- The College Football Playoff field is set and Alabama is in over Ohio State.
- With an 8-team playoff, the major conference champs would receive automatic bids.
- In this scenario, Alabama and Ohio State would settle their debate on the field.
The College Football Playoff field is set and there was one controversial decision – the committee took Alabama over Ohio State.
While our projection had Alabama in as the fourth team rather easily, many felt that Ohio State had he stronger resume based on bigger wins and the sometimes important conference championship. Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt made it sound like the decision wasn’t that hard, calling the Buckeyes’ 31-point loss to unranked Iowa “damaging” and noting that the committee felt Alabama was “clearly the No. 4 team in the country.”.
The decision was also controversial because it means this year’s playoff will have no teams from the Big Ten and the Pac-12. Instead, it will have two teams from the SEC, including one team that did not reach their conference championship game.
Of course, all of that would easily be fixed if the NCAA would just move to the one thing most fans want – an 8-team playoff.
Here is what the 8-team playoff would look like this season based on the final rankings. The champions of the Power 5 conferences received automatic bids, and then we gave the final three spots to the highest ranked team from a Group of 5 conferences and two at-large teams.
An 8-team playoff solves two of the biggest gripes against the current system: 1) winning a Power 5 conference would mean something more than just a tiebreaker between otherwise even teams; and 2) it would give a team like undefeated UCF a chance to prove they can play with the big schools.
It also doesn’t hurt that Alabama and Ohio State would settle their debate on the field.
Under this scenario, the top six teams in the current playoff ranking would be included in the playoff. The biggest loser would be 3-loss Auburn, ranked seventh, something that would be much easier to swallow than keeping out Alabama or Ohio State.
The talking heads would still have things to debate and scream at each other about. But instead of debating the merits of Ohio State vs Alabama, they might debate the merits of Wisconsin, Auburn, Penn State, and Miami for the final at-large spot.
The playoff could include a provision requiring the top Group of 5 team to have a minimum ranking, with the alternative being a third at-large team. That is not without problems though. If the Group of 5 team were on the cusp of the minimum ranking (e.g. No. 15), it could play into the committees discussion on where to rank them, if they prefer to include a third at-large team.
The bigger problem is adding yet another game to the schedule of the two teams that reach the championship game, making their seasons 16 games long. Then again, it is not unheard of for FCS teams to play 16 games at a level where there is already an expanded playoff format. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
In the meantime, an 8-team playoff solves most of FBS’ biggest problems when it comes to determining a champion. Other problems, like giving some of that newly found revenue to the players, well, that’s another topic for another day.
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