conference champions in the five power conferences and allows for other top-tier teams a shot to prove themselves. I mean, should Alabama be out of the picture because it’s one loss came at the end of last season? Should Baylor not have a chance to prove it can hang with Auburn and Florida State?
How would an eight-team playoff work? Fairly simply. You take the conference champions from the ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC + three wildcard teams—leaving room for those conference bridesmaids and/or major independents (Notre Dame) to compete for the title. It adds one additional weekend from our current four-team structure and would be decided long before the NFL ramps up its Super Bowl hype. People who argue against an eight-team playoff must then hold the same view for the NCAA’s annual basketball national championship tournament, because my proposal is the same, on a much smaller scale. And if you think an eight-team playoff leaves room for a weak-sister team to sneak in, think again.
Here’s how the top eight teams would’ve been seeded last season:
1. Florida State, 13-0
2. Auburn, 12-1
3. Alabama, 11-1
4. Michigan State, 12-1
5. Baylor, 11-1
6. Ohio State, 12-1
7. Stanford, 11-2
8. Missouri, 11-2
So the “brackets” would be:
1. Florida State vs. 8. Missouri – Orange Bowl
4. Michigan State vs. 5. Baylor – Rose Bowl
2. Auburn vs. 7. Stanford – Sugar Bowl
3. Alabama vs. 6. Ohio State – Fiesta Bowl
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner
2/7 winner vs. 3/6 winner
National Championship Game
You retain the traditional major bowl games, giving premium to conference champions (but not beholden to it), add one more weekend of college football and all the best teams get a shot to settle it on the field. Will there be debates over the wildcard teams? Always. But I’d rather be debating over a No. 8 seed than a No. 4 seed.
For the three additional games, the NCAA could use its four major bowl game sites or (and I think this would be a boon for the NCAA), allow for bids on neutral site locations, similar to the Big Dance™. Again, it would not tread upon the legacy of the bowl games and it would create opportunities for fans to experience these games in a unique, big atmosphere.
I could very easily see semi-final and championship games played in Dallas, or Indianapolis, or New Orleans. You can’t tell me fans wouldn’t flock to these games. And the argument that the season would be overextended doesn’t really hold water when you consider this year’s championship game is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 12, 2015 (In Arlington, Texas, by the way).
By my count, if you hold the first round games (the traditional bowl games) on Thursday, Jan. 1, the semifinals could be held on the weekend of Friday, Jan. 9 and Saturday, Jan. 10, with the Championship game being held on either Friday, Jan. 16 or—since the NCAA wants premium primetime viewing—a week later than already scheduled: Monday, Jan. 19.
So, why not, NCAA? How about an eight-team playoff.