Alabama Football: Why the Playoffs will expand and why it is a bad idea

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football: Sooner rather than later the CFB Playoffs will expand. Consider an unpopular opinion on why that is a bad idea.

College football fans want the CFB Playoffs to expand. Some Alabama football fans agree. Followers of the Crimson Tide don’t have solid ground if claiming the Selection Committee has ever treated Alabama Football unfairly. The one season the Alabama Crimson Tide has not participated, it did not deserve being included.

The process of choosing a college football National Champion is flawed. It always has been, going back to the start of the Poll-Era and all the retroactive designations of champions that came with it. In many seasons going back to 1954, there have been multiple National Champions. While not involved in naming a National Champion, the NCAA has tried to remove some annual clutter. On its page on the history of CFB National Champions, it only recognizes ‘major selectors.’

Even with less clutter by peripheral selectors being ignored by the NCAA, 13 times since 1954 there have been multiple ‘recognized’ National Champions. With the off exception of 2003, since 1998,  there has been only one CFB National Champion. That indicates both the BCS and the CFB Playoff have worked.

Still, the college football world is not satisfied. National, sports media are the loudest complainers.

  • From Dan Wetzel: “If 9-0 Cincinnati wasn’t even in consideration this year, of all years, then this isn’t a college football playoff, it’s an invitational for certain teams from certain conferences.”
  • From Ivan Maisel: “In seven years, the @CFBPlayoff has had 28 berths filled by 11 programs. That’s not healthy for the sport. That’s not good marketing. The sport continues to be popular in spite of the people who run it.”

While I disagree with the implied conclusions an expanded Playoff would be better, Wetzel and Maisel are both accurate. What bothers me most about such arguments is the suggestion that popularity is more valuable than merit.

An expanded Playoff field will be more popular for two reasons. With more teams included more fans of those teams and their conferences will approve of the Playoff. The other reason is an expanded field makes a better television show. More teams mean more games, means more episodes, means more stories to be provided by the media. More eyeballs mean more dollars. What is not to like? It is perceived as a win all-around.

A win in every way but one. The nation’s top teams will be disadvantaged. Let’s presume an eight-team Playoff field. Destined to tag along with the expansion to eight will be the nonsense every Power Five Champion should automatically qualify. SEC football fans, especially Alabama football fans, know all conference championships are not equal. It is entirely possible in a given season, three SEC football teams are among the nation’s six best teams or four are among the nation’s eight best. Give every Power Five Champion an automatic bid and one or more, deserving SEC teams could fail to qualify.

There is a bigger problem and it mirrors the claims of unfairness today. Assuming No. 1 plays No. 8 in an opening-round, how often will a No. 8 beat the No. 1? A not unreasonable guess is maybe once every 10-15 years. In the other nine to 14 seasons, the No. 1 team has a greater risk. It will be losing a key player(s) to injury in the opening round.

Based on this season’s Selection Committee rankings the Crimson Tide would play Cincinnati in an eight-team field. If the committee’s rankings matched the most recent AP Poll, the eighth team could have been Oklahoma, Indiana, or even Coastal Carolina.

Let that sink in a bit. The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide in an opening-round Playoff game against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Imagine the Crimson Tide beating the Chanticleers, as it easily would while losing Mac Jones or DeVonta Smith to a serious injury. National Championship dreams likely gone in an instant.

Such injury risk is much greater in a football game than a basketball game. Up to six games in March Madness does not carry the injury risk of one college football Playoff game.

The college football world is bored with Alabama and Clemson, over and over again. The expanded Playoffs will happen and the sizzle it will provide will be enthusiastically endorsed. Just don’t make the argument, it will not be less fair. It will not be to the top teams.

Next. Christmas Gifts for Christmas Tide Players. dark

If the Playoffs must be expanded, one format is far better than an eight or sixteen team field. It is a six-team format, with no automatic bids going to conference champions and the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds getting opening byes.