A Defense of the College Football Playoff Format

With only seven games left before the final 2017 College Football Playoff rankings are decided the debate circling the effectiveness of the format has risen once again. With many calling for a revision to the format, with the primary adjustment being the expansion from four teams to eight, I am of the mind that the Playoff format is actually doing wonders for college football as is.

First, there is nothing at all wrong with the Playoff only seeding four teams each year. Through the first three years of the format, the lower seeds are 1-5 in the semifinals with all five of the losses coming by at least 17 points. The only lower seed to win a semifinal game was the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes, who eventually won the National Championship after defeating both #Alabama and #2 Oregon. Looking at that 1-5 record for the lower seeds, it is clear that the Playoff should not include any more teams at the moment. If the teams deemed to be #3 and #4 in the country have shown little ability to stand up to the top seeds, why would a #7 or #8 seed do any better? Of course, in sports there will always be upsets and the top seeds are not absolute locks to win every game. But realistically speaking, the four team format has produced five semifinal drubbings favoring the top two seeds. Wisconsin (#8) would have had a small chance of even scoring last year against the top ranked Alabama. Adding four additional teams to the Playoff is asking for more blowouts creating a longer wait for the best match ups.

Additionally, I enjoy the constant push to improve a four team format places on all of the Power Five conferences. With only four teams in the Playoff, at least one major conference will always be left out, which is actually quite a good thing. The consistent push to not be the conference left out has already begun to change how programs are scheduling opponents and structuring the conferences. The Big 12 Championship has been brought back almost entirely because the top teams in the Big 12 were being penalized for not playing a conference championship game, most notably TCU when the program lost the #4 spot to Ohio State in 2014. Expanding to an eight team playoff essentially guarantees each Power Five conference a spot, which reduces the pressure to produce the best teams possible along with opening the door for the aforementioned swarm of blow outs that would follow.

The four team playoff is fantastic for college football. All three of the national championships under the format have been great games, especially the last two match ups between Alabama and Clemson. The best teams are making the playoff, and the best teams are dominating it. Adding more teams simply muddies an almost perfect set up, and also caters to the Power Five conferences by all but guaranteeing the participation of each conference in the Playoff.  Demanding the best out of the top conferences and presenting the best four teams for the fans is the right move for the direction of college football.

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