Which of these three makes the most sense to you, considering the number of legit contenders the 2017 season has produced:
1. The actual, four-team College Football Playoff field for 2017.
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia
2. A Playoff of nothing but teams that have definitely earned spots.
This would be a round-robin between Clemson, Georgia, and Oklahoma. Let’s just do home-and-homes, with a tiebreaker wherever you want, if needed.
Everybody else can go play in bowl games. Including you, Bama.
3. An eight-team Playoff, using the committee’s rankings.
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 8 UCF (let’s say there’s a Group of 5 autobid)
No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 5 Ohio State
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 USC (say each Power 5 gets a bid)
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 Wisconsin
All five power conferences would be in, undefeated non-power UCF would be in (and ward off very fair accusations that the committee simply doesn’t care about mid-majors), we wouldn’t have to worry about whether undeserving Bama is less undeserving than undeserving Ohio State is, and the team getting snubbed would be Washington, not a team rated by advanced stats as one of the two best in the country.
Four is an arbitrary number not guaranteed to fit all seasons.
Back in 2013, after the announcement of the CFP’s formation, I went back through the BCS era and took a look at who would have made a hypothetical Playoff, breaking the field into “relatively obvious Playoff teams” and “contenders.” On average, I designated about 2.9 teams per year as “obvious” title teams.
Once you go to four, you almost have to keep going. There is no great argument for Alabama or Ohio State over USC or UCF, and if 11-1 Bama’s in here, why isn’t 12-1 Wisconsin? Bam. That’s eight teams.
Should we expand the Playoff?
I dunno. We’ve already run into the issue of whether this is just too long a season for amateur athletes, but if there’s a way to make this all work for the players — say, by increasing their compensation and care in order to accommodate for the extra work — then sure. Just don’t make it too much bigger than six teams, or you risk robbing the regular season of tightrope-walking panic.
Everybody has their own perfect Playoff plan. Mine’s always been six.
It’d go like this:
No. 1 Clemson gets a bye and faces the winner of:
No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 5 USC
No. 2 Oklahoma gets a bye and faces the winner of:
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 UCF (non-power autobid)
We’d only end up adding two games to the season, actually reward the top seeds, and actually give all 130 teams in FBS plausible paths to national titles. Oh, and the stipulation: set aside a large cut of the revenue for a direct-to-athletes fund.
Will we expand the Playoff?
They’ve been talking about doing that since a month before it began. It’ll expand as soon as ESPN and the FBS conferences agree it should expand. So the answer is yes.