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The Current CFP System Doesn’t do us Justice. We Need Expansion.

Four years of a four-team playoff system is enough. In a sport that claims to have five “Power” divisions, how can it present a playoff system that only represents four of them — at most? Getting rid of the BCS was supposed to take out the systematic selection of teams based only on numbers, but each playoff selection left one disappointed team (or two) waiting in the wings. The UCF Knights have literally crowned themselves national champions because they are the only undefeated team left. Instead of letting a team like that make a claim with an asterisk, expand the playoffs and let it put its money where its mouth is.

Good teams are left wondering what could have been

Last season, Western Michigan completed an undefeated regular season. As a Group of Five team, they were left out of the playoffs. As mentioned above, UCF completed a perfect 12-0 regular season before beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl to move to 13-0. The Knights too were left out.

It’s not just the “little brothers” of Division I football being could-shouldered, however. A four-team format is too elitist. So elitist, in fact, that it leaves out at least one Power Five champion every year. Baylor and TCU were left out in place of the Buckeyes in 2014. While no arguments were made against the committee’s picks in 2015, Iowa and Ohio State would’ve been included in an eight-team playoff after both teams’ only loss was by three points to No. 4 seed Michigan State. Last year, Big Ten title game champ Penn State was excluded. The list is only going to grow. Why not eight teams? It would limit some of the discussion about who was left out and who was included.

Don’t Punish the Power Conferences

Most southerners believe the SEC is the best football conference from top to bottom. As such, they claim that their teams should not be penalized for a few losses after completing a “gauntlet” of a schedule. This year, that argument has some validation, as Georgia and Alabama face off against each other in the championship bout. However, an eight-team playoff would allow that argument merit in any conference.

Take Ohio State and Penn State from last year, for example.

The Buckeyes benefited from playing a difficult schedule, too, but really benefited by having their only loss earlier in the season. As a result, they made the playoffs despite not winning the conference or the division. Conference champ Penn State got the short end of that stick even though the Nittany Lions gave Ohio State its only loss.

Introducing a larger format would help not punish teams with cases like the one above or including more teams like Alabama was in this year’s playoff. Opening up two spots for “at-large” bids could alleviate this stress. It would also have the added bonus of making teams with one loss play harder because they may still have a shot at making the playoffs despite not winning their conference or division.

So what’s the fix?

Conferences are not going to dissolve for the playoffs. At least not in the immediate future. Instead, the Power Five conference champions should receive automatic bids. Reward the teams that win the postseason prize for their conference, then add one automatic bid for the highest-ranked Group of Five team. The final two spots are left for “at-large” bids. Figure out a step-by-step way to eliminate teams until two are narrowed down as the two “best of the rest.”

I propose using the four old BCS sites (Fiesta, Rose, Orange and Sugar) as the quarterfinal sites, then using the Cotton and Peach bowls as semifinal sites while rotating the four quarterfinal sites for the championship game. Business will be booming for those bowls, as companies will want to be featured in the spotlight.

Another expansion option would be a six-team playoff format. In this case, the top two seeds would get byes, leaving No. 3 through No. 6 teams to play and set up the semifinals. Again, only Power 5 conference champions make it into the playoffs, plus the best Group of Five team. Let’s rotate the games through the old BCS bowl sites or the current New Year’s Six sites. The lowest-seeded team who wins plays the No. 1 seed and the other winner plays the No. 2 seed, just like the current NFL format.

Regardless of what format you might think is best, change is coming to the College Football Playoff. The money is too lucrative and there is already too much discussion about how flawed it currently is. Fixes need to come slowly, but fans buying in, an expanded playoff system will be welcomed with open arms.

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