Everyone finally rejoiced when College Football abandoned the BCS system and moved to a four team playoff this past season. However, it still resulted in legitimate complaints from both TCU and Baylor, who were snubbed of a spot in the playoff and instead had to “settle” for BCS Bowl Games. TCU then steamrolled Ole Miss while Baylor was stunned by Michigan State and their furious comeback.. Both coaches were furious and, they had every right to be. So, what should the NCAA do about further improving this system, if they can do anything at all. In this article I will propose two propositions and then explain why I think one is better than the other.
Proposition 1: Expand to 6 teams, give the top 2 teams a bye
This is the system the NFL currently uses and it provides an incentive to perform at your highest, but also allows for two additional teams to make the field. While these two teams would have to play an extra game to win the championship, they at least get the chance to prove themselves worthy. However, one negative to this system is that now for a team like Ohio State (who was the 4 seed), they would now have to win an additional game to win the championship, while this years 1 seed and their first round opponent, Alabama, would have an extra week to rest, recover, and prepare. However, this system would seem to be more fair as on any given year, there seems to be a legit top 5 or top 6 that is pretty comparable. The first round games could be played at the home site of the 3 and 4 seed, to give them an advantage over the “Wild Card” teams and then they could continue to play the final four and championship game at former BCS Bowl game sites. Last year, we would have a first round matchup between #3 Florida State and #6 TCU in Tallahassee and a matchup in Columbus between #4 Ohio State and #5 Baylor. In my system, we would then proceed as the NFL does, with the lowest seeded team remaining going to play the 1 seed and the higher seeded team playing the two seed. So if TCU and Ohio State won, TCU would play Alabama while Ohio State would play Oregon.
Proposition 2: Expand to 8 teams, in a traditional format
This is the other proposition I have heard thrown around, with the first round matchups being at the lower seeded teams home field and then the final four and championship being at the site of BCS Bowl Games. This year, the #7 seed would have been Mississippi State and the #8 seed would have been Michigan State. Mississippi State lost in its BCS Bowl Game to Georgia Tech while Michigan State lost in a classic game to #5 Baylor, suggesting that perhaps the playoff does not have to go to eight teams. However, the 8 team format would force any champion to win three games to win the title, however, it would not provide a true incentive to earn the #1 or #2 seed in the field like the NFL Style playoff would. The issue with this system is that I believe it would lead to less competitive first round matchups as the disparity between Alabama and Oregon compared to Mississippi State and Michigan State is quite large. One positive to this system is that it would allow for automatic bids to the Conference Champions of the Power 5 conferences, followed by three at larges.
My Choice: 6 Team field, NFL Style, with 2 first round byes
I believe the College Football Playoff should ultimately mirror the NFL Playoff with a 6 team system giving the #1 and #2 seeds the advantage of a first round bye, while still providing incentive to earn the 3/4 seeds, as they would be playing a home game in the “Wild Card Round”. How to give out those seeds would be an interesting dilemma. Some have said that their should be five automatic bids and one at large but I do not think this is the proper system. Instead, I believe we should continue with the College Football Playoff Ranking system, and simply take the top 6 teams. One change I would make to the system, however, is that this poll will only be published the final two weeks of the season (once after the regular season ends and once after the conference championship games) as I believe that many of the issues with who was selected last year was due to a lot of flip flopping in the polls during the season. This system would result in two electric home games for the higher seeded teams, while also providing the possibility of TCU or Baylor advancing in the tournament, and therefore, they would not have a legitimate gripe. While the system is not perfect, and in reality, no system is perfect, it is a far better system than the current four team playoff and it would allow for teams that earned spots to be included in the field.