Here’s a foolproof plan for expansion to eight teams in the College Football Playoff

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The College Football Playoff format has been a smashing hit since its inception for the 2014 season. When it comes to dissecting and nonstop debate about who are the four most worthy teams, the committee hit a home run.

On Sunday, the playoff semifinals for the 2017 college football season, along with entire lineup of 40 bowl games, were announced and the selection committee made a statement, albeit implied, in the process by selection two teams from one conference (SEC) to be a part of the final four.

We’re now four full years deep into this project and one question is seemingly always raised during football season – Will the Playoff expand?

College Football Playoff

Well if and when it happens, I’m here to give you the foolproof plan for an 8-team College Football Playoff and scheduling for the entire bowl season of college football.

Let’s be honest, the reason the Playoff was created in the first place because football sees how successful basketball does having a do-or-die bracket-style tournament laid out by a committee of human individuals, not just a bunch of computers spitting out numbers. The human element presents the opportunity for more debate and conversation, thus a spike in ratings and the product is always at a high level. So football had to ask themselves, “Why not have the best type of system for collegiate sports implemented into seemingly the most-watched sport in America?”

Hell, the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) rolls out a 24-team bracket for their postseason. Why can’t the “big boys” do the same?

[Check out our March Madness theme for bowl season in college football]

They’re already so close to having the ideal plan, they just need to fine-tune it and make it better. That’s why I’m on the “increase it to eight teams” bandwagon. So let’s go over some of the basics of what an 8-team playoff and bowl season would look like. (NOTE: Dates represent this year’s calendar for this exercise)

  • Bowl season would run from Dec. 11 – Jan. 1
  • All seven games of the 8-team Playoff would be played on the following dates: 12/16 (Quarterfinals), 12/23 (Semifinals), 1/2 (Championship)
  • Sites of Playoff games are based on the seven most prominent/established bowl games in the country, with an annual cycle of sites per round. (New Year’s Six plus Nat’l Champ. Game site)
  • Remaining bowl games dispersed through that three-week period during the week (Mon-Fri)

College Football Playoff - Via LinkedInCollege basketball makes big bucks on their ‘March Madness’ shtick. College football can trademark ‘Bowl Bedlam’ or something just as corny and use it as their own for this time of the year. And consider all of the bowl games throughout the week as the ‘appetizers’ for the Playoff games on the weekends.

Now how does a team make the Playoff? Here are some etched-in-stone criteria to get things started:

  1. POWER 5 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS – IN | Conference championship games don’t have nearly the full value as they should. Like in basketball, if you’re one of 32 Division 1 conference champions at season’s end, you’ve earned a spot in the tournament. Football is obviously on a smaller scale with regards to the number of FBS programs. The problem they currently have is that they have more major conferences than they do playoff spots. Every year, we’re going to have one, maybe two, conferences left out entirely. We cannot have that. Hell, we have two conference champions in Ohio State and USC left out entirely this season and it just doesn’t seem right. If you win your league, you deserve to be rewarded for it and deserve a shot at bigger and better things.
  2. HIGHEST-RANKED GROUP OF 5 CONFERENCE CHAMPION – IN | This allows for the ‘David vs. Goliath’ storyline. Let’s go back to basketball. A program like Butler set the bar a while back when they made consecutive Final Fours in 2010 and ’11, a representative of the Horizon League, a widely-perceived weak mid-major conference. Since then, more and more mid-major programs have emerged as serious players in basketball, so much so that the term ‘mid-major’ is insulting to them now. But what it is mostly about is giving the ‘little guy’ a chance. Football has had teams in the past on a smaller scale be put on the big stage and done extremely well. Boise State is the poster child of that. Now, we seemingly have more teams every year from the Group of 5 creep into the Top-25 polls and earn respect. So why not give Cinderella a chance to see if the glass slipper fits? After all, the ‘Group of 5’ is already 2-1 in the previous three New Year’s Six slate.
  3. TWO AT-LARGE BIDS – IN | Here’s where the debate would be focused on, in an 8-team field, the “best” teams versus the “most deserving” teams. Conference champions effectively answer both but still leave enough room for the two remaining spots, versus having this argument for 4-6 spots like we do now. Let’s go back to 2016. In an expanded 8-team field, Michigan is probably getting in as an at-large because of their overall body of work put together through the course of the season. But no division or conference title ultimately hampered the Wolverines in this format. The same cannot be said for Ohio State in 2016 and Alabama this season. Like Michigan, they both lacked hardware of any kind, yet they make the field and were dubbed as one of the four “best” teams. It’s not a problem that they’re in with this current system, but that they are robbing teams who arguably earned a playoff spot more.

Got all that? ‘Power 5’ conference champions IN. Best ‘Group of 5’ conference champion IN. Two ‘best of the rest’ IN. There are your eight teams. Now how would that look with the final CFP rankings in 2017?

  • ACC Champion: Clemson
  • Big Ten Champion: Ohio State
  • Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
  • Pac-12 Champion: USC
  • SEC Champion: Georgia
  • Group of 5 Champion: Central Florida
  • At-Large Bids: Alabama & Wisconsin (next highest-ranked, non-champion teams)

Now let’s look at how potential match-ups would have looked if it were an 8-team field. For this exercise, we’ll use the current New Year’s Six format for this year, plus preserve as much of the rankings (at the time) as possible, and give hypothetical dates based on our model.

  • December 16, Quarterfinals
    • Peach Bowl – (1) Clemson vs. (8) Central Florida
    • Cotton Bowl – (2) Oklahoma vs. (7) USC
    • Orange Bowl – (3) Georgia vs. (6) Wisconsin
    • Fiesta Bowl – (4) Alabama vs. (5) Ohio State
  • December 23, Semifinals
    • Rose Bowl – Orange Bowl Winner vs. Cotton Bowl Winner
    • Sugar Bowl – Fiesta Bowl Winner vs. Peach Bowl Winner
  • January 2, National Championship
    • Rose Bowl Winner vs. Sugar Bowl Winner

Well there you have it, your foolproof plan for an 8-team College Football Playoff with more concrete criteria as well as far more and equal representation from the ‘Power 5’ and ‘Group of 5’.

One writer over at Yahoo! recently broke down his plan for an 8-team playoff, which features some tweaks in terms of the aesthetics of such an operation. But by and large, the integrity and overall message of proposing expansion is virtually aligned with our proposal. I urge you to click over to his story and digest what he is bringing to the table.

Now come on people, let’s use our logic and make this happen.