FORT WORTH, TX – When the College Football Playoff was introduced in 2014, many believed the issues of the BCS were officially in the rear-view mirror. The playoff consists of four teams, each selected and seeded between first and fourth by the College Football Playoff committee, who form a bracket with the top seed facing off against the fourth seed, and the two seed playing against the three seed.
In the BCS system, only two teams were selected to play in the BCS National Championship, typically the two teams at the top of the rankings at that point in the season. The first playoff proved the BCS system was flawed with the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes beating both No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon to win the 2014 National Championship.
While many college football analysts believed that the committee was incorrect by leaving the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs out of the playoff (who later beat No. 9 Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl sending a message to the committee) no one could make any substantial arguments against the teams selected because each won their conference championship, where the Horned Frogs finished the Big 12 regular season tied for the conference title with No. 5 Baylor. With no true championship, what the committee claims is the true prerequisite for playoff participation, the two Big 12 teams should not have been included.
The 2015 playoff was similar, no arguments could be made because each team that participated, No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Michigan State, and No. 4 Oklahoma, each won their conference championship and were without a doubt the four best teams in the country.
The most recent playoff, however, was full of controversy. Many believed that Ohio State, the No. 3 team in the 2016 playoff that finished the regular season 11-1, was one of the best in the country. The major issue was that they did not win their conference championship, or even play in the game. Ohio State's one loss during the regular season was to Penn State, the team that won the Big 10 Championship and finished the regular season 11-2 with losses against Michigan, which was not a bad loss, and Pittsburgh, which many consider a bad loss. A departure from the BCS system was believed to simultaneously be a departure from arguments like this, one that shouldn't have even been an argument in the first place. The committee has prided itself on the conference championship prerequisite, but to completely ignore Penn State's championship exposes the flaws of the four team system, too.
The 2016 season is a prime example of why I believe the College Football Playoff should expand to eight teams. The playoff would consist of the champion from each Power 5 conference (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, and the Pac 12), and three at-large bids. Each team that wins their conference should be included in the playoff, in addition to teams like Ohio State who didn't win their conference but are still one of the best teams in the country. With an expansion to eight teams, what viewers love from March Madness will take effect- Cinderella stories will emerge. Teams like Western Michigan, (or hot teams that faltered in the beginning of the season but got their act back together towards the end, like USC and Oklahoma), could prove their worth on the biggest stage in the country. There's no question about viewers, as more football games will most likely lead to more viewers, so the only thing that the NCAA would have to worry about is the health of the players.
The beauty of the College Football Playoff for the teams is that one slip-up does not determine your fate. In the BCS system, the 2014 Buckeyes would not have been included, and Clemson's loss in 2016 to Pittsburgh could have ended their season, as well. Games aren't as important (don't interpret this incorrectly, they are still very important) as they once were under the BCS system, non-conference especially, because a conference championship can still vault you into the playoff.
Players, coaches and executives are against the expansion to eight teams, however. Ben Boulware, Clemson's defensive MVP in their 2016 title run, made a very important point about adding one more game to the season. "“If we had to do another game after this? God, no, I’d literally die.” Bill Hancock, the executive director of the CFP, argued that an eight team playoff would take the drama out of many late season games, especially last season's rivalry game between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan. Both teams would have been in the playoff undoubtedly, losing its importance.
While many believe that the four team limit is perfect, eight would give all teams deserving of a shot at the playoffs a chance to prove themselves. Also, who wouldn't want one more week of college football?