Should the College Football Playoff be Changed?

Jan 18, 2020; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU head coach Ed Orgeron holds the AFCA CoachesÕ Trophy presented by Amway during celebration for the 2019 national champions at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Russell Costanza-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA recently held its annual CFP spring meetings. The meetings, attended by many Power Five commissioners, are important for the upcoming season; they determine which rules will change, and which rules will not.

In this particular iteration of the CFP meetings, one theme was made very clear; the College Football Playoff has “no plans” to expand, and will remain at four teams, director Bill Hancock said.

With all of the layoffs, projected revenue losses, and furloughs going on in the sports world right now, this news was seen as a reaffirmation by the NCAA that sports fans already knew was going to be the case. That doesn’t mean people agree. Most notably, a group of five conference commissioners and athletic directors would benefit the most.

The teams in the group of five have been long overlooked. With 129 FBS teams, not every team can be as talented and successful as Alabama and Clemson. However, many teams in the Power Five consistently have equal records to these teams.

The most notable and memorable case is the University of Central Florida back in 2017. Led by second-year coach Scott Frost, the Knights stormed to a 13-0 record that culminated with a win in the Peach Bowl over Auburn. However, many UCF fans expressed outrage over the fact that teams like one-loss Alabama and two-loss Clemson were allowed in the College Football Playoff, while the undefeated Knights were not. In fact, UCF claimed a national championship by being the only undefeated team in the FBS, even hosting a national championship parade.

While UCF was certainly a great team, they were affected by a playoff system which is largely disproportionate to other postseason games. For example, even though other teams make it to a plethora of bowl games, the NCAAF has four teams making the playoffs out of a possible 129, for a percentage of just 3.1%. Meanwhile, the NCAAB has their own basketball tournament, dubbed “March Madness”, where a total of 64 teams out of a possible 353, which equals a percentage of about 18%. The numbers just go up from there. The NFL has a playoff percentage of 37.5%, and the NBA has a percentage of 53%.

Obviously, a 53% playoff percentage is impractical and dangerous, as well as a 37.5%. With a 12-game regular season, 48 teams in the playoffs would be absolute chaos, and that many extra games would surely cause problems. However, a different format has been often suggested that could work; six teams. While this may seem like an insignificant amount of teams added, this would actually make a large impact on the playoff picture.

With a six-team playoff, the CFP could potentially have five schools from the power five conferences in, as well as one school from a group of five conferences. The common consensus for this playoff format is that seeds one and two would have a first-round bye, while teams three and six would play, as would four and five. After the winners of those games have been determined, the NCAA would go back to something that follows the four-team playoff, as the winner of three and six would play the one seed, and the winner of four and five would play the two. After this set of games end, only two teams would be left, and the championship is played.

While this expanded playoff format would mean an extra week of the season, this does allow for some interesting storylines, such as a group of five team or even a six seed trying to prove that they belong in the Playoff. Additionally, it adds two games to the schedule which will obviously be nationally televised, therefore making the NCAA more money. While it seems unlikely that the NCAA would make immediate changes right now, or even at the next playoff meetings, this playoff format is certainly something to consider in the future.

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