B/R CFB Community: How Can We Fix College Football's Playoff?

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterDecember 7, 2021

The national championship trophy is seen during a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

After months of debate and a seemingly endless stream of speculation, the four teams that will make up the sport's playoff mini-bracket have been determined.

All that debate leading up to the decision? It was largely for nothing.

Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Cincinnati were pretty much the consensus, and that has become the norm through the final part of this process.

Seven years into this format, and we're once again perfectly content with the four teams.
Well, at least most of us are.

Behind the scenes, however, a movement is brewing. Although the discussions surrounding playoff expansion have become far more complicated—thanks in part to the latest conference realignment and a general distrust across the landscape—it still trudges forward.

Change is coming. It's a matter of when and how much.

What changes are needed? We asked Bleacher Report readers that very question, and the answers were passionate, detailed, and informed.

Here are some of our favorite suggestions with commentary to go with it.


Stop Before You Start 

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: A 10-yard line pylon prior to the start of the Alabama Crimson Tide's game versus the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 7, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @mgator

Suggestion: They got it right. Nothing to fix

I don't hate the current system. I think it can be better, but there are plenty of other things more broken in college football.

My biggest gripe with the current format is that it has not produced many memorable semifinal games, and I've attended some really bad ones. While I'll take football of any kind, always and forever, we have not been given a lot of drama outside of a few games for some time now.

Is that the system's fault? Or is college football more top-heavy than it used to be?

More importantly, would expanding the field make more compelling games? 

The answer is likely a mix of everything, although I'll say this: If college football decided it wanted to stay at four teams, I would be fine with it. (As long as the committee is no longer involved.)

Speaking of…


Bring Back the Computers 

Doug Benc/Associated Press

User: @Gojiraman 

Suggestion: Get rid of the committee 

Before we dive deeper into the rabbit hole of ideas, let's begin with a very simple and meaningful suggestion that I wholeheartedly agree with. 

Whether it's two teams, four teams, eight teams or 800 teams, I want the Selection Committee out of the process.

This sport is injected with bias. No matter how much the committee members try to remove bias, it is simply unavoidable. We don't have to gather a bunch of busy people and put them in a room to talk about football. We have formulas and metrics that can handle this. 

Simply put, people seem to make these decisions messy. It doesn't have to be. Give me an adjusted BCS-like formula to decide our postseason. I would much rather be mad at computers.

And while we're at it, let's get rid of the weekly rankings shows leading up to the playoff as well. I am all for marketing and selling ad space, but it's just noise, and the lack of drama that comes at the end result proves just that.

Rant complete.


Double Up

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Goal post prior to the start of the Alabama Crimson Tide's game versus the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 7, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Robin Al
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @lindsey

Suggestion: 8 teams, Power Five champs automatic bid + highest ranked Group of Five conference champ gets a bid, plus two at-large

I like this a lot, and I want to help mold the concept even more.

First, let's talk about automatic bids. They are fine. In fact, they are a lovely idea.

While many don't like the thought of a "weaker" team conquering a weak division and sneaking into the playoff, I'd argue that a) this happens almost yearly in every other sport and b) that kind of wackiness would greatly improve the spirit leading up to and certainly during conference championship weekend. 

Winning your conference used to mean something. Now, unless it's a conduit to the playoff, it almost feels like it's pushed to the side. 

That is probably my biggest criticism of the current system, and we can fix it. So, let's fix it.

Each Power Five conference gets a team. Check.

The best Group of Five team is also in. Check. (Given Cincinnati's historic playoff appearance, I want this to become the norm.) 

Give two at-large bids that allow for a conference-less team (cough, cough, Notre Dame, cough, cough) or a really good team in a loaded conference to make the field. Easy and clean.

Here's what I would also add. The top four teams host the first round of playoff games on campus. Not only does that award schools having a brilliant year, but it also gives us more of what makes college football special. 

This is a winner.


A Trip Back in Time

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

User: @ishkabaha 

Suggestion: Go back to the BCS system. Top 2 play. Rotate the location between the big bowls. 


Let's not.

Now, I don't like the fact that the bowl season has taken a backseat to the playoff. That has been a direct result of an expanded field, and the impact is real. 

To be clear, I love and cherish all bowl games. We can never have enough bowls. The unintended consequence of our mini-bracket is less emphasis on some really fun and important matchups. 

But we cannot look back, and college football will not look back. The playoff has generated a ton of excitement and interest in the sport, and college football's audience has grown considerably, at least in part, because of it.

While I am willing to discuss six, eight, 10 and even 12 teams in the playoff, I can't entertain the possibility of reversing course. 

We're here, and we need to embrace it and possibly build on it. 


Let's Make it a Dozen

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 13: A pylon emblazoned with the National Championship logo sits in the end zone prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the LSU Tigers and the Clemson Tigers on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans LA.
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @dhdieb

Suggestion: 12 teams. Top 4 seeds get a bye

The momentum seems to be heading this way. 

The committee tasked with exploring potential playoff options originally landed on 12 teams as a recommendation, which is a tad surprising. 

Then again, more teams mean more money. And we know how much this sport loves money.

I don't hate this idea. I think eight teams would be a natural way to test the waters when it comes to bringing more teams in. But 12 teams would certainly generate an even greater deal of excitement to the postseason. 

Some say that expanding the field this much would take away from the regular season. I'd argue the opposite.

More vacancies would only generate more meaningful games. A wider net wouldn't be a bad thing; I think it could force programs on the fringe of being annual contenders to reinvest in the product more consistently. 

It would also give fans of said programs real hope of making the field, which frankly isn't something most have in the current format. 

The details, of course, will shape this plan. I'm OK with four byes since rewarding season-long excellence is a great idea. But the next batch of games, when the field is down to eight, must then be played on a college campus. 

I cannot reinforce this last part enough throughout this piece.

It's a big field, and with it will come big money. And while it'll completely transform the way we consume college football.


The Bigger, The Better

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: A general view of a stadium tunnel prior to the start of the Alabama Crimson Tide's game versus the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 7, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clar
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @MattMcgloin 

Suggestion: 16 teams. Every conference champ gets a bid, then takes 6 at-large. Rankings determine at-large bids and seeding. Rankings should be a combo of a human committee and the computer. 

This is where I draw the line.

I love football, and I want more of it. And while there is something symbolically spectacular about every conference champion having a spot in the playoff, it feels like we begin to enter an unnecessary wormhole when we go that big.

Granted, I just signed off on 12 teams. A reasonable reader, which you likely are, might have this to say.

Well, it's only four more. 

This is true, and you aren't wrong. However, there is a tipping point in all of this, where the end product starts to become a mutated version of the original intent. I believe we have found where that line might be. 

One element of this idea that I can get behind, though, is allowing robots and humans to coexist. Specifically, allowing the field to be picked using a formula and then let the humans re-seed the matchups. At least, that is how I read into the idea. 

I would personally let the computers do all the work and save on hotel rooms and catered dinners, but there's something about that worth exploring. If humans have to be involved, that's what I would task them with.

As for the 16 teams, well, let's not go there. At least not yet.