Should the College Football Playoff dates get moved back?
We knew that this year would challenge every conference. Canceling games isn't easy to do, and finding ways to reschedule them can be even more difficult. Not only does it affect each team, but it affects the College Football Playoff. The postseason for this great sport has been a hot debate topic for a while now, and it seems like this year will only amplify those discussions. With the SEC now seeing games canceled, people are calling for the playoff dates to get move back. But should they? People want to give teams chances to make up those games, but I don't think they should change the dates.
I've been a supporter of expanding the playoff to more than four teams. Eight would be my ideal number, but I also understand why people want to keep it at four. Keeping at four means you most likely want to push the dates back to give teams a chance, while the other side of that is expansion. Let's take a look at both sides.
Pushing the College Football Playoff would give the committee a better chance at identifying four worthy teams. With all of these cancellations, though, how much can we push things back? At what point do we say that we can't push it back any further. We're trying to make an abnormal situation normal, which is already impossible. No one's playing 12 games this year, even if they play all of their scheduled contests. Plus, we already know that canceling games is likely every week, so what is the committee going to do if a conference championship game gets canceled?
Say that Notre Dame and Clemson are set to play in the ACC Championship, Wisconsin and Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, and Florida and Alabama in the SEC Championship. Assume Clemson and Florida remain with one loss with the others being undefeated. Say one or more of those games gets canceled due to an outbreak or contact tracing, are you really going to leave one of those teams out because they don't have a conference title? What if it's the Big Ten, where both teams would be undefeated? With the conferences protocol, they wouldn't be able to play the game for weeks. You obviously can't leave Ohio State out of the playoff, but you also don't have a reason to eliminate Wisconsin either. So why not expand?
I think Joel Klatt is a great analyst and I love watching his games with Gus Johnson, and while I disagree with his point about pushing the playoff back, I understand his point. Pushing the College Football Playoff isn't a huge issue, but you can only push it so far back before it starts affecting the next season or the players that will go on to the NFL Draft. Expansion doesn't even have to be a long term solution if you don't want it to be. The argument of playing too many games goes out the window, and picking eight teams only adds one week to the season. This year it makes sense, but I understand if you don't want it to be. It's already a unique year so why not accommodate the uniqueness instead of trying to work around it? If you're truly a college football fan, you want expansion.
When you turn on the television on Saturdays, are you watching just one game? One conference? Unless you're a die hard fan of one team, the answer is no to both of those questions. There's a reason why people are talking about Coastal Carolina this year. There's a reason Hugh Freeze is relevant. It's because college football brings a unique product to you, and you love it for the depth of joy it brings you. But then, all of a sudden, you only care about the elite teams? It doesn't make sense.
The biggest frustration I have with the playoff is that it doesn't give everyone a chance. Five of the conferences are already eliminated as long as the playoff remains at four teams. The bias towards the Power 5 keeps them out. You can agree or disagree, but it's the truth. The AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt will never make the playoff as long as it stays at four teams, and there's nothing they can do. Even going undefeated doesn't help.
When you look back on every college football season, what do you remember the most? The stories. You remember the things that tugged at your heart, the joy of a thrilling win and the heartbreak in a close loss. There are many examples of that. In 2013, we remember the Prayer at Jordan-Hare and the Kick Six more than we remember that Auburn lost the national championship.
More people remember or have referenced the 2017 UCF national championship than the actual championship game. The Knights finished that year undefeated but weren't given a chance to play for a title. They beat an Auburn team that beat Georgia earlier in the year. The same Georgia team that came up one play short of beating Alabama for the national championship. It's all about matchups. If we didn't have the playoff in 2014, Ohio State (the eventual national champion) wouldn't have even participated for the title. The same Buckeyes team that lost to a 7-6 Virginia Tech team. We remember that story. So yes, it's not always likely that the underdog will win, but not giving them a chance to do it seems criminal.
I would much rather see BYU get destroyed by Alabama (IF that happens) than watch them dominate their bowl game and finish undefeated. I want as much closure as possible. The Cougars are already a more interesting topic than the Tide this year too. How could you not want to see them compete with the best in the country? Cincinnati's defense is one of the best in the country. Yep, in the country, and they're playing some explosive offenses. You're going to tell me that the Bearcats can't compete? There's no evidence that this year's team can't play for a title. Those teams deserve just as much of a chance as anyone else.
I understand that many people won't agree with my opinion, and that's okay. To me, these Group of 5 teams deserve a chance to play for a title. I don't want to see another 2017 UCF go undefeated with a bowl game win when they deserved better. Only allowing four teams of the 130 that play college football (3%) to play for a national championship in a given year is wrong. Even the NFL is trying to adapt to the times. There are talks of expanding the NFL playoffs to 16 teams. Which is 50% of the league. So the league that's considered the best of the best is letting half of its teams compete for a championship, but the level below them won't. College football is the only sport that allows single digit teams to compete for a championship. That doesn't make sense to me.
There's always an exception to the rule, and I'll always want a chance for an upset. If you want to keep just the four teams to preserve this sense of "elite play" that the playoff allegedly brings, then go ahead. But you're missing out on what makes college football great. Just ask 2017 UCF, or 2007 Boise State, or 2014 Ohio State. Doubt tends to create some of the most exciting stories, and that's why we love college football. You're limiting the fun and creating more what-if scenarios than anything, and you're definitely not "letting everyone in" if you allow eight teams to participate.
If there's ever a year for expansion, it's this year. I want it to be a permanent change, because that's more entertaining and provides more closure (not to mention it generates more money). The "elite" crew will stick with their ways, and I understand how they think, but they really should be calling for the playoff to be reduced to two teams. That would make it more "elite" would it not? Playoff expansion is happening eventually too, so we might as well just accept that.
I'll just leave you with this: the 2017 UCF team sparked a debate that won't go away. So do you really want five non-College Football Playoff teams claiming national championships or would you rather settle things on the field? True competitors want to leave no doubt. Teams that are allegedly better should have no problem taking care of business on the field. What's the worst that could happen? An underdog pulls off an upset and we talk about it the rest of our lives? I'm cool with that.