I’ve spent the first part of the offseason reading several creditable sports sites just itching for information concerning the 2015 college football season. I found myself becoming more and more irate at the current "system" employed by college football. It has less to do with how low the 2015 Yellow Jackets are ranked, but how the rankings, which will lead us into the 2015 season look the exact same year in and out.
Since I can remember, I have heard the argument of how an extended post-season would diminish the regular season, but I argue that the regular season is already ruled meaningless based on the subjective postseason that has been in place for years. Georgia Tech is currently ranked No. 17 in cbssports.com’s post spring polls. The Jackets are No. 21 in Sports Illustrated, ranked No. 15 in Athlon and No. 24 in the Bleacher Report. Ahead of them is the same motley crew who always swim in the waters of college football’s top 15 elite.
Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon and Alabama are probably a given because of last season’s success. I constantly saw SEC regulars Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M in the top 15. But as I continue to read, I see a sketchy Missouri team with quarterback issues, ranked in the top 10. A Georgia team who will also have a new starter at QB and even Tennessee and Florida are mentioned near the top of college football.
I understand the perception of SEC dominance, but also consistently ranked in front of Tech are an 8-4 Stanford team, Notre Dame, who took a nose dive after a loss to Florida State, and other mildly competitive programs like Wisconsin, UCLA, Clemson, Boise State and Oklahoma.
Here is the primary issue. Pre-season ranked teams will only fall a couple spots because the whole conference was perceived as "Top 10". Losing a game becomes absolutely meaningless because the losing team remains in the top 10. This is happening while the rest of college football, (even squads in the Power 5 conferences), have to go completely undefeated just to get ranked in the top 20. So we have no clue if any of the pre-season ranked teams are any good. If your favorite team is Wake Forest, Penn State, Texas Tech or Washington State, you have no real shot at a national title because your undefeated season is no match for the top 15 losing two games even though they played the same conference schedule.
I think we all understand it this way. Wealthy people are used to getting their way. But sports are not like business, making it impossible to predict the outcome. This notion infuriates the wealthy who purchase facilities, coaches, gear and top-flight equipment essentially trying to will their school to a national championship. When that doesn’t work, they eliminate the number of teams competing for a championship, bringing us to our current system.
We are seeing that you can’t take competition out of sport and keep your fan base. That is why the rumblings for playoff expansion won’t go away. With that, I propose a solution to completely eliminate subjectivity: create a 16-Team Playoff.
First, the FBS season will be reduced by one game from 12 back to 11. All 10 conferences in FBS college football will be required to have 12 teams and a conference championship held the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Each conference champion holds an automatic bid, with six at-large teams selected and seeded by a committee.
Beginning the first Saturday in December, the next three weeks will hold the entire playoffs, with the higher-seeded teams hosting each game. Everyone will have a week off for Christmas, giving the national title representatives two weeks to prepare for the National Championship Game held on New Year’s Day.
This plan ensures that only four schools, out of the 128 who play football at the FBS level will have practice during finals. Also, that means that an at-large team will play 15 games if they did not make the conference championship game, but make it to the title game. This returns college football’s greatest game to its original date of New Year’s Day because I don’t know one person who’s hosts a tailgate party for the national championship game on a Monday night. This system rewards a team’s entire body of work, instead of the current ‘better to lose early than late’ scenario we’ve come to loath over the past century.
This will lessen the value of the regular season like college basketball – I think this will enhance the regular season because teams are rewarded for the entire season. Teams will schedule better and tougher opponents to increase their schedule strength and create a much better product. Most importantly, you get to see the best teams who are also playing their best at the end of the year. Who would’ve wanted to face Michigan State or Stanford a couple of years ago in a playoff?
What about the bowl games and the pageantry of college football? – The bowls will become even more irrelevant no matter how big or small the playoff system get. Besides, you lost me at pageantry when I watch Harrison Butker kick an extra point into the awaiting hands of a giant Allstate sign.
In fact, I think we should keep the New Year’s Six games to be played by the next group of 12 teams who didn’t make the playoffs. Those games should be held December 31 and New Year’s Day as the undercard for the National Championship that night. That span of 48 hours will be the best pre-game in football history. Imagine three games leading to the National Championship, promoting the game and the sport… it would be bigger and better than anything the NFL could dream of for Super Bowl Sunday. It will also limit the post-season to the top 25… (or 26) best teams in the nation.
What are your thoughts? Do you think this will make for a better college football post-season?