The Right Way To Expand The College Football Postseason

The expansion of the College Football Playoff seems inevitable, but there is time for them to reverse course
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There has been talk of expanding the College Football Playoff from the moment it was announced we'd have a four team playoff, and those calls have grown louder and louder as the CFP has continued to rake in significant revenue.

Sadly, an expanded playoff seems inevitable, but until that happens I will continue to stand up and say, "Stop, don't do this to the game we love."

I have a number of fears when it comes to an expanded playoff, and the reality is most of those fears don't seem to be addressed by the "leaders" of these talks. The biggest is the damage it would do to the regular season, and the destruction it will cause the bowl system.

I'm a big older, so I grew up loving the bowl system and view it as something that makes college football unique. Since the advent of the BCS system and then the playoff the bowls have taken a back seat, and even the big bowls seems mostly irrelevant to everyone other than the fan bases in those games.

I have a proposal that would give more than four teams a postseason opportunity to get into a 4-team playoff but also preserves the regular season and puts greater emphasis back on the bowl system.

Here is my proposal, which I have published in the past:

1) Remove The College Football Playoff From The Bowl System: I'm all for a four-team College Football Playoff, but it should be played after the bowl games. The bowl games need to go back to being the objective for teams, meaning you must first win your league and get to a major bowl before you can have a shot to make the playoff.

2) Go Back To Major Bowl Tie-Ins For Conferences: One of the sad parts of the current system is that a team like Ohio State doesn't really care much about making the Rose Bowl anymore unless it's a playoff game. Imagine that, a team like Ohio State could be disappointed to make the Rose Bowl. That shouldn't be the case. The winner of the conference title games should get an automatic berth to a major bowl.

3) Change The Tie-Ins: I would have the five Power 5 conference winners earn a bid to a major bowl game. I'm not really interested in including the Group of 6 in this conversation, but if you are dead set on including them you could also make the Group of 6 team that is ranked as the best by the CFP committee in a major bowl as well.

So it would look something like this:

Rose Bowl: Pac 12 Champ
Orange Bowl: ACC Champ
Sugar Bowl: SEC Champ
Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 Champ
Cotton Bowl: Big 10 Champ 
Peach Bowl: Group of 6 top team

In the video below we go through what these matchups would look like in recent seasons, and it would present some very, very interesting matchups.

The opponent in those matchups would be based on the CFP committee rankings, and they would all be at-large teams. The highest ranked conference champ would get the lowest ranked of the opponents that qualify, and the highest ranked non-champ would get the lowest ranked conference champ. If you have a situation where a rematch is created you could make a simple swap.

Here are the 2019 season matchups.

Rose Bowl: #6 Oregon (11-2) vs. #7 Baylor (11-2)
Orange Bowl: #3 Clemson (13-0) vs. #11 Penn State (10-2)
Sugar Bowl: #1 LSU (13-0) vs. #11 Utah (11-2)
Fiesta Bowl: #4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. #8 Wisconsin (10-3)
Cotton Bowl: #2 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #9 Florida (10-2)
Peach Bowl: #17 Memphis (12-1) vs. #5 Georgia (11-2)

Here are the 2018 season matchups:

Rose Bowl: #9 Washington (10-3) vs. #3 Notre Dame (12-0)
Orange Bowl: #2 Clemson (13-0) vs. #11 LSU (9-3)
Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama (13-0) vs. #12 Penn State (9-3)
Fiesta Bowl: #4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. #10 Florida (9-3)
Cotton Bowl: #6 Ohio State (12-1) vs. #5 Georgia (11-2)
Peach Bowl: #8 UCF (12-0) vs. #7 Michigan (10-2)

Here are the 2017 season matchups:

Rose Bowl: #8 USC (11-2) vs. #6 Wisconsin (12-1)
Orange Bowl: #1 Clemson (12-1) vs. #11 Washington (10-2)
Sugar Bowl: #3 Georgia (12-1) vs. #9 Penn State (10-2)
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. #10 Miami (10-2)
Cotton Bowl: #5 Ohio State (11-2) vs. #7 Auburn (10-3) 
Peach Bowl: #12 UCF (12-0) vs. #4 Alabama (11-1)

4) Pick The Top 4 AFTER The Bowl Games: Once the bowl games are completed the CFP committee can pick their games. Let's be honest, there will never, ever be a team ranked 8th to 12th that deserves a shot at making the CFP. There are, however, some really good teams ranked down there who could still have a say in who does make the CFP. 

Here are the benefits to this proposal.

1) It protects the regular season - Having a bunch of 3-loss teams in the playoff cheapens the regular season. Think of some of the games in recent seasons that have had huge ramifications. Like Purdue beating Ohio State in 2018, which knocked the Buckeyes out. That game still matters, and it means Ohio State needs to overcome that loss by beating Georgia in the Cotton Bowl and crossing their fingers that Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame or Oklahoma get knocked off in one of their bowl games. 

Think of the number of times the Ohio State vs. Michigan game (at least it used to), the Alabama vs. Auburn game, the Florida vs. Florida State game, etc. had a major factor on who had a shot at the title. That is gone now. An expanded playoff could mean both make the playoff even though the loser would likely enter the postseason riding a loss.

That's not good for the game. Expand the playoff and it means you can lose three games, sometimes four, and still make the playoff. That will absolutely, without question, cheapen the postseason.

2) It makes a lot more bowl games relevant, and very interesting: Take the 2018 Ohio State team as an example. Buckeye and Bulldog fans would be locked into their Cotton Bowl matchup, but the winner of that game has a shot to jump into the Top 4. That means those fan bases will be keyed into at least four other bowl games. And the same will be true of those programs. It means the TV people and the CFB media will need to focus on a lot of bowl games for the intrigue of how much shake up will happen after the bowls.

This is good for the game, and good for pocket books. Let's be honest, this short-sighted financially driven push for a postseason is going to have those "unintended consequences" that often get ignored, and we'll see it with decreased revenue of regular season games and certainly from bowl games. The marketing folks can still hype up the regular season games (especially those in November) and hype up the conference title games, plus they can now hype up the bowl games before we even get to the playoff.

3) Keeps more players engaged: This proposal also serves the benefit of keeping more players engaged, and more players willing to stick with their teams through the postseason instead of opting out. 

4) Expands the number of teams with a legitimate shot without forcing the number: Let's be honest, you'll have a very, very tough time finding more than six teams in a season with a legitimate shot to make a run at a championship. This proposal gives all those teams a postseason opportunity without pushing a bunch of teams that really don't have a shot into the equation for money purposes.

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