Sean Pendergast

College Football Botches Its Golden Playoff Opportunity

If the oddsmakers are accurate, the Aggies will be paying Jimbo Fisher $1 million per win this coming season.
If the oddsmakers are accurate, the Aggies will be paying Jimbo Fisher $1 million per win this coming season. Screen grab from YouTube
I have no idea if my view on the College Football Playoff is shared by a majority or a mere sliver of college football fans (mostly because I live on Twitter, where generally it seems people hate everything), but I am a fan of the four team playoff format. Don't get me wrong, if they decided to expand to eight teams in the playoff, I wouldn't complain (MORE FOOTBALL! YAY!), but for content purposes, the lively debate that ensues in a FOUR team format that caters to FIVE conferences is ready made for the arguments and debate that are the lifeblood of talk radio (my core competency).

This season, the annual "who got snubbed" discussion took on a  local angle, as the Aggies of Texas A&M, and their 8-1 record, with their sole loss a 52-24 Week 2 humbling at the hands of top-ranked Alabama, finished fifth, and thus at the top of the "outside looking in" crowd.

This season, more than any of the previous six iterations of the College Football playoff, the debate was overflowing with nuanced angles, as the COVID pandemic (and some questionable decision making by Big Ten and Pac-12 commissioners) led to seriously truncated seasons for the likes of Ohio State, the eventual Big Ten champion, who made the playoffs despite playing just six games. Furthermore, Aggies would argue, Notre Dame got smoked in its final statement before the selections show, a 34-10 thrashing by Clemson in the ACC title game.

The whole thing is a beauty contest, judged by 13 college athletics luminaries using an evaluation system that is some cryptic combo of data, accomplishment, and the infamous "eye test," which is really just the safety net to justify the inexplicable.

As I stated earlier, I am more of a four team playoff fan than I am a honk for expansion to eight teams. Truth be told, I think the powers that be in college football would like to expand to eight teams, but they move at a glacial pace on any decision that compromises the facade of the "student-athlete." They want to keep the phony "academia" veil over the cash cow that is college football.

All of that said, if they were ever going to expand to eight teams in the college football playoff, THIS would have been the year to do it. Before I explain why, as a point of reference, here are the final CFB Playoff rankings, a subjective top 25 compiled by 13 human beings:

1. Alabama 11-0
2. Clemson 10-1
3. Ohio State 6-0
4. Notre Dame 10-1
5. Texas A&M 8-1
6. Oklahoma 8-2
7. Florida 8-3
8. Cincinnati 9-0
9. Georgia 7-2
10. Iowa State 8-3
11. Indiana 6-1
12. Coastal Carolina 11-0
13. North Carolina 8-3
14. Northwestern 6-2
15. Iowa 6-2
16. BYU10-1
17. USC 5-1
18. Miami 8-2
19. Louisiana 9-1
20. Texas 6-3
21. Oklahoma State 7-3
22. San José State 7-0
23. NC State 8-3
24. Tulsa 6-2
25. Oregon 4-2 
So, the semifinal matchups we are getting on New Year's Day are as follows:

Rose Bowl: 1 ALABAMA (11-0) vs 4 NOTRE DAME (10-1)
Sugar Bowl: 2 CLEMSON (10-1) vs 3 OHIO STATE (6-0)

Now, put aside for a second that, whether it's four teams, eight teams, or 64 teams, the playoff is essentially the Alabama-Clemson Invitational. The question is "What format evens out the playing field with all the disparate schedules for the various conferences?", and the answer is undoubtedly "EXPANSION!" Since the day they announced the four team playoff format, beginning in 2014, the talk has been about what could be next, and the eight team format that seems to have the most traction is an eight team field comprised of the following — the five Power Five conference champions, two at-large schools (the highest ranked non conference champs), and the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion.

If that format held this season, the field would lay out as follows:

1 Alabama (SEC champ) vs 25 Oregon (Pac 12 champ)
2 Clemson (ACC champ) vs 8 Cincinnati (Group if Five rep)
3 Ohio State (Big Ten champ) vs 6 Oklahoma (Big XII champ)
4. Notre Dame (at-large) vs 5 Texas A&M (at-large)
Again, we probably arrive at Alabama vs Clemson anyway, but there would be nobody claiming they got screwed. Every undefeated or 1-loss Power Five school with a REASONABLE playoff claim would be in the playoff. The Group of Five would get their representation with undefeated Cincinnati. Furthermore, college athletics departments throughout the FBS level of football would have more revenue in their coffers with four highly valuable playoff games added. This just in — college athletics departments are taking a red ink bath in 2020.

Some would say that it would have been gimmicky to expand the playoffs at the last minute, but everything this season is being made up on the fly anyway! Hell, as is, the playoff has three teams who've played 11 games and one that's played barely HALF that! In a year where fans could use more football, kids on these teams and campuses could use more hope, and college sports could damn sure use the money, choosing to stay at four teams in the College Football Playoff is a massive miss.

I'm sure the Aggies would agree.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast