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You’re Nuts: What is the ideal format for College Football Playoff expansion?

Your (almost) daily dose of good-natured, Ohio State banter.

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

Today’s Question: What is the ideal format for College Football Playoff expansion?

Context:


Jami’s Take: 16 teams

For once in our lives, Matt and I actually agree on something: The college football playoffs should be expanded to more than four teams. Sure, it will impact the current bowl structure and potentially create some planning headaches, but neither of those will be my problem personally so I’m definitely in favor of expansion.

This, however, is where my agreeing with Matt stops because I am in full support of a 16-team playoff. Matt, however, apparently thinks the NCAA should rob the rest of us of more football, and therefore more fun.

My argument for 16 teams boils down to this: A larger pool means more football games to be played. Sure, you could argue we’re already getting those games with the current bowl structure, but the bragging rights of non-CFP bowl games just don’t hold the same weight as they did in the pre-playoff era.

People are sick of watching the same four teams rematch year after year. I mean, a Big 12 team has never even made it past a semifinal. The Pac-12 hasn’t been included in the CFP at all in the last five years. The nature of a four-team playoff when there are five power conferences is that someone is always left out, and disproportionately, it has been the Big 12 or the Pac-12.

There are dozens of potential structures for this hypothetical 16-team playoff, and people who have a far deeper understanding of the logistics should absolutely feel free to chime in here about which would be the best option. But I think I prefer the version that includes the most football (and therefore, the most upset potential). This might seem overly simplified, but we know a basic bracket system works, so why reinvent the wheel?

One could make the case that the top four teams should earn a bye, but given the disproportionate number of appearances by a handful of teams, I’d like to see all the teams have to duke it out with no byes. (If OSU were to ever lose in a first-round game, I never said this, and LGHL is contractually obligated to scrub this article from the internet).

Why do people come back to March Madness year after year? It’s because of the excitement! In theory, a 2-seed should sweep the floor with a 15-seed, and yet, Buckeye fans know all too well how that turns out sometimes. The point is, you never really know how a game will go, and that’s the point!

A worthy team always wins, but the journey to get there is often messy, fun, and unexpected. I am, admittedly, a big fan of a free-for-all.

The same could be true of college football. With 16 teams and no byes, the bracket would be ripe with potential for color and a few upsets. I’m willing to push for this if only to add the potential for Michigan to experience an embarrassing playoff loss one of these years.


Matt’s Take: Eight teams, Five P5 AQs, One G5 AQ, On-Campus Quarterfinals

Not to spoil an article that I am working on that will come out sometime in the next week, but my passion for College Football Playoff expansion is rooted primarily in one thing: opportunity.

Currently, the entire CFP process is a closed system that is designed for — and caters to — a small handful of a dozen or so blue blood programs at the expense of nearly 120 other FBS schools. Now, don’t get me wrong, as a life-long fan of one of those blue blood programs, I’m not trying to bite the hand the proverbially feeds me athletic appetite, but (to borrow an overused political cliche), the entire system is rigged.

So, while I freely admit that I am an idiot, and am always open to arguments from those far more intelligent than I am, here is how I would reconfigure the playoffs if I was made college football czar tomorrow.

The champions of each of the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) all receive automatic berths. This would prevent a single conference from dominating the list of participants based solely on biases and narratives about conference superiority.

The sixth and final automatic qualifier would be the highest ranked Group of 5 team. It is beyond time for those teams — and especially those players — to have a legitimate pathway to a national title. Now, notice that I did not say that this AQ berth would go to a Group of 5 or an independent team. I would be comfortable with including five, and probably six, of the seven FBS independents in this group, as they are the definition of a college football mid-major (Army, BYU, Liberty, New Mexico State, UConn, and Massachusetts Amherst).

But that seventh independent? Sorry, domers, you aren’t poaching a bid that you don’t really deserve, yet again, based solely on out-dated reputation and your stubborn refusal to join a conference. If Notre Dame gets into the CFP, it will have to be via an at-large berth. That’s the price of staying independent, friends.

So, with six of eight berths taken by the automatic qualifiers, ND and everyone else will have to fight for two at-large spots. However, just because a team gets into the eight-team tournament as a committee selection, as opposed to winning their way in via a conference championship, doesn’t mean that they will automatically be one of the two lowest seeds. While league titles and at-large selections will determine the participants, the rankings will determine the seeding, and the seeding will determine the home teams. Of course, currently in the CFP, home and away means little more than what jerseys you’re wearing and who calls the coin toss.

But, in my new and improved CFP, the higher seeds will host their quarterfinal matchups at their respective home stadiums. So, that means that No. 3 Ohio State could be welcoming No. 6 Florida to The Horseshoe in early December. Northern and midwestern schools have been forced to play in warm-weather, postseason environs for decades; now it’s our turns to use the weather to our advantage (muhahahaha)!

From there, the winners will proceed to the College Football Playoff semifinals and then the championship game, which will all essentially operate as they have since their debut at the end of the 2014 season.

This very popular model — which obviously did not originate with me — is ideal, because it is simple, it is clean, it is fair, and it opens up avenues of access to teams that otherwise would never have the opportunity to compete for a national title.

If my math is correct, in the seven seasons of college football that have culminated in the College Football Playoffs, there have been (7 times 4, carry the 2. Wait, what does “carry the 2” mean? Damnit where’s my calculator?) 28 berths to the CFP. Of those 28 berths, 22 of them have gone to just five blue-blood programs; Alabama (6), Clemson (6), Ohio State (4), Oklahoma (4), and Notre Dame (2).

The FBS is comprised of 127 teams, yet five schools have accounted for 79% of the opportunities to win the sport’s ultimate prize. If that’s not the definition of rigged, I don’t know what is.


Poll

Who has the right answer to today’s question:

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Jami: 16-team playoff
    (14 votes)
  • 74%
    Matt: Eight-team playoff
    (41 votes)
55 votes total Vote Now