After five years of experimentation with the College Football Playoff format, could we be in for a change? The current format, which has four teams play in two-rounds, was a welcome change from the BCS Championship. That method had two teams selected by an algorithm face in a one-game final. However, even if the four-team playoff is better than the BCS, many want to expand the playoff to eight teams. Stanford head coach David Shaw sees this change coming any time now.
The current method for the College Football Playoff
The two semifinal games in the current College Football Playoff may seem sparse, but starting that small was important on the heels of the BCS. Now, with a half-decade to work off of, expanding on the current playoff system makes more sense than it would have right away. This system has a 13 member selection committee select the four teams by going over everything from their schedule strength, to their head-to-head results, and their performance against weaker opponents.
With something as vast as college football, there is, unfortunately, no objective means to choose who makes the playoffs. There will always be controversy about who deserves to be in the playoffs and who doesn’t, but by adding more teams, it allows more teams with a stake in the argument to have a chance.
David Shaw’s prediction
There is no doubt in David Shaw’s mind that things are going to change, and they are going to change soon. Shaw acknowledged the need to start small when the college playoffs started, but he sees now as the time to grow it even further.
“There is no way we stay at four teams,” Shaw told NBC Sports. “From the day it was announced, I said that’s awesome, that’s good, and that’s what we need… until we get to eight.”
Eight does seem like a more natural number to have for a playoff, as even locking down four teams is minuscule in the scope of college football. Shaw went on to cite the NCAA basketball tournament.
“All I’m saying is that I’ve been around long enough to know that it’s going to happen,” Shaw said. “If we can go from 64 to 65 to 68 (in the NCAA basketball tournament), we can go from four to eight. Don’t talk about time, we can make it work.”
Shaw has experience at the college and pro levels, so he knows a thing or two about playoffs due to his NFL experience.
The argument against expanding the playoffs
Some people like having a smaller playoff field. One solid argument against expanding the field is the added strain and increased odds of injury that it may put on the unpaid college athletes with an extra game. Other arguments include lessened importance to every single game, where the slim margin of error can lead to a more exciting regular season. Others believe that it will only favor the sweetheart schools who people like because of the name.
One of the biggest arguments is that the College Football Playoff will probably keep expanding if they set a precedent. Eight becomes sixteen, sixteen becomes 32, and 32 becomes 64. They believe that adding this much competition is bad for players and cheapens the championship. However, more competition, be it eight or more, gives more teams a shot to win, and more to play for even if they aren’t a top-four team.
What next for the College Football Playoff?
The bowl system means that filling another pair of playoff slots wouldn’t be too hard. There are six bowl games — two semifinals and four other premier bowls. All that they would need to do in expansion, theoretically, is add a pair of playoff games and use only two additional bowls (if the NCAA didn’t add bowl games outright). The current system is in place until 2025, but it could change at any time if an agreement is made.