Make no mistake about it, I’m watching college football this upcoming New Year’s Day. Major college football has finally gone to a playoff, and I don’t plan to miss it.
The match-ups for the first year are epic. There’s coaching legends Nick Saban and Urban Meyer going at it in the Sugar Bowl with Alabama vs Ohio State. In the Rose Bowl, there’s current Heisman winner Marcus Mariota going up against last year’s Heisman winner Jameis Winston when Oregon takes on Florida State.
A college football champion will finally be determined on the field. It can’t get any better than this, or can it? I think it can.
While the four teams involved, in my opinion, are the right four to fight it out, the playoff should have eight teams. I could make an argument that 16 is a better number, but 16 teams is too many unless they cut the regular season schedule back to 11 or fewer games. 12 games is simply too much punishment on the college athlete’s body, but I digress.
Here are the reasons why I think 8 teams is the right number for a playoff:
- It gets every member of the five power conferences a seat at the table. This year, the Big 12 got snubbed even though it had two teams, Baylor and TCU, that were contenders. With four teams, one power conference, and sometimes two, will get snubbed every year.
- Three wild cards get a chance to prove their worth. There were a few wild card teams that could have made a case to be involved in this year’s playoff – Michigan State, Mississippi State, Arizona, UCLA. Sure, eight teams won’t eliminate controversy, but it gives three extra teams a shot at the national championship. It could also give a member of the “other 5” an opportunity to join the playoff if they proved their worth during the season.
- The timing would work perfectly. Instead of going four weeks between the conference championships and first playoff game, the first four playoff games could take place the weekend before Christmas. One game could take place Friday night, and three could follow on Saturday to avoid overlapping with NFL games. There would be 10-14 days between each round of the playoffs.
- The “first four” would take place at campus sites. The top four seeds would get a home game. The atmosphere at these playoff games would be electric. Students would stay on campus past finals to enjoy the game, alumni would come home for the holidays. It would be a classic way to kick-off the bowl season. In other words, bowl games would not start until after the first round playoff games were completed.
- The final two rounds would be played just like they are today. The bowls would host the New Years’ Day games. The final would be played at a host city as determined through a bidding process.
- Financially, it’s a win all the way around. The campus sites and surrounding cities get another home game. The additional television revenue would be a huge windfall for the NCAA and member institutions. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see what’s holding up the move to eight games. It certainly isn’t money.
It’s only a matter of time before the current system goes from four to eight. In fact, the sooner it moves to eight the better. One could argue that current television contracts make that hard to do, but I don’t think it would be a problem to renegotiate the agreements to add four more games. It’ll be great for everyone involved, especially the fans who have waited years for college football to have a playoff system.
Even though the current television contract is for 12 years, my guess is that eight teams will happen a lot sooner. If I were a betting man, I’d put the over-under as 2017 for the first season where eight teams will be involved.