In the history of the college football playoff, 18 games have been played. Only four of them did not involve Clemson or Alabama. Only six of them were not won by Clemson or Alabama, and three of those were in the first year.
Does anyone doubt we’re headed for more of the same?
Maybe the question isn’t whether we should expand the playoff, but whether we should contract it.
No. Kidding. In January of 2019, I defended playoff expansion in This Space:
Unlike dominant pro sports teams that can build around Michael Jordan or Brady/Belichick for a decade, “Bama and Clemson are doing it with a different core group every year, fed and cared for by decadently massive armies of coaches and trainers and sport scientists and quality controllers.
We’re not at the point where no five-star prospect would want to go anywhere but Clemson/Alabama, but are we getting there?
Even if we’re not quite, the geographic Sun Belt’s talent/recruiting edge seems to be growing. …
Would an eight-team playoff mitigate all this?
I’m starting to think so. ...
An eight-team field would lean toward the kind of geographic/conference diversity NCAA tournaments have in every other sport, at every level. But it wouldn’t lean so hard as to compromise the strength of the field or the integrity of the regular season.
The current setup has done an excellent job of identifying the best teams. An eight-team format would surely accomplish that while letting just a bit of fresh air in.
Seems like a good thing.’’
I’m more comfortable with that take now than then.
It could be seen as disconcerting that, in 2020, with far more variables than ever, with virtually no non-conference games, with FBS teams playing as few as five games and as many as 11, we end up with a brand-name final four of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
You could argue that Bama, Clemson and perhaps Ohio State aren’t required to play themselves into the playoff so much as avoid playing themselves out. It’s flat true that no team has ever made the playoff based on less information than the Buckeyes.
So what’s the alternative? Texas A&M? One high-level win, thanks largely to a Florida fumble that set up a last-second field goal. Alabama threw for 435 against the Aggies, and scored 52 points despite possessing the ball for just 22 minutes.
Cincinnati? An impressive season, but no elite wins. If they’d slapped Tulsa around in the AAC championship game, maybe.
Oklahoma? Probably top four based on how it’s playing right now, but with two losses, one of them (to Kansas State) ridiculous. Florida? Two losses, one of them (to LSU) ridiculous. Georgia? Two losses, no great wins. The SEC just wasn’t what it usually is, top to bottom.
Coastal Carolina? The Chanticleers’ case is better than you may think - as good as Cincinnati’s, it says here. But they’re just 21st in S&P-plus, and would be a double-figure underdog against any of the top 5-6.
Just for fun, the eight-team format usually talked about - The Power Five champs plus one Group of Five team and two committee-chosen wild cards, would yield the following quarterfinals, seeded by me: Alabama vs. Oregon, Clemson vs. Coastal Carolina/Cincinnati, Ohio State vs. Texas A&M, and Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma.
Seems like fun.
Instead, we have four very, very familiar suspects.
Hey’s it’s 2020. Aren’t we supposed to crave comfortable norms?