Note: This article is a rebuttal to our YouTube debate that inspired the 2017 Virtual College Playoff. The calls for College Football Playoff expansion are predictably even louder this season. While in year one most seemed to agree with the four teams that were chosen to fight it out for the ultimate prize in college […]
Note: This article is a rebuttal to our YouTube debate that inspired the 2017 Virtual College Playoff.
The calls for College Football Playoff expansion are predictably even louder this season. While in year one most seemed to agree with the four teams that were chosen to fight it out for the ultimate prize in college football, that was not the case in 2016. The biggest cries came from Penn State fans who assumed their team was a lock to make the playoff over Ohio State after seeing the amount of weight that the committee put into a Conference Championship last season. This time around though the committee decided that the Nittany Lions overall body of work was just not strong enough to see it get in over its conference foe.
And you know what… that’s ok.
Part of the fun of the playoff is the debate that it generates. There is always going to be a team (or ten) that complains when it is left out of the dance and that is great for the sport. The current model sees that at least one conference champion is left out, and that is fine too. The more people that care and are invested in the playoff reveal and the teams that are taking part the better. The fact that the debate then rages on for the next few days over the fourth vs fifth best team would just not happen if we got down to the eighth vs ninth best team or the sixteenth vs seventeen best team.
College basketball is the gold standard here, but the NCAA did its very best to ruin March Madness with continual expansion to the point that we now have the awful “First Four” games on the Thursday before the tournament even really begins. These teams are kind of in the playoff, but at the same time they are not. It was a pure cash grab by the powers that be and it hurt the product. With just four teams making the playoff you will never, ever have that problem. The teams that make the big dance deserve to be there. It is the elite of the elite.
The single best part of the four team playoff is simply the level of difficulty it takes to get there. Reaching the postseason is supposed to be tough, yet in many American sports it is just too easy. Rivalry Week in college football now has the chance to be about so much more than bragging rights each year. We had the perfect example in 2016 with The Game between Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines and the Buckeyes knew the stakes. The winner would move on to the playoff and the loser would need a ton of help to follow them. This was like a playoff game a week early. In future years this could be happening in the Iron Bowl or any of the other massive rivalry games. That is exciting.
The other reason a playoff with four teams works is because it forces teams to schedule tougher. It is no coincidence that the opening slate of games over the past two seasons has been superior to those in years gone by. Teams know that they need to schedule hard to impress the committee and that a couple of big early season wins will be worth their weight in gold come decision day.
Participation trophies don’t belong at the elite level of college football. Keep entry to the playoff difficult, limit it to four teams and the sport will continue to grow.