We are going pick up where we left off in the first part of our roundtable on playoff expansion. The STS writers weigh in and give their thoughts on the subject, and like the first part, after each writers take, I will add a thought or two of my own on. At the end, I will then give my own thoughts on the subject.
Grant Matheny: “I understand why a lot of people would want to see the playoff expand, but my biggest fear would be that it would water down the regular season. If the playoff was expanded to eight, teams like Clemson and Alabama would likely be locks to get into the CFB. In my opinion, the regular season would be significantly less important if the playoff was switched to eight.
I have no issue with the four teams that got into the playoff this year, as I think the committee go it right. However, I believe that the system could be improved by the committee setting some criteria.
Examples of criteria: Teams can’t have more than one loss, teams must win conference championship, teams must have at least one win over a ranked team. These are just ideas, but I believe the committee should have rules to clarify what they are really looking for.”
Taking away from the importance of the regular season is a fear many have, myself included. If you are going to have a committee picking the teams though, there is nothing wrong with having some set criteria.
TenDayContract: “I like the four team playoff for now. During the BCS era there was never a situation where more than 3 teams were debated as being ‘deserving’ of a shot in the national title game. A four team playoff solved that problem. Unfortunately, expanding the playoffs to 4 teams has proven that the definition of “title caliber” teams will forever be one or two more than who’s allowed to compete.
Four 16-team super conferences is my dream scenario. Splitting each super conference into two 8-team divisions would allow for a true round robin schedule within the division, a couple cross divisional games, and some out of conference opponents to remain. Then, the two division champs from each conference would make an all inclusive, undebatable, 8-team playoff. Division champs face off to win the conference, then an eastern/western conference championship, and a national championship. It would be glorious. It’s also probably about 30 years from happening.”
TenDay nails it. He’s spot on about the definition of “title caliber” teams always being one or two more than what is allowed to compete, and on how glorious the four 16 team super conferences would be.
JP Priester: I very much like the current system, but that does not mean I would be against expansion. Anything over 8 games however, in today’s landscape, I would not want to see.
We are now in the fifth year of the 4 team format, and up until this year, I think it is safe to say most would agree we have not had 4 teams worthy of inclusion. Personally, I didn’t think there were more than 4 this season, but that is just me. Still, there was dissension over who should be that 4th seed. Go to six, and it will be the same thing. Go to 8, same thing. Nothing is ever going to fix that.
College football’s regular season is by far the best in sports. It is unique. Every game, every week, matters. Expanding to 8 would likely include automatic qualifiers. Win your conference and you are in. Meaning the five P5 champs, and three at large bids, with one going to a G5 team in years one is worthy.
There is no way that doesn’t devalue the regular season. Clemson fans aren’t on pins and needles during that Syracuse game knowing the season is on the line. One or two losses doesn’t kill you. You have to figure out a way not to damage the regular season to much.
How do you maintain the uniqueness and importance of the regular season? I certainly don’t have all the answers but a start would be looking at setting some criteria, since I don’t see conferences giving up the championship games anytime soon. Something along the lines of conference champions having no more than 2 or 3 losses. If your conference champion has more losses than the number allowed, that conference forfeits its automatic bid, opening up another at large spot. Did anyone really want to see an 8-5 Pitt team get in had they beaten Clemson in Charlotte?
That scenario could admittedly have some conference title games be played with very little on the line outside of seeding however. Having the opening round games be played at the higher seeds home field would help that but not entirely solve it. Again, I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I do hope that the powers that be make these decisions while trying to keep the importance of the regular season intact. The last thing I want to see happen is for the college season turn into what the NFL’s has become.
I was told the NFL’s regular season and playoff format was the way football was supposed to be played. Says who? Certainly not me. There is a reason that on Saturday’s during football season, if I am not at a game, my television is tuned into a game. Any game. On Sunday’s though, not so much. I might watch a game. One. I definitely am not attending one. Not since the 90’s anyways.
We can talk about it all we want. We can long for it or dread it. Either way we are going to have to embrace it. Expansion is coming, and it is coming sooner rather than later. All we can do is hope that however it comes about, that it makes the game better. That it does so without taking away that one thing we all love about it away, and that is its uniqueness.
Special thanks to all my STS brethren who contributed to this discussion. Tell us your thoughts on expansion in the comments.