The beginning of a new year normally marks the end of the college football season. It also, however, is a time for hope and change.
In college football, a sport immersed in change, the start of 2022 is an opportunity for improvement. And there is no shortage of modifications CFB can tackle, allowing us to prioritize changes in the sport we would like to see, even if we can't necessarily dictate these changes.
We asked Bleacher Report readers for their CFB resolutions as we approach the offseason. The ideas were topical, somewhat consistent and plenty ambitious. (That last part is the norm around these parts.)
Bigger is Better
Suggestion: Expand playoff to at least 8 teams
After two lackluster semifinal games, this suggestion was anticipated. And it's not necessarily a bad one.
Out of the 16 semifinal games played since the CFP began, only three have been decided by a touchdown or less. The latest, the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl, were not overly compelling.
Something needs to change, and that change is coming. Much of the 2021 offseason was dedicated to chatter surrounding possible expansion.
At this point, it's a matter of when and how many (teams).
Here's why eight teams make sense. If we increase the number of compelling games, we increase the possibility of getting compelling outcomes. We won't make the regular season any less impactful; we will add weight to more games involving more teams throughout the year.
And, if we can get one round of playoff games on college campuses, the origin of college football's most joyous foundation, new life will be injected into a postseason that desperately needs it.
This part is critical. It's also why I refuse to say that an expanded playoff will fix everything. The true impact will be in the details.
Still, this postseason is stale. I hate to say that, but that's the reality. Bring on more teams.
Suggestion: Figure out how to deal with team flopping/faking an injury to help defenses catch a breather
This is absolutely something that needs to be addressed. The issue, however, is addressing it.
If you're a Tennessee fan and you watched the Volunteers lose to Purdue in the Music City Bowl, you likely are nodding your head violently at this point.
While I hesitate to accuse anyone—especially college students—of faking injuries, there were an abundance of questionable stoppages from the Boilermakers that were, well, questionable.
Not only did it disrupt the game, but it also hindered the viewing experience a great deal.
This is not the first game, of course, this has occurred. "Faking" injuries to slow down offenses is something seen across football, and it's been building for years. (Again, I hate the notion of accusing an 18-year-old of not being hurt when he's down on the field. But the reality is that it happens.)
So, how do we fix it?
Forcing an injured player to sit out a prolonged period—a certain number of plays, a drive, or more—is one idea. This could have a drastic impact on players who leave the field with an actual injury. It also likely won't address the slowdown, as teams could strategize the appropriate players to miss time.
But it's a start.
The reality, however, is that this will be hugely challenging to address. The sport knows it exists, although it has yet to crack down. My guess is that we'll see some rules on this in the next few years, especially if we see this in more high-profile games.
Yellow Cards in College Football?
Suggestion: Change the targeting rule
On the topic of rule changes, no rule in college football is more polarizing than this one.
Targeting is here to stay. If your hope is that the rule will suddenly vanish into thin air, you're likely to be disappointed.
There is, however, a way to keep the intent of the rule in place and simply add the necessary context.
It's really that simple. Soccer does it. Basketball does it. Heck, football does it when it comes to protecting punters. The fact that we don't have different types of targeting when it comes to the biggest hits in the sport—and some of the more difficult plays to officiate—is perplexing.
Most hits that are ruled targeting are largely incidental. They shouldn't come with an ejection. There can still be a penalty, perhaps of lesser yardage, and the defender can still stay in the game. They can still be reviewed, just like they are now, and the officials can determine if any targeting at all occurred.
The hits that are textbook targeting can still be a 15-yard penalty and an ejection. That part can stay. But we must find a middle ground that doesn't severely punish players the way the rule does now.
This must change. I'm not sure it will prior to next season, but it really should.
A Ceiling for Star Power
Suggestion: Max cap on 4-star and 5-star recruits. Restrictions on how many out-of-state recruits you can get. You're welcome.
One more time for the people in the back.
I understand why this suggestion would be made. College football is incredibly top-heavy at the moment, and the blowouts in the semifinals since the inception of the CFP have largely come from four football teams.
But are we really going to tell high school kids where they can play football based on arbitrary star rankings?
Are we really going to control what a young athlete wants to do with his future, be it for football or academics, based on the recruiting success for that year as a whole for one team or coach?
Again, it's well intended. The sport right now feels like it runs through a select few. But we cannot possibly turn recruiting into the NFL draft—something that this is attempting to do.
Now, NIL deals might accomplish some of this. Name, image and likeness rules at other programs could convince the most skilled football players in America to play elsewhere. We've already seen Travis Hunter, one of the top high school football players in America, commit to Jackson State.
While that might not become the norm, the ability to compensate players could spread the wealth some. Or, maybe it won't.
Either way, it is poised to radically change the way recruiting operates.
In all likelihood, however, the best football players in America will continue to flock to the best football programs in America. They've earned it, and the players in that position have earned the ability to choose.
That's the way it is, and that's the way it should be.
Pony Up, Bowl Games
Suggestion: Expand the NIL deals to give players more money and more incentive to play bowl games. Also allow players to wear the brands' gear and have NIL deals give more money to players who play in the postseason. Players need more incentives to play in the postseason, or we'll start seeing players stop playing during the regular season once their playoff hopes are gone.
First and foremost, thank you for the detail, @mdileo24.
Most of the answers are a sentence (or less). It's clear you've been thinking about this one given the state of college football, and I think there are excellent points made along the way.
With many future NFL draft picks opting out before their bowl games—a decision they should absolutely make if they feel so inclined—the concept of incentivizing players to compete in one more game is a good one.
But it has to be worth their while and also worth the risk, whatever that threshold might be.
At the very least, it attempts to keep stars around for one more game. I'm not sure how many bowl games could offer the necessary financial incentives to keep some players from signing with agents and preparing for the draft, but it certainly can't hurt to try.
And some players would likely benefit greatly from the exposure in the lead-up to these games and also the games themselves. This could be a great fit for some.
That being said, if a player wants to opt out, they absolutely should. We are going to see more of it in the future, perhaps even earlier in the season as referenced. The sport will need to pony up more money, likely through sponsors, to shift this movement.
Bowl games, let's grab that checkbook.