In light of the most recent controversies surrounding the College Football Playoff committee’s choice of teams for this year’s playoffs, many pundits and analysts are calling for the playoffs to be expanded to eight teams as soon as possible. They say it would guarantee each of the Power Five conferences at least one representative and allow for three at-large teams, which could include a team from the Group of Five. With the current structure, at least one Power Five conference champion gets left out every year. This year, two of them were left out as Ohio State, a highly-ranked one-loss team that did even win its division, got in.
However, I don’t think the College Football Playoffs should be expanded. With just four teams, the regular season is still relevant. Even games at the beginning of the season in September are important. You won’t find this concept in any other major sport, college or pro. Each week of the season acts a mini elimination round. Generally, once a team reaches two losses, they are out of contention for the national title. Some teams are even eliminated with just one loss. Therefore, teams are motivated to win every game, even non-conference games.
Now let’s look the effect of expanding the playoffs to eight teams. Teams could lose one or even two games at the outset with little consequence. Some teams could even lose three games and remain in contention for a playoff spot. While it might make the last few weeks of the season more exciting with additional teams completing for playoff berths, the regular season as a whole would be relegated to secondary importance. There are teams that wouldn’t start getting serious about the season until mid-October at the earliest. Is that how we want to transform college football?