A better playoff

Here’s a great idea from Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel: Since some of last weekend’s college football conference championship games essentially are the first round of the playoffs, how about replacing these games by bringing four more schools into the chase for the national title?

The first reaction of many college football fans is that the conference championship games are important, and they make a lot of money. That’s true, but Wetzel argues convincingly that ditching these games in favor of an eight-team playoff system would make a lot more money. And replacing the conference championship games with four playoff games would not make the season any longer.

There are six conference championship games. But Wetzel says too many of these are a waste of time, since only a few schools that play have a chance to advance to the four-team playoff.

Some teams, such as Alabama this year, could have lost and still have gotten into the playoffs. In fact, in each of the past two seasons, teams that didn’t make their conference championship game still got into the playoffs. This underscores the argument that last weekend’s games don’t matter.

A better idea would be to give each champion from the “Power 5” conferences — the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big XII and Pac-12 — an automatic berth in an eight-team field, and round it out with three at-large bids.

He further says the four first-round games should be played on the campuses of the higher seeds as a reward to the teams that had the best seasons, and to the fans, who would not have to travel.

If that system was in place this year, last weekend’s games would have been No. 8 Washington at No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Central Florida at No. 2 Clemson, No. 6 Ohio State at No. 3 Notre Dame, and No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 4 Georgia.

That’s a pretty compelling lineup. It is certainly more appealing than some of the conference championship games last weekend, where Alabama vs. Georgia and Texas vs. Oklahoma were the only two with national interest.

The conferences are certain to be the biggest hurdle to this idea, followed by bowl organizers who would want the first-round games played in their towns.

The conferences are likely to resist giving up their championship games and the revenue they would control. Further, Wetzel’s system would pick a conference champion based on regular-season records, which would eliminate the need for divisions and undercut all the expansion that has been going on for the past decade.

But the argument that makes more sense is that the conference championship games have outlived their usefulness. College football fans may like those games, but they are sure to like an expanded eight-school playoff system even more. It’s such a good idea that you can be sure it won’t happen for a very long time.

 

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