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Saturday, March 2, 2024
The Observer

Everett: CFP shouldn’t change to eight-team field

As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

While there hasn’t been anything close to a nationwide push to alter the format of the College Football Playoff yet, around this time of year, there are always those who argue the Playoff should expand to eight teams, stating the prevailing system is too exclusive.

Well, quite frankly, the College Football Playoff is in a perfect place right now and shouldn’t consider changing one bit.

In order to prove this point, let’s look at the main objections that critics of the current College Football Playoff format have, and I’ll respond to them in turn.

Objection 1: There are more deserving teams than Playoff spots. Expanding the Playoff to eight teams will ensure no deserving team gets left out.

The problem with this argument is that it leads to a slippery slope in terms of deciding who is “deserving.” If anything, it widens the field of “deserving” teams and creates even more debate and controversy. Think about it. When only four teams qualify for the playoff, the margin for error is so slim that two-loss teams are all but eliminated. However, if the Playoff were expanded to eight teams, some of the teams that qualify will inevitably have two and possibly even three losses, depending on the season. Therefore, all two-loss and even a couple of three-loss teams would have to be taken into consideration as contenders for the Playoff, as well as undefeated and one-loss Group of Five and independent teams.

Instead of debating between five to 10 “deserving” teams like we are know, we would debate between 15 to 25 “deserving” teams for eight spots. There will also be controversy and teams that feel left out. Expanding the field to eight teams doesn’t erase that reality.

Objection 2: Expanding the Playoff would allow every conference champion to automatically earn its spot in the Playoff, thus eliminating some debate and allowing each conference to send a representative, while still leaving room for at-large bids and a Group of Five team or independent.

While, at first glance, this does look like a pretty attractive argument, the College Football Playoff is not about conferences; it’s about teams. It’s about giving the best teams the opportunity to win the championship, not a vehicle for each conference to get more media attention and money. If one conference has a down year and has no viable contender, would it really be fair to automatically save a playoff spot for a team that in actuality is not one of the best eight teams in the country? It wouldn’t.

Objection 3: More college playoff football is good for everybody — more revenue for the NCAA and more action for the fans.

The eight-team Playoff would likely hurt players, however, as well as the entire programs to a certain extent. Adding another high-intensity game against a top opponent would exacerbate the physical risk that players face on the football field, and therefore the quality of the product on the field would decrease due to more injured players on the sideline and increasingly exhausted players on the field. Even if the Playoff were extended into mid- or late-January to give players and coaches enough time to recover and prepare, the teams playing in the championship would be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and offseason preparation.

Overall, the four-team playoff is and will be the best solution for the foreseeable future. The eight-team playoff would dilute the importance of both the regular season and bowl season, while the four-team playoff energizes them. I understand the desire to allow more teams the opportunity to “get hot” and win a championship, but football can’t and shouldn’t turn into a March Madness-type tournament — it’s doing just fine where it’s at, so enjoy the tense, must-win excitement for the rest of the season.