Sean Pendergast

College Football Playoff: What Would An Eight Team Playoff Look Like?

Nick Saban needed Jalen Hurts (right) to save Alabama's spot in the College Football Playoff.
Nick Saban needed Jalen Hurts (right) to save Alabama's spot in the College Football Playoff. Screen grab from YouTube
In the end, there were really no surprises over the course of conference title weekend in the world of college football this past weekend. The favorites all won, and most of them won big, with Clemson, Oklahoma, and Ohio State all winning by double digits and covering the spread. The only close game, among the title games impacting the playoff hunt, was Alabama's coming back late to beat Georgia, 35-28, in the SEC title game.

As a result, we were left with a beauty contest for the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff, a three way battle between 11-2 Georgia, 12-1 Oklahoma, and 12-1 Ohio State. Ultimately, on the strength of wining their conference and not having a 20-point loss on their ledger (two things Georgia could not claim, the latter of which Ohio State could not claim), Oklahoma was the choice.

Here were the playoff committee's final set of rankings:

1. Alabama 13-0
2. Clemson 13-0
3. Notre Dame 12-0
4. Oklahoma 12-1
5. Georgia 11-2
6. Ohio State 12-1
7. Michigan 10-2
8. UCF 12-0
9. Washington 10-3
10. Florida 9-3
11. LSU 9-3
12. Penn State 9-3
13. Washington State 10-2
14. Kentucky 9-3
15. Texas 9-4
16. West Virginia 8-3
17. Utah 9-4
18. Mississippi State 8-4
19. Texas A&M 8-4
20. Syracuse 9-3
21. Fresno State 11-2
22. Northwestern 8-5
23. Missouri 8-4
24. Iowa State 8-4
25. Boise State 10-3

Here are the New Year's Six bowl matchups, including the two seminal games, both of which take place on the very strange date of Saturday, December 29:

12/29 PEACH BOWL: #10 Florida vs #7 Michigan
12/29 COTTON BOWL: #3 Notre Dame vs #2 Clemson (national semifinal)
12/29 ORANGE BOWL: #4 Oklahoma vs #1 Alabama (national semifinal)
1/1 FIESTA BOWL: #11 LSU vs #8 UCF
1/1 ROSE BOWL: #6 Ohio State vs #9 Washington
1/1 SUGAR BOWL: #15 Texas vs #5 Georgia
1/7 National Title Game, Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, CA)

As for the selection of Oklahoma as the four seed, and how deserving (or undeserving) the Sooners may be, I really don't care about all that. I'm just excited to see Kyler Murray lead the Sooners' offense into a game against the Crimson Tide's defense. Nick Saban versus Lincoln Riley should be one of the more fun head coaching matchups of this postseason.

The broader question, especially for those frustrated by the fact that poor Georgia and poor Ohio state were left out (boo hoo!), is "What would an EIGHT team playoff look like?" Of course, the answer to that question depends on the format, relative to conference titles (Are conference champs guaranteed an automatic entry?), venue of quarterfinal games (On campus?), and how to handle the non-Power Five conferences.

Most people advocating an eight team college football playoff see it as a field with the five Power Five conference champs, the highest ranked Group of Five conference champ, and two at-large bids. So, in 2018, here's what the field would look like:

9. Washington at 1. Alabama
8. UCF at 2. Clemson
6. Ohio State at 3. Notre Dame
5. Georgia at 4. Oklahoma

If we can ignore the undeniable watering down of the regular season by expanding the postseason, the eight team field does give us a couple interesting matchups, with Georgia and Oklahoma in a rematch of last year's semifinal, and Ohio State and Notre Dame in a rematch of the Fiesta Bowl from the 2015 season. The other two matchups are fairly dreadful, as Alabama would likely beat Washington by three touchdowns, at least, and Clemson would demolish UCF, especially with the Knights missing their dynamite QB McKenzie Milton.

The idea of playoff games on college campuses is a neat concept, although under the current four team playoff, we already have de facto playoff games on college campuses — they're called "November regular season games."

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.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