Herz: 2017 is evidence that College Football Playoff needs to expand

Eddie Herz

The pickings are extremely slim for the four-team College Football Playoff, but who said they need to be?

The result of the 2017 regular season exploited the highly-questionable exclusivity of the CFP format implemented in 2014.

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Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the four teams who were invited to the 2017 CFP are very deserving. Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama each lost only one game this season and combined to go 16-2 against ranked opponents.

However, there were a handful of teams left out of the CFP that proved they were worthy of making the field of four by performing at an extremely elite level all season.

Though there are at least five teams that could make a very powerful case, Ohio State and Auburn provide the best examples as to why the CFP playoff field should be extended to at least six teams, if not eight.

The No. 5 Buckeyes finished the regular season 11-2 after defeating No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. Ohio State fell just short of making the CFP and will instead play No. 8 USC in the Cotton Bowl.

In addition to beating the Badgers, the Buckeyes picked up key victories over then-No. 2 Penn State and then-No. 12 Michigan State. OSU made a statement against the Spartans, dominating MSU 48-3 in a game that seemed over before it even began.

Though Ohio State lost to Oklahoma early in the season, who received the second seed in the CFP, its performance against the Sooners proved it can compete with the best. OSU lost the game 31-16 but led Oklahoma 13-10 nearly halfway into the third quarter.

The Buckeyes’ high-powered offense and stingy defense matches up well with each of the four teams in the CFP, making Ohio State absolutely worthy of receiving an invitation to the playoff. 

Even though No. 7 Auburn lost three games this season, an even better case can be made for the Tigers. Though Auburn destroyed a talented No. 24 Mississippi State team 49-10 early in the season, that wasn’t even close to their most significant victory.

The Tigers beat the top-ranked team in the country twice this season in the span of three weeks. First, Auburn knocked off No. 1 Georgia at home. The Tigers didn’t just beat the Bulldogs, who ended up earning a third seed in the CFP, they demolished them by a final score of 40-17. Then, Auburn went on to defeat Alabama 26-14 two weeks later.

Auburn beat half of the teams in the CFP, yet was left out. If it were a six- or eight-team bracket, that definitely wouldn’t be the case. Sure, playing No. 12 UCF in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl carries some value. But, given the circumstances, defeating UCF would be nothing more than a consolation prize for Auburn.

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It is in the best interest of both fans and teams to extend the CFP bracket. After all, the current setup is pretty boring. Once you get passed the playoffs and other New Year’s Six bowls, no one really cares about the majority of the remaining 30+ bowl games. If you can tell me why I should be excited for the AutoNation Cure Bowl featuring 6-6 Western Kentucky and 6-5 Georgia State, I’d love to hear it. I’m sure the players on either team couldn’t come up with a valid reason either, because they probably don’t really care.

Extending the CFP field to either six or eight teams would result in more meaningful, intriguing games, something that no one should be opposed to. Of course, it wouldn’t eliminate the bundle of meaningless bowl games, but at least it would add a few more relevant games.

If you are questioning whether or not the players on the teams invited to the CFP could handle the amount of games in an extended playoff format, just look at the Football Championship Subdivision. The FCS uses a 24-team playoff bracket to determine its champion.

Lower divisions of college football invite even more teams into the playoffs. Division II football uses a 28-team bracket and Division III invites 32 teams to its annual playoffs.

If these football players can handle the grueling nature of a large playoff bracket, it’s safe to say FBS football players can survive an extra game.

Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.