Playoff Format Should Include Eight Teams
By Jacob Shoor
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For the playoff to work nationally, it must represent the entire country.
Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins hates the 4-team playoff - apparently any form of a four-team playoff. Her conclusion: "What they are proposing is just a blueprint for another sewer line."
She sees the Big Ten position, which is the Pac-12 position (or as I call it, the position of the Rose Bowl Axis), as rewarding the "four most popular leagues."
She rightly realizes that the SEC position - to take the four top rated teams regardless of conference affiliation or region - is no better than what the Big Ten wants. She nails the SEC and its desires: "SEC schools, who have won the past six national championships, have zero motivation to create a seat at the table for anyone else. You can bet that any ranking system they participate in would reward the SEC teams disproportionately for their strength."
Her conclusion is what I have said all along: the playoff, if it is to be seen as valid and not lead to endless new wars, must have eight teams.
Jenkins does not make a case for how those eight teams should be selected. Perhaps her reticence has to do with the fact that her instincts seem to be about wanting to level the big guys to make everything equal and her common sense tells her that, while average folks keep allowing increasing socialism to pervert their political, economic, and pedagogical worlds, they will fight to the death to keep socialism out of sports as much as they can.
For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
At this moment in time, there are three main camps regarding how the four teams should get into the playoff. Jim Delaney as head of the Rose Bowl Axis wants four conference champs and wants the Rose Bowl honored as much as possible within the playoff system. That sounds like he and Pac honcho Larry Scott want a Plus-one model, with the Rose Bowl champ guaranteed a spot in the National Championship Game.
SEC pooh-bah Mike Slive and his new best buddy Texas AD (and actual Big 12 power broker) DeLoss Dodds want the four top rated teams in the playoff. As noted by Jenkins, Slive envisions playoffs with three or four SEC teams. Dodds salaciously envisions the Big 12 becoming the most top heavy Big 2 conference in history, thus paving the way for both Texas and Oklahoma to be part of the playoff in many years, and one of them with almost a guaranteed slot.
ACC commissioner John Swofford seems to prefer a four-team playoff that features at least three conference champions and one slot that could be filled by an independent or a second team from a conference.
None of those plans will last long if implemented because the opposition will be swift and fierce. None of them will make the college football postseason better than it has been with the BCS.
For the playoff to work nationally, it must represent the entire country. The recent defections from the Big East mean there are five major conferences. Between them, they represent every region of the country, from New England and New York across the midwest and down to Florida and Texas and across the Rockies to the Pacific. An eight team playoff should begin with the champs of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC.
That means there will be three at-large teams each year making the playoff. Those teams could be second teams from one of the automatic qualifier conferences, champs of one of the other leagues, or independents.
The Major conferences are represented, which means every region in the country is represented. None are shut out in any year. And then at-large invitations allow for strong teams who did not win Major conferences to be rewarded.
That is as inclusive as we can hope and not have the playoff watered down, and it will take only one more week of play than the much more problematic four team playoff.
Yes, we still would have to figure out how to distribute the revenue and how to select the committee that would select the at-large teams and seed the participants. We would still have to decide how we should best incorporate the classic bowls, like the Rose and Sugar and Orange and Cotton, and whether any games should be played on campus. But persuading college presidents to approve an eight team playoff lasting three weeks should be the primary focus.