To hell with your College Football Playoff expansion

An expansion of the College Football Playoff seems inevitable looking at the research done by college football reporter Brett McMurphy. The Playoff contract ends after the 2025 season, and 88% of athletic directors surveyed want to see the CFP add more teams.

Like everything, this is an idea driven by money, which is fine, but it’s why so many athletic directors are in favor of this now especially with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and the uncertainty of what’s coming this fall.

112 of the 130 FBS athletic directors participated in the survey, which showed 72% of athletic directors want 8 teams in the Playoff. If the decision is to get the 8 most deserving teams into the Playoff regardless of conference exactly like we’re doing with the top 4 now, then fine, but inevitably this is going to turn into automatic bids for teams that don’t deserve it.

Sixty-six percent of surveys showed they want to see automatic bids for all 5 power conference champs, 1 spot for the highest-ranked Group of 5 team and 2 at-large bids.

Since this is the most popular idea, let’s dive into that model’s many flaws.

Get ready for load management

SEC and ACC teams play 4 non-conference games a year so if they lose 1 or 2 of those, what’s the importance of winning the others? We could definitely see a situation where teams use the remaining non-conference games as mini bye weeks to make sure everybody is as healthy as possible for conference play, the only games that matter at that point.

For the first time ever, this could lead to regular season load management for college football. You want to pay top dollar for a Clemson football game only to find out Trevor Lawrence isn’t playing? That happens in every other sport, and not having that in college football is the unique part of its regular season. Every game is must-win.

Here’s a look at the percentage chance each team has to make their sport’s postseason:

NBA: 53%
NHL: 52%
NFL: 44%
MLB: 33%
NCAA basketball: 19%
NCAA football: 3%

College football is the best season in sports right now because every game truly matters. The Playoff essentially starts week 0 with a single loss potentially ending a shot at the national title.

I continue to accept and expect mediocrity in every aspect of my life, but not in my sports. Do not reward mediocrity, college football.

Rewarding mediocrity

The continued rewarding of mediocrity knows no bounds with this model. Remember the Pac-12 title game a few years ago? In 2018, we settled for 9-3 Utah against 9-3 Washington. With 3 losses in a not-very-competitive conference, how do either of those teams belong among the sport’s top 8?

Something else to consider? Sometimes Power 5 conferences have very bad seasons and Group of 5 conferences do well. Pac-12 and Mountain West teams played each other pretty evenly the past few seasons including a 5-5 record against each other in 2019. They had the same amount of teams in the top 25 with 2, one more than the ACC did.

Debate and discussion dies

College football is built on debate. Every Tuesday night starting in November, I’m watching that College Football Playoff Top 25 reveal just like the rest of you. I like seeing where everybody stands and follow along as everybody screams at each other on Twitter.

That goes away when we start handing out automatic bids. Instead of arguing about all the potential scenarios heading into the final weekend of the season, all we care about are 2 at-large bids, which should be easy to identify before Championship Saturday.

Give me debate. Give me anger. It drives the sport.

Group of 5 do not belong

It’s fun to think of a potential Cinderella story in college football, but do we really want to guarantee the best Group of 5 team to be part of the Playoff no matter what? We have 6 years of data in the College Football Playoff era, and here are the final regular season rankings for the best G5 teams heading into college football’s Selection Sunday:

2019: #17 Memphis
2018: #8 UCF
2017: #12 UCF
2016: #15 Western Michigan
2015: #18 Houston
2014: #20 Boise State

Do any of those teams seem deserving to be in the College Football Playoff? The idea of being a Playoff team should be legitimately thinking you have a shot at a championship. Every one of these teams except 2018 UCF would’ve been the #8 seed, which likely means they play the best team in the country on the road in the quarterfinals.

Cincinnati was among the top G5 teams in 2019 and lost 63-0 to Ohio State early in the season. Get ready for that one every year during the quarterfinals if we move forward with this plan.

Worst case scenario

If we were operating under what the majority of athletic directors want at this point, which is auto bids for the Power 5 champs, a Group of 5 team and 2 at-large bids, this is the Playoff field in 2012:

#1 Notre Dame
#2 Alabama
#3 Florida
#5 Kansas State
#6 Stanford
#12 Florida State
#15 Northern Illinois
Unranked Wisconsin

Yes, an unranked Wisconsin would be in the College Football Playoff representing the Big Ten in an 8-team playoff with a record of 8-5. The Badgers would be in ahead of at least 18 teams more deserving including 11-1 Oregon.

The goal should be getting the most deserving teams in the College Football Playoff. This model does not come close to that.