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FACER 2 FACER: Improving the college playoff

Editor’s Note: “This Is The Place Sports” founders Dirk and Austin Facer‚ father and son, provide a weekly opinion-based conversation on a sports topic. 

AUSTIN: Obviously, the popular opinion on this topic is that more teams should be added into the mix for the national championship. It makes sense. Sports are more fun for both the hardcore and casual fan when parity, drama, and a pinch of chaos are added to the equation. That’s what makes the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March the crown jewel of sporting events. Giving the mid-majors the same opportunity as the blue bloods is a recipe for at least two or three memorable moments each year. Of course, the talent level in football between the top teams and the would-be Cinderellas is probably so great that the pumpkin would probably be smashed to bits before halftime, so to speak.

Still, I think one Group of 5 should be rewarded as the top “outsider” each year. I propose a 6-team playoff field, the top two teams will receive byes as an incentive for a strong regular season, with the Group of 5 Selection playing the 3-seed as a chance to shake up the landscape. Who knows, maybe every once in a while, we’ll see an all-time upset and run to the championship. I’d tune in for sure.

This year, we would have seen the playoffs seeded like this in a six team field: 1. Alabama (first-round bye), 2. Clemson (first-round bye), 3. Ohio State, 4. Notre Dame, 5. Texas A&M, 6. Cincinnati.

DIRK:  Although it’s easy to look back and wonder why the Power 5 conferences ever supported a four-team system in the first place, the primary concern should now be about the future. In the seven years that the CFP has existed, the SEC has filled eight of the 28 berths. The ACC is second with seven, while the Big 10 and Big 12 check in with five and four, respectively. The Pac-12 and Notre Dame round out the slots with two apiece.

No Group of 5 team has made the cut despite having undefeated teams four times. In fact, the highest ranked teams in that mix were Cincinnati (2020) and Central Florida (2018). The Bearcats and Knights were No. 8 those years.

As the numbers dictate, the system is flawed. Only 11 teams (Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington) have participated.

Reform should be replaced by revolt. In my humble opinion, an eight-team playoff is an immediate fix — all five champions from the power conferences, two wildcards and a Group of 5 representative). Notre Dame and its annual strength of schedule would get in according to its ranking and not fill the non-Power 5 void. Money shouldn’t be a problem in renegotiations. The biggest hurdle will likely be acceptance from the SEC and Notre Dame. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

AUSTIN: I don’t disagree that having eight teams in the mix isn’t a solution. To me however, the six-team playoff is the next step towards a more perfect world. Lasting change comes gradually, I think Ghandi or someone said that, or maybe I’m making that up, I don’t know.


While it would be fun to have more teams involved, and I do think that the best Group of 5 school of that particular season should have a crack at it, I think the built-in incentive of the bye for the top two teams will keep the entire regular season meaningful and worth following week-by-week. Rewarding the top team in each conference with a wild card round playoff bye is one of the few things that I think the NFL absolutely nailed 100 percent correctly. College football would do well to follow suit. It’s important to have the best teams playing the biggest games and sending the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams automatically into the semifinals, while still giving two more squads — including one Group of 5 school – the chance for a title is the best option at this point.

I would however, be interested in imagining what could have been if your eight-team proposal had been implemented in years past.

DIRK: If past CFP rankings mean anything, an eight-team playoff (under the parameters I mentioned earlier) would have opened the door for several more teams to compete for a national championship. A look at what the matchups would have been:

2021: (1) Alabama vs. (17) USC; (2) Clemson vs. (8) Cincinnati; (3) Ohio State vs. (6) Oklahoma; (4) Notre Dame vs. (5) Texas A&M.

2020: (1) LSU vs. (17) Memphis; (2) Ohio State vs. (7) Baylor; (3) Clemson vs. (6) Oregon; (4) Oklahoma vs. (5) Georgia.

2019: (1) Alabama vs. (9) Washington; (2) Clemson vs. (8) Central Florida; Notre Dame vs. (6) Ohio State; (4) Oklahoma vs. (5) Georgia.

2018: (1) Clemson vs. (12) Central Florida; (2) Oklahoma vs. (8) USC; (3) Georgia vs. (6) Wisconsin; (4) Alabama vs. (5) Ohio State.

2017: (1) Alabama vs. (15) Western Michigan; (2) Clemson vs. (7) Oklahoma; (3) Ohio State vs. (6) Michigan; (4) Washington vs. (5) Penn State.

2016: (1) Clemson vs. (18) Houston; (2) Alabama vs. (7) Ohio State; (3) Michigan State vs. (6) Stanford; (4) Oklahoma vs. (5) Iowa.

2015: (1) Alabama vs. (20) Boise State; (2) Oregon vs. (7) Mississippi State; (3) Florida State vs. (6) TCU; (4) Ohio State vs. (5) Baylor.

Under this plan, 17 additional programs (Baylor, Boise State, Central Florida Cincinnati, Florida State, Houston, Iowa, Memphis, Michigan, Mississippi State, Penn State, Stanford, Texas A&M, TCU, USC, Western Michigan and Wisconsin) would have been involved in the playoff. And that could only be healthy for college football — offering hope to teams like BYU, Utah and even Florida as well.

PHOTO: ESPN Press Room

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