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Why the College Football Playoff Needs to Expand to Eight Teams

By: Quinn Donovan

In its third year, the four-team College Football Playoff has been a great addition to the landscape of college football. However, it is extremely flawed and needs a lot of work in order to do its job in the future.

The main reason behind the addition of the playoff was the problem of having only two teams able to compete for a national title at the end of the season. In comparison, NCAA basketball has a 68-team tournament that as we well know is one of the most exciting moments in sports year after year. So what difference does moving the national title opportunity from two teams to four teams really have?

The basis for a four-team playoff was that four was the correct number that could truly separate themselves from the rest.

Clearly, that is not the case. The teams are selected for the playoff by a panel of thirteen members with connections to the game. They vote teams in according to a set of criteria which includes their record, strength of schedule, a possible conference championship, and head to head comparison.

The overarching goal of the committee is obviously to put the best teams in the playoff. It has been largely assumed that an undefeated team from a Power 5 conference (one of the five main collegiate conferences) would automatically get into the playoff.

This year appears that it may be different, as 11-0 Wisconsin, a member of the Big Ten conference, is currently ranked fifth and is in legitimate danger of being left out of the playoff even if they win their last two regular season games and a conference title. The committee certainly hopes that the issues will work themselves out but the top four teams currently (Alabama, Clemson, Miami, Oklahoma) seem to be poised to finish their seasons strong as well.  

I see no other option at this point then to expand the playoff from four to at least eight teams in the future. Simply put, there are far more than four teams deserving of a chance to compete on college football’s biggest stage. Should eight teams be allowed into the playoff, I think it would be easier to define where the first tier of teams truly ends, which is much closer to roughly eight to ten schools than it is to just four.

While the excitement would only build with the addition of more teams into the playoff, it could be too challenging overall to solve the logistics involved with allowing any more than eight teams in. Sixteen would be a thrilling experience, but the schedules and as always, money, don’t work great with such a large number. This was actually the reason for so much hesitation to go to four teams from two, and still is an issue.

The players already play a grueling, 13-16 week schedule, and adding just four more teams to the playoff would result in very manageable tweaks to the schedule to allow for this extra game. In examining ways to include this, they could even potentially subtract a game from the regular season schedule if the primary concern is player health through such a long, physically exhausting season.

As fans, everyone wants more excitement, and I don’t think there is any debate around that. But the eight-team playoff would be phenomenal for the players and would allow more opportunities for the student-athletes to prove themselves.

We know how beneficial the change would be, it’s just up to the NCAA to do the right thing (if that’s not too much to ask of them!) and expand the playoff.

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