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Should the College Football Playoffs expand? While We’re Waiting

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Mornin’ Y’all. The year of our Lord 2017 is upon us, and the Cleveland Browns 1-15 throwaway season has ended. The 2017 NFL Draft will be covered ad nauseum to some and to great delight for others over the next few months. The Cleveland Indians have their Fanfest later in January, but Spring Training does not start until February. For today, some attention needs to be paid to the college football bowl season.

I hope this Wednesday finds you in the highest of spirits with the wind forever at your back especially given the wintery chill of said wind.

College Football Playoff Future

The college football bowl division currently has a four-game playoff, which is chosen by a selection committee. The teams selected and the process have made for some great barstool debates amongst college football fans. And, the fallout of both the BCS era and this four-team playoff is that fans of college teams will have specific rooting interests in many national games throughout the season. Though the results were a bit anti-climatic in 2016 when the favorites each won their championship games, there were many different iterations that could have unfolded among the many teams vying for a playoff spot all the way through the end.

Undoubtedly though, there will be continued calls to expand the playoff to include more teams. With players such as Leonard Fournette and Justin McCaffrey sitting out the lesser bowls rather than risk injury ahead of the NFL Draft, creating more games that mean something will have an appeal to schools looking to latch onto their money cow. Additionally, having the first non-conference champion get blown out in their playoff game will create some extra leverage for those whose voice is to include a champion from each conference instead.

No matter what is decided, there will be unintended consequences. The risk is destroying the added interest and build-up to the end of the regular season alongside the crazy amount of extra content for ESPN in December from having 39 bowl games. If only winning your conference matters, then teams would not need to fill out their out-of-conference schedule with interesting matchups, and fans wouldn’t care what happens in games outside their conference. If the playoff becomes too big, then there could be teams that clinch a spot before the season ends. Imagine the discussions should Alabama decide to rest starters for an Iron Bowl against Auburn.

The current four-team playoff leaves out a Power Five conference each year, and the barrier for entry from a Group of Five team is nearly impossible. There has been speculation no conference would allow even a six-team playoff to occur without a guarantee of entry (five Power Five schools plus one Group of Five school). An eight-team playoff would allow those guarantees to be supplemented with two wild card entrants, but would diminish the regular season to some degree. Anything bigger and the issue of teams resting down the stretch comes into play as the playoffs creep back towards Thanksgiving and more top teams are locked in.

There is no perfect solution. The current solution is fun though expansion seems inevitable.

College Football Playoff Present

Peach Bowl

The Washington Huskies hung in there but Bama just doesn’t make mistakes and capitalize on mistakes from other team. Once the Tide returned an interception for a touchdown late in the first half, the game was over.

Nick Saban has built a powerhouse that is even better than those built by Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Bowden, or Butch Davis (I know, weird to include him but the early 00s for the Canes were so ridiculously stacked in talent). The weird part though is that they are built upon straight up discipline and wearing opponents down by being nearly perfect. They have more talent than anybody as well, but I cannot remember another recent college football dynasty whose primary staple was discipline.

Fiesta Bowl

Sigh. Josh already covered the main points of this frustrating game. One component that I think has been under-covered during Dabo Swinney’s time at the helm is how the Tigers churn out elite DL and WR that are consistently dominant.

National Championship Game

Swinney is a great coach and here’s hoping that he gets a national championship trophy to put in the case at Clemson next week. Farrell is going to have to get pressure on Hurts, and Watson is going to have to do what he did to Saban’s defense in last year’s game. The Tide offense is not quite on par as what it was last year, but the defense is far better. The main key in this game will be if the Tigers can create big plays without forcing things that cause mistakes. Should be a great game.

Best of the Bowls

Orange Bowl

A hat-tip to Jim Harbaugh who kept his composure for the most part during the game, and figured out how to make it interesting. But, the Seminoles were clearly the better team, and the Wolverines were part of an underwhelming B1G bowl season that ended 3-7. It was one game I did not mind the B1G losing though.

