If we’ve learned anything from this incredibly predictable college football season, it’s that the playoff needs to be expanded from four teams to, well, more than four.
After an incomplete Hail Mary cemented Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, Bulldog quarterback Jake Fromm and his teammates jogged back to the locker room with their heads hung and their hearts heavy, as they knew this loss would bring an end to their unfulfilling season.
Whether the Bulldogs believed their elimination was fair, however, is a different story.
“Give that coach across the sideline a vote who he doesn’t want to play,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart of Alabama’s Nick Saban. “He’ll start with us. I promise you — he don’t want to play us.”
In all honesty, coach Smart was probably right. In its remarkable undefeated season, Alabama easily rolled just about every opponent it faced — every opponent except for the Bulldogs, that is. The Crimson Tide’s 35-28 win over the Dawgs featured by far their narrowest margin of victory this season, as its next-closest competition came in a good ol’ 45-23 Southern beatdown against Texas A&M.
The four participants in the College Football Playoff are selected and seeded by a 13-member committee with a proven history of experience in college football. The top-three spots in this year’s playoff are hardly disputable, as Bama, Clemson and Notre Dame each capped off their seasons with perfect records. When we get to the No. 4 spot and below, however, it gets a little messier.
After Georgia picked up its second loss of the year against the Tide last weekend, the committee decided that 12-1 Oklahoma will step in and claim the final spot in this year’s tournament. Though the Sooners and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyler Murray have claimed some thrilling victories this year, it’s hardly certain that a team with the 124th-ranked defense in college football is most deserving of the nation’s No. 4 seed.
Sitting just below Oklahoma in the fifth and sixth spots are 11-2 Georgia and 12-1 Ohio State, the latter of which lost just one game in a shocker against conference rival Purdue. And all the way down in the No. 8 spot resides undefeated Central Florida.
Many believe UCF’s weak schedule disqualifies the team from any talk of playoff contention, but after two consecutive perfect seasons and last year’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl victory over No. 7 Auburn, the Knights at least deserve a shot to prove themselves against the nation’s best.
Rather than arguing which teams are worthy of playoff berths and which ones are not, there is a far simpler solution that would satisfy those on all sides of the debate: Expand the playoff.
The purpose of any playoff is to ensure that the top teams in the league have the opportunity to contend for the title and potentially reign as champions. The College Football Playoff simply does not fulfill this purpose.
It isn’t fair that a team can be barred from playoff contention as a result of one bad game, and it’s ludicrous that a team can be denied the opportunity to compete without losing a single game. By expanding the playoff, college football will see a more accurate portrayal of its finest competitors fighting for a national championship and all of the glory that comes with it.
Extending the tournament to a greater number of contestants, be it six, eight or 12, would prove beneficial for all parties involved. The fans would benefit from the pleasure of seeing more meaningful, high-quality games. The NCAA would benefit from skyrocketing revenues brought about by an extended season. And most importantly, the players themselves would benefit from the opportunity to prove themselves and etch their names into the long line of college football royalty.
Joey Patton covers men’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].