A Four-Team Playoff Worked, An 8-Team Playoff Would Have Been Better


The 2015 regular season produced four deserving teams. The committee process worked flaw free. The season proved a four-team playoff is optimal, right? Well, no.

Flip one result, Stanford beating Northwestern, and the perfect illusion crumbles. Four 1-loss conference champions. Three places. The committee, using a cockamamie combination of the eye ball test, suboptimal math, and arbitrary logic, produces an answer. Controversy abounds. Hope, like last year, the contentious fourth choice wins the thing.

The four-team playoff works when there are four teams. The BCS was swell when there were two. The AP Poll sufficed with a clear No. 1. Each process would be inadequate with three teams or five teams. The four-team playoff could have three, with four teams deserving of fourth.

No solution achieves perfection. An ideal world would offer an ad hoc solution each year. Six teams? Four with a play-in game? Great. Since that’s not feasible. The best option would ensure each deserving team gets a shot. That is an eight-team playoff.

Automatic bids for the Power 5 champions. Three at large teams. The top four seeds get first round home games. Notre Dame gets in. Group of Five teams have a realistic chance. Move the locus of action from old farts in a conference room to the field.

Here’s what it would have looked this year, using the College Football Playoff rankings.

  1. Clemson vs. 8. Notre Dame
  2. Alabama vs. 7. Ohio State
  3. Michigan State vs. 6. Stanford
  4. Oklahoma vs. 5. Iowa

Notre Dame gets a second shot at Clemson, without a monsoon. Ohio State, still maybe the best team, gets to prove it, by fighting their way out of Tuscaloosa. Michigan State’s team of destiny meets Christian McCaffrey. The worst game would be the battle of college coaching deans with Stoops vs. Ferentz. Those four games would be happening this weekend. Not terrible at all.

Florida State and North Carolina would feel most aggrieved. Both blew a shot against Clemson. Both had a damning loss against a losing record team. Not much in the way of controversy there.

If the 2015 regular season proved a four-team playoff works. It also proved an eight-team playoff would be fairer, more flexible, and provide more entertainment.

There would be logistic concerns to work out. It may mean dispensing with the 12th game home FCS-tas. But, if college football can adjust to accommodate naked cash grabs, doing so to settle its national title on the field like an actual sport seems worthwhile.