Rose Bowl

Shop USC 2017 Rose Bowl Champ Gear!Given the Rose Parade was Monday morning followed by a late afternoon Rose Bowl, it was hardly noticeable that the New Year’s Day games were on January 2 in 2017. Keith Jackson even made an appearance in the booth for the first time since the epic 2005 National Championship Game between USC and Texas. The 2017 edition decided that it would do it’s best to recreate that masterpiece by giving us another fantastic yet sloppy game.

For Penn State, quarterback Trace McSorley giveth and taketh away with the big play (and it was funny seeing a player named Barkley continually do damage to USC). For USC, Sam Darnold delivered the ball to the Trojan playmakers and let them flourish in the open field. First one to 50 was the cry early in the game, and it ended up being the case as USC sealed it with a last second field goal, 52-49.

Cotton Bowl

Wisconsin controlled this game throughout, but, like Michigan, the Broncos found a way to stay in the game and have a chance near the end. The Badgers controlled the line of scrimmage, especially early, and their quarterbacks went 13-for-14 with the only incompletion a dropped touchdown pass. Remarkable that Western Michigan stayed close.

Sugar Bowl

The entire game was a problematic stage given the Joe Mixon video release and the handling of it by Oklahoma. If head coach Bob Stoops or the university had laid out admission of guilt by Mixon (Mixon had apologized in the past, served a year suspension, as well as served out his court sentence), then the public might have been more willing to allow his story to be about a man seeking redemption for a past horrific sin.1

Instead, all danced around the topic, which only made things worse as the story dominated the game. Mixon was booed anytime he touched the ball. Jeers of “he hits women” were heard on camera. Oklahoma sent out news releases as Mixon broke school records, which did not help. Brent Musberger was left the impossible task of papering over everything, which he failed miserably.

Whether or not you believe Mixon deserves a second chance at football after his incident, most can agree that OU has handled things poorly.

  1. Not everyone, obviously. []

  • tigersbrowns2

    LMFAO !!!!

  • mgbode

    See, this looks way more fun than just standing around

  • Garry_Owen

    Was that the 0-16?

  • RGB

    I know there’s a “In Soviet Russia” joke in there somewhere…

  • RGB
  • Garry_Owen

    Thank you. (I remember watching that when it aired on TV! Perfect.)

  • NankirPhelge

    Guys, have you noticed that Counsel has come into the new year rested,
    feisty, and eager to debate anyone at length about anything? That
    Christmas bonus must have been pretty good.

  • Garry_Owen

    Slow year so far with an empty in-box. I’ll get it under control.

  • NankirPhelge

    Jeez, don’t do that. It’s good stuff. I had never thought much about spontaneous combustion before. Educational.

  • mgbode

    Craig Counsel?

  • RGB

    #TeamEsquire

  • JM85

    Good point. But this system isn’t working. Washington didn’t belong and I’m not sure OSU did either. More teams would help make it interesting.

  • mgbode

    Huskies belonged. They were good and had a nice defensive gameplan against Bama. That their offense struggled against that defense is no shame.

    Buckeyes built up a resume that was fantastic. They spit the bit against Clemson, but hard to fault their resume before that game.

    We are getting the best two teams in the country playing for the national championship, so I’d say the system worked just fine this year.

  • Garry_Owen

    OSU absolutely did not belong. Probably the 3rd best team in the Big Ten.

  • nj0

    The College Football Belt (http://collegefootballbelt.com/Seasons.htm)… because it is founded on sound logic that all peoples of the world intrinsically understand:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXhRFnUn72E

  • nj0

    So that’d be Hue pulling Sashi to safety?

  • Garry_Owen

    How do you know that we got the best two teams? What we got was the BCS Plus One. Hooray?

  • mgbode

    I would love to hear the argument that there is another team better than Alabama or Clemson. Go…

  • Garry_Owen

    I won’t make that argument, because there isn’t anything to argue. And that’s the whole point. This shouldn’t be about arguments; it should be about what happens on the field. Right now, nobody can say that Oklahoma or USC (or some other team) could or could not beat Alabama or Clemson. We’ll never, ever, ever know. If two arbitrarily-defined games are all we need, then let’s just go back to BSC Plus One. Or just name the top 2 and forgo the rest. Either way, it’s an arbitrary exercise based only on argument.

