You win, you’re in.
That’s how college basketball views conference championships, and personally, I think college football should be the same way. Watching the SEC Tournament earlier today brought my mind back to early December, when the country debated whether Alabama or Ohio State should be in the College Football Playoff. Moments before the top four teams were announced, I was on Twitter, reading arguments for why each team should be in. As I scrolled through my feed, one Tweet in particular caught my eye:
The playoff should be expanded. The Power Five conference champions should be given automatic bids, then the committee picks the next three best teams.
Let’s be real here: The College Football Playoff may be a step up from the BCS system, but it has its flaws. Nearly every year, it seems like a team which should be in gets left out. In its inaugural year, everyone thought TCU should be in. In 2016, many believed Penn State should have been in the top four in lieu of Ohio State. The Buckeyes were again the topic of debate this past December, when several questioned whether they or the Alabama Crimson Tide should be given the chance to compete for a national title. The closest to a consensus was 2015. Why? All four playoff teams were conference champions.
Nothing will be perfect. There will always be someone on the outside looking in, who believes they should be in instead. But what I don’t like about the current system is it’s essentially saying conference championships don’t matter. And they should.
Winning your conference isn’t easy. To do that, you have to go through the gauntlet, winning at home, on the road, and against rivals. To take home a conference title is an accomplishment, and I think the Committee should treat it as such. A team should be rewarded for winning their conference, not left out as they have been the last few years.
And while we’re talking about conferences, the other issue with the current system is that whole conferences have been left out on multiple occasions. The Big 12 didn’t get in in year one, and both the PAC 12 and the Big Ten watched from their living room this year. SEC fans often say they’re the best conference in college football, but they can’t realistically say that when they didn’t face the Big Ten or the PAC 12. I’m not saying all conferences are equal, but I think everyone should at least be given a shot. Then we’ll know for sure who the best conference is.
Some think the season is too long as it is and expanding the playoff would only make it longer, but what’s wrong with that? College football fans would love it, plus schools would make more money. And before you start biting my head off, yes, I understand they’re just college students. Why do we have an entire month between the end of the regular season and the playoffs? Space out the games in such a way that it’s manageable for the boys and that they have time to rest/heal from injury.
The added risk for injury would be a con to expanding the playoff, and the only defense I have for that is injury is part of the game of football. When you step on a a football field, you know there’s a chance you can get hurt, and it’s a risk you take. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t play. It’s common to see players sit out of bowl games now.
Many think the Committee got it right this year because Alabama won the natty. But can you definitively say Ohio State wouldn’t have beaten Clemson and Georgia? I can’t. To me, expanding the playoff to eight teams with conference champions receiving an automatic bid would minimize debate and only make it more likely that the true champion is crowned. It’s the closest to a perfect scenario that I can come up with. If you’ve got any better ideas, I’m all ears.
And just in case you haven’t figured it out, I think Ohio State should’ve been in.