Alabama Football: Let’s be honest about CFB Playoff expansion

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football won the 2020 college football National Championship. The fact the Alabama Crimson Tide was the best 2020 team is not in dispute. The LSU Bengal Tigers won the 2019 National Championship and again, LSU was, without question, college football’s best team in 2019. The Clemson Tigers won the 2018 National Championship. Readers may be noticing a pattern developing. Clemson was the best 2018 college football team.

The 2017 National Champion was Alabama Football with an exciting overtime win over Georgia. The Crimson Tide was the nation’s best team. So would Georgia have been, had the Bulldogs won. That the Playoff No. 4 seed won the Championship does not change the pattern described above. The best team won the National Championship.

The 2016 National Championship game came down to the last play from scrimmage for Clemson to edge the Alabama Crimson Tide, 35-31. The winner of that game was that season’s best team because the two best teams in CFB played in the National Championship game.

The two best, Clemson and the Crimson Tide also fought for the crown at the end of the 2015 season. Again, though Alabama won, a Clemson win would have also fit the pattern.

The pattern holds with Ohio State as the 2014 National Champion. The Buckeyes were the best college football team that season.

Alabama Football, along with LSU; Clemson and Ohio State proved the Playoff works

The College Football Playoff format will be expanded to include more teams. Whether it becomes a field of six or eight or 12 or 16 teams, it will not improve on the success of seven Playoffs in having the best two teams play for a National Championship.

It is inevitable with an expanded field, in some years, an odd upset will keep one of the nation’s two best teams out of the National Championship game. A couple of game oddities in a given year could prevent either of the top two, from playing for the title.

Why is this result something that is acceptable? Almost every voice in the world of college football argues more Playoff teams must be added for ‘fairness.’ Is the drive for expansion really about fairness? Or is it about hurt feelings when a team or teams or a conference or conferences do not make the field in a given year? Of course, EVERY coach, with anything close to a claim of being a top team, will argue for a bigger field. Some schools and ADs (UCF and Danny White for example) are comfortable with whining about a lack of fairness, even when their team comes up short by reasonable standards.

Until the CFB world is willing to admit expanding the Playoff is NOT about fairness, I will lobby for a 16-team field that has two play-in games and gives the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds a bye. Based on the 2020 regular season (as if every team played in the fall, rather than a COVID delay until spring), 16 proposed seeds are listed below.

  1. Alabama Football
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. Notre Dame
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Georgia
  8. Group of Five No. 1 team – Cincinnati
  9. Indiana
  10. Florida
  11. Iowa State
  12. Group of Five No. 2 team – Coastal Carolina
  13. Best remaining FBS team – BYU
  14. FCS lottery winner from undefeated FCS teams
  15. FCS lottery winner from undefeated FCS teams
  16. Best NAIA team if undefeated (Lindsey Wilson)

Seeds No. 14, No. 15 and No. 16 must be undefeated teams. Undefeated FCS and NAIA teams can also decline and remain in their traditional championship formats. If the FCS and NAIA slots cannot be filled, they would go to the best remaining FBS team(s).

The astute will notice no automatic qualification is given to any conference Champion. Would it be fair to exclude any of the last three seeds, to make room for Power Five weak sisters? Remember, ‘fairness’ must be the result.

Could this format work? At best it is a long shot, so probably not. The example is extreme and will never happen, but if the Playoff expansion argument is really about fairness, let the 16 best teams among four levels of football have a shot. And don’t unfairly punish the top two teams with an unnecessary extra game.

Kirby Smart is no Nick Saban. dark. Next

This post is more fanciful than anything. Reality is such an idea and EVERY OTHER possible format will face complaints of being unfair.