  • Steve

    The wrong people make money off playoff games being at home sites.

  • Garry_Owen

    Maybe Dee pulling Jimmy to safety.

  • Steve

    Who belonged over those two? The only teams that really had anything resembling an argument were Michigan, Oklahoma, and Penn State. I think Michigan would beat Washington that 51st time out of 100, so I’d have no problem with them being taken, but I don’t see any issues with those four.

  • Steve

    A one off tournament is also one of the worst ways to determine who actually is the “best”. Until we give into our analytics overlords, that’s always going to be a tough task in a league where 120+ teams make it likely that two comparable teams (maybe an Ohio State and Clemson) have no opponents in common, and now 14 team conferences mean that two teams in the same division (Ohio State and Penn State) may only play six of 12 games in common.

    We can say with a helluva lot more of confidence that an 11-5 team is better than a 10-6 team in a NFL division, when they play head-to-head at both sites and have another 12 games in common, than a similar one game break in college. College works differently than the other sports, and, thus, can’t be treated the same.

  • Chris

    ESPN should rank the top 64 teams preseason based on solely on how cool a team’s uniforms are. The entire season is then a double-elimination bracket based on those rankings. Just like the basketball Final Four is played in football stadiums, the football Final Four is played with arena-league rules rotating annually between the highest-bidding NBA-arena and New Orleans.

  • Chris

    All of a sudden, spontaneous combustion is a hot subject.

  • Steve

    “Right now, nobody can say that Oklahoma or USC (or some other team) could or could not beat Alabama or Clemson.”

    Of course we could. The issue is that instead of treating Alabama-Washington as something like 70-30 and Ohio St-Michigan as 50-50, we want to assign unbreakable truths to the results after the fact. Oklahoma could beat Alabama, maybe it’s only a 10% chance, but they could. But then, we have to remember that 10% chances still hit, and that an Oklahoma win doesn’t actually mean that Oklahoma is better.

  • mgbode

    Well, the Buckeyes defeated Oklahoma, so if we say it needs to be decided on the field, then wasn’t their exclusion done so?

    But, everything is an arbitrary exercise. March Madness is arbitrary because it takes a one game sample after a season-long body of work.

    If we are going to ignore that USC lost three times, then we could just start a double elimination tournament that begins in August with every single team eligible. No more conferences other than to help create regional brackets (to cut down on early round travel).

    Lost your first two games? Better luck next year.

  • mgbode

    I did not see this until after I posted my proposal for a double-elimination tournament above. Haha.

  • Garry_Owen

    The point is if you’re going to do a “post-season,” do a post-season right. The Buckeyes beat Oklahoma in Week 2 (?) of the regular season. That’s not the same thing as a post-season, and every other level of football has a post-season that is independent of the regular season, often including games between teams that (GASP!) played each other in the regular season.

  • mgbode

    FBS postseason begins in Week 1 of the regular season. See my thoughts below about doing something just because “everyone else does it”

    https://tarnmoor.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/piclemming.gif

  • Garry_Owen

    Sometimes everyone else does what they do because it’s the right or best thing to do. Not doing what is right just because you don’t want to do what everyone else is doing is crazy, especially when what is done as an alternative is silly. This is my argument – not “because everyone else is doing it.”

    And believe me, this is coming from someone that generally hates going along with the crowd.

  • mgbode

    I don’t think it is “right” or “best” in this circumstance. Anyway…

    I believe we should have a system of relegation between the Power 5 and Group of 5 teams so that more schools that have a true program (such as Boise, Toledo, Navy) can earn their way into the Power 5 and schools that don’t (Rutgers, Iowa State, Rutgers again) can drop down.

  • Garry_Owen

    So if it’s not best or right, then what should the other levels of football do?

