Edmonds: The college bowl season has been around for over 100 years now. At this point, Christmas season and college bowl season have become effectively synonymous. And this season’s most important job remains the same: determine the national champion, the best college football team in America for the year.
In the past, the top two ranked teams tended to play against each other in a bowl game, and the winner would decide the national champion. That did not always work out, though. During some years, the top two ranked teams did not play in the same bowl game, instead facing different opponents. In this case, the different polls did not always agree on which team deserved to be named national champions. Nine different split championships were awarded as a result of this disagreement.
In the early 2000s, the idea started to be discussed of having a set bowl game be the national championship game. The No. 1 team and No. 2 team would face off in this game, and there would be no confusion as to who won the championship that year. The BCS National Championship came into existence in 2007 for this purpose.
After nearly a decade of this system, the College Football Playoff was designed, and is the current system used to determine the best team in college football. The top four teams in the country are seeded 1-4 and placed into a bracket, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed in one semifinal, and the No. 2 seed playing the No. 3 seed in the other semifinal.
The playoff system has been used for three seasons now, and already people are discussing expanding it. At this point, I’m ready to stop changing. The current system is good as it is.
Currently at 4 teams, the most reasonable expansion options would be an increase to 6, 8, or 16 teams. 8 and 16 team playoffs would make an even bracket while the 6 team would make use of byes.
A big fan of tradition, I was hesitant when the move to the playoff was announced. However, it has seemed to produce fine results this far. But, if further expansion were to happen, it would break farther from tradition.
Not only that, but expansion would also decrease the value of the regular season. Each season, every team plays 12 or 13 games, depending on their conference schedule and whether or not they have a conference championship game. Based on last season’s results, at least one team with more than two losses during the season would be in the playoff to win the national championship in an expanded bracket.
That means a team that lost 25% of their games could be considered the best in the country. In a conference with three or four teams that stand above the rest of the conference, that would allow each of them a good chance into the playoff. The teams are afforded too many regular season losses.
Another point to consider is the quality of play in the playoff. Through the first three playoffs, only once has the No. 1 or No. 2 seed lost in the semifinal, when No. 4 seed Ohio State won the national championship in 2015. In those games where the top two seeds won, they were not closely contested games. Adding those teams that lost three or more games in the regular season would not bring better competition into the playoff, and we would see more blowout games in the path to the finals.
In conclusion, the College Football Playoff is a good system for determining the best team in college football, and expanding it would allow teams a chance that don’t truly deserve to be there. The CFP has optimized the quality of play in the postseason and effectively allows the best team to prove itself.
Guglielmetti: Incorrect sports opinions are to Joe as apple pie is to America. This week, my man thought he would take a stab at being wrong about the potential expansion of the college football playoff system. As far as I’m concerned it’s a shame that it hasn’t already been expanded up to a 16-team affair. Here’s why.
Two years ago, the University of Tulsa football team finished with a 6-6 record in the regular season. They had one of the better offenses in the country but a spectacularly porous defense to go alongside it, routinely allowing 45+ points and never once giving up less than 30 (a game against East Carolina that they lost anyway). Along the way, they were spanked by Houston, Memphis, and Navy — all at home — and had exactly one impressive win on the season, a thriller over SMU on their home turf. All in all, 2015 had the makings of a very average season for the Golden Hurricane, certainly a positive step in the rebuilding process but by no means the finished product of some smashing success story. Oh and I forgot to mention, they made a bowl game that year.
Why do I bring this up? It’s to remind you all of one of the dirty little secrets about college football, and really college sports in general: tradition is a sham. I know, I know, tradition is supposed to be one of those things that separates the amateurs from the pros, with those deep-cutting rivalries that go back generations and transcend individuals. But at this point, it’s honestly a strawman used to prop up college athletics against the superior pro game (see our heated debate last year on the merits of NCAA basketball vs. the NBA).
Perhaps the proudest tradition in college football is the existence of bowl games as the end-of-season showcase for the best teams in the country. Bowls are an integral part of the America’s sporting culture, producing some of its most legendary moments. But in 2017? They don’t mean anything anymore!
The fact that TU could have made a bowl game in a season where they finished at .500 is indicative of just how watered down the current system has become. Traditionally there were only a few bowl games that would be played around New Year’s, iconic contests like the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. Because there were only so many spots available, it was a near-guarantee that matchups would feature some of the best teams in the country. Now, after the NCAA realized that it could make more money by having more games, we are inundated with 40 bowls per year starting in December. So much for a meaningful tradition.
Next I’ll ask you what the most exciting sporting event in the country is. It has to be March Madness right? Even if you’re not a big basketball guy, or an NBA fan like myself, it’s impossible not to get sucked into the spectacle of it all. So with that in mind and understanding that “bowl tradition” has already gone by the wayside, why oh why should we not want to bring that same sort of fun to college football? Set up a tournament to decide once and for all who the top team in the nation is!
If that argument sounds familiar, it’s because it was the same one that was already used to justify the explanation for creating the current playoff system, which consists of the best four teams as decided by a special selection committee. Since 2014, the semifinals for the playoff have rotated between two of the New Year’s Six bowl games, further delegitimizing them as independent entities. Why should you even care about winning the Rose Bowl if it’s just a stepping stone to a more important victory in the national championship game?
Obviously college football would never be able to handle a 64 team tournament like March Madness. Only one football game can be played a week and there simply isn’t enough time on the calendar to fit that many games in there. But with a little schedule manipulation, a 16 team setup could definitely work. Do-or-die matchups in sports always create the most tension and thrills, the kind of games you call all your friends and break out the chips and salsa for. Are you really telling me there would be a huge pushback against wanting to include more of that in college football? I mean I guess I can see it if you live in Shreveport and the Independence is all you cling to in life (I kid the residents of Shreveport). But aside from them, this should be the easiest decision in the world.