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MWCConnection Roundtable: Thoughts on Playoff Expansion?

Mountain West Football Championship - Boise State v San Jose State Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The big news last week was the confirmation that the College Football Playoff would be expanding to 12 teams, with automatic births going to the conference champions from the top 6 conferences. This means the Group of 5 will have at least one team in the playoffs each year, with the possibility of more depending on how things shape up. This week’s question is simple: what are your thoughts on the announcement?

Alex: I am very excited that the College Football Playoff is expanding. Initially, I thought that we would be going to eight teams, and that would be a perfect number. But, after seeing 12 teams pop up and looking at how that would be set up, I believe that 12 is the right number. The fact that at least one Group of 5 team will get a berth is great because now we will get to see if Cincinnati, Boise State, or Coastal Carolina can truly play with the best in the country. I also like that the top four teams will get byes, so they have an advantage and do not have to play an extra game. However, they should play their opening game at their home stadiums instead of bowl sites. The semifinals and national championship game should be the only games at neutral sites, fans already spend so much money to go see their teams, fans of teams in the top four should be able to play at least one playoff game at home.

I also like that this will allow more of the country to feel represented in the College Football Playoff. Living on the west coast, many people here do not care about college football as much in the playoffs because there are a lot of east coast teams or teams from the south. So, now that more teams from across the country will get in, there will be more interest nationally. With the top six highest ranked conference champions getting berths, it will place a lot of focus on those games and getting into the conference championship. The regular season will not lose its value because the champions and the remaining six highest ranked teams will get berths. We can go at each other’s throats over how many teams should be in the playoffs or who should get automatic berths, but at the end of the day, Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson will probably be the top three teams fighting for the championship, let’s enjoy possibly seeing Boise State in the playoff and maybe pulling an upset.

NittanyFalcon: I definitely like this scheme for the CFP … given that the conference alignments remain close to where they are now. I can see that the Power 5 schools might not be real enthusiastic about giving up their grip on the national title, and what’s to keep them from realigning and making a Power 6? This idea is probably a little far-fetched, but money and prestige are powerful motivators. It also seems that conferences might want to eliminate divisions to ensure that the two top teams in the conference get to play each other for the championship, and that could result in smaller leagues and balanced schedules. The Big 12 is set up nicely for this situation with just 10 teams and no divisions. Expansion talks for that league may disappear, although I could foresee a conference having 11 teams with nine in-conference games and three OOC games.

In any case, I’ll be enjoying this format while it lasts, I think it will broaden my interest in conferences other than the MWC.

Graham_Gibson: I don’t mind the playoff as it is right now, but maybe that’s just because I love bowl season. I truly believe that the committee has done a pretty decent job of getting their four playoff teams correct. The system is far from perfect, however, because outside of the top four the rankings don’t make as much sense. It just doesn’t seem right that a four-loss power five team gets an opportunity to play in a New Year’s Six game and the one-loss group of five team doesn’t. Take the 2019 Boise State team as a great example. That team beat Florida State in Tallahassee and went undefeated in conference play. However, a three point loss to a BYU team that beat ranked teams that season is what kept Boise State out of the New Year’s Six. Expanding the playoffs will almost certainly give the group of five teams more of a chance to get into the playoff but that is far from guaranteed. It could just turn out that the two loss power five teams still have better chances than the undefeated group of five team. There is another glaring problem with this system. If 12 teams play in the playoff, that takes up the entire New Year’s Six slate. Traditions such as the Pac-12 Big 10 battle in the Rose Bowl won’t feel the same. Other group of five teams just on the outside looking in are going to be snubbed. Bowl games outside of the playoff are going to become even more meaningless. Part of the fun of college football is the passion of the game, even in bowl season.

A 12 team playoff means that teams can afford to lose one or two games and that means some of the passion of the sport is going to be lost. I’m not totally against a 12 team playoff, obviously the more teams represented the better. There could definitely be more support for group of five conferences with a 12 team playoff. I’m just making the point that the current committee needs to figure out the rankings and consider the teams outside of the top four such as the UCFs, Boise States, and Cincinnatis before they move on to a more ambitious playoff. Otherwise this is just going to turn into another story of the group of five and others being underrepresented.

Mike: Ran out of time this week. Look for my thoughts Wednesday in the Peak Perspective column.