    And what does “Power 5” even mean? Who came up with that category? Based on what criteria? And why do we just accept it?

    See, to take your lemming example a bit further, I think the thing that makes lemmings so crazy is that they are literally the only animals in the world that do this silly thing. While all other animals are safely avoiding cliffs, even in their crowds, they continue to lose their little minds. I can just hear the lead lemmings yelling “CFP!,” “Power 5,” “Group of 5!,” “Coaches’ Polls!,” “Associated Press!” “Let’s go!! It’ll be a hoot!!!”

    Pardon me, but I think I’ll just step over here to the side a little bit . . .

  • maxfnmloans

    Oh well, a conference champion is #12. I think conference championships should matter. I also think 14 team conferences are insane, but thats another story. If you win your conference, you should get in. If you dont you shouldnt. End of story. If you’re not in a conference, sorry about your luck. Notre Dame isn’t NOTRE DAME anymore, hasnt been for 20 years. Time to evolve.

    I still think for a GO5 team to get in they should have top prove they’re pretty special…undefeated, or in the top 10, something of that sort. In the years a GO5 team doesnt qualify, give it to the highest ranked non conference winner

    (FTR, I didnt htink Michigan should have gotten in this year, I didnt think there shouldve been a rematch in 2006. I think you should have to win your conference even now to get into the final 4)

  • JM85

    Not to show Big Ten bias, but Penn State probably should have been in there.

  • mgbode

    Issue there is no team should schedule good OOC matchups where they might have players injured. Take the home date cupcakes to get ready for the conference slate.

  • mgbode

    They never show the full landscape view. They are running from a Lion and those lemmings that stop are trampled, then eaten.

  • Garry_Owen

    Which poses the question: Better to be trampled and eaten by a lion, or to fall and be splattered on rocks or drowned in the writhing agony and panic of your brothers?

    At the end of the day, I guess we just have to choose. And I give the NCAA a lot of credit for their marketing. They remind me of the diamond sellers that came up with the idea of “Chocolate Diamonds.” They were sitting in their slave camps, looking at all of the rejected, dirty, unclear diamonds that they couldn’t sell, and said, “Wait a minute – we can make millions! Everyone loves chocolate! These aren’t poor quality diamonds. These are Chocolate Diamonds!! In fact, the worst of the bunch are actually the most beautiful, most chocolaty! Someone get New York on the phone!” And the money started rolling in, and the slave labor force got bigger.

    And I guess the point is, why not? Who said that diamonds have to be clear and colorless to be good? Why can’t we just love the other ones just as much? I guess you can, but I still wish I had a choice.

    (But if you do love the CFP, you also love slave labor. That’s science.)

  • mgbode

    Run behind a fat brother and use him as a cushion and/or flotation device

  • Garry_Owen

    You’re talking about Michigan, right?

  • mgbode

    Bert Bielema is not in the B1G anymore, so a random UM fan will work

  • Steve

    Playoffs in every major sport have evolved into not the best way to crown a champion, but the best way to make a bunch of money for the owners. The idea that anyone has it right, other than a measure of how thick the right person’s wallet is, is ludicrous.

  • CBiscuit

    Wrong! Arkansas’ TE is best practice apostrophe here.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m sorry, but when did we start drinking port with supper? Are we now using our salad forks for the main course and our soup spoons for desert? For that matter, we might as well just put the forks on the right with our knives.

    I’m sorry, but are we now ignoring RSVP invitations? Do we now simply cough and sneeze into the air? I suppose we are now free to make coarse jokes and entertain ribald humor irrespective of company?

    I’m sorry, but when did we start opening gifts before mom and dad are downstairs with the whole family together? I suppose we should now expect to wear blue jeans and sneakers to any event?

    I’m sorry, but this is a civilized society, and civilized societies require standards.

  • CBiscuit

    Listen English Bob! As for civility, at some point in time civilised men became civilized men…and we lost the silly esses.

    So in closing, in the interest of brevity, good sir, and American efficiency and know how and what not…let’s stop with the extraneous. Good day, God bless, and God save the President.