Saturday, December 7, 2019

Fringe benefits of an 8-team college football playoff

 Occasionally, I wake up and feel like a sports columnist. Let me try to make the case for an expanded college football playoff. 
 1. You know you'd watch. 
 2. Why do we have a four-team playoff? Because the folks who designed it knew they could never get eight approved. They assumed that once they gave us a flawed four-team playoff, we would demand more.
 3. In an eight-team playoff, the winners of the Power 5 conferences would get automatic bids. Not only would each team controls its own fate (regardless of committee opinions), but there would be so many fringe benefits. It would no longer be necessary to run up the score to impress the committee. And it could do wonders for non-conference scheduling. Teams like Baylor wouldn't need cupcake schedules. If you can get into the playoff by winning your conference, then there's no penalty for risking defeat with ambitious non-conference schedules. For instance, Baylor could have played Oregon this year, just for fun, without dire implications other than green and yellow stains on our TV screens. 
 4. The September schedule would be so much better. Clemson might play Georgia, Auburn, or Tennessee instead of Charlotte. Why not, as long as the Tigers know they can qualify for the playoff by winning the Sisters of the ACC?
5. To the previous point, Oregon would be in the playoff picture today if they hadn't gone out of their way to play Auburn in the opener. If the Ducks had played South Dakota (like Oklahoma did) instead of Auburn, they would have one loss today, and both the O's would be circling Georgia like vultures.
6. Yes, the season is too long already. So cut the fall schedule to 11 games and play the FCS games (Clemson-Furman, for example) in the spring, instead of a split-squad scrimmage. (To make it more equitable, you could even let the FCS team play its graduating seniors, and give them a last audition for pro scouts.) That way, the big boys still have seven home dates, to keep the local motels and tailgaters happy. 
7. Play the quarterfinals at the home fields of the top seeds, maybe on Thanksgiving weekend. No more embarrassingly empty upper decks like we saw in the 49ers stadium for last night's Pac-12 game. 
8. In the spirit of inclusion, its hard to argue against offering a playoff invitation to the best of the Group of 5 champions. As proud as I am of what Appalachian State has accomplished this year, I don't know that beating North Carolina and South Carolina qualifies you to compete with Clemson. But Central Florida and Boise State have risen to that level, so make room for them.
9. Some naysayers worry that in an eight-team playoff, a bottom seed might get hot and win an undeserved title. Quarterfinal home games would make that unlikely, but if it happened, you know you'd watch.
 10. It would be okay if Alabama got in. Most of you are convinced they don't deserve to be in the playoff, so you'd watch just to see them lose. 
11. Play the semifinals the Saturday after Christmas and the national championship in the vacant week before the Super Bowl. Yep, you know you'd watch.

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