by Ken Reed

Ohio State’s win Monday night was the end of a very successful first year of playoffs.  Without the playoffs, Ohio State doesn’t get a chance to even compete for the national title.

However, this year shows that you need at least an eight-team playoff (I still prefer 16 but will gladly take eight to start).  TCU deserved a chance every bit as much as Ohio State.  In fact, they were ahead of Ohio State until the last rankings came out.  They were bumped out of a chance to play for the championship on the last weekend after beating Iowa State 55-3.  How fair is that?

Here’s an interesting scenario:  If Ohio State only beats Wisconsin 34-10 (still a convincing victory) in the Big Ten championship game instead of 59-0, would TCU have been in the playoffs and Ohio State out?  I think so.  And Ohio State never would’ve had a chance to play for the national title.   Strong cases could’ve also been made by Baylor, Michigan State and others.  I think almost every year you can find eight teams with a legitimate shot to win it all in a postseason playoff system.

Another reason to expand the playoffs is the pathetic bowl attendance this year.  Most bowl games had stadiums about a third full if lucky.  Nobody cares about these bowl games.  They exist because they provide programming for ESPN and games for gamblers to bet on.

The bowl system is archaic.  Can we finally move forward?  With an 8-game playoff you’ll need 7 games.  For nostalgic reasons name those 7 games after traditional bowl games (Eg Rose, Cotton, Sugar Orange Fiesta, etc)  If some minor bowls want to keep going and pick up teams left out of the playoffs — like the NIT in basketball — let them but let’s get an 8-or-16 team playoff in place asap and stop worrying about the bowls.

A 16-team playoff is the most fair, fan-friendly and player-friendly post-season option (all 10 FBS conference champions get in, along with six at-large teams).

If the beef is a 16-team format makes the season too long and/or is too many games for the players involved (despite the fact lower NCAA football divisions conduct 16-team playoffs), then drop the conference playoff games.  With a 16-team playoff you don’t need league championship games, all the top teams would be in the tourney field.

A four-team playoff is good.  Eight is better.  And 16 is best.

Thanks to Ohio State’s win as a four-seed that barely snuck in the tourney, the momentum toward a 16-team playoff in which all FBS (formerly known as Division I-A) teams get a fair shot  is picking up steam.  And that’s a good thing.

–Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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