By Brooks Roland
After decades of complaining, protests, and debates from fans, media, pundits, players, and coaches, the unimaginable has become a reality. Big-time college football finally has a playoff system. As somebody that’s followed college football for nearly all of my life, I was ecstatic when the announcement was made that a college football playoff would become a reality in 2014. Now that the 2014 season has begun, it’s hard to ignore the fact there’s a different buzz surrounding this season due to the playoffs. And while it’s fun to predict which four teams will be in the playoff tournament at the end of the regular season, there’s one thing that’s bothering me about the whole thing: I don’t think it’s going to stop at four teams.
College football’s regular season is the most compelling in all of sports. Every game matters. You can’t take a week off, because if you do, your national title hopes could go down the drain in a heartbeat. Teams can’t leave anything to chance. If there’s one thing the BCS got right, it’s that it made every regular season game important. And it ensured the chance of controversy would be high. Somebody would get left out. Somebody would be upset that they didn’t get a fair shot at the title. While a four-team playoff won’t completely eliminate that controversy (there’s always one team that’s going to feel like they didn’t get a fair shake), it’ll give two more teams a shot at a national championship.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the higher-ups that run college football make changes to the playoff system down the line. They’ll see how successful the four-team model is, how much money it makes, and decide to expand it to eight teams. Who’s to stop them from doing so? And who’s to stop them from expanding to 12 or 16 teams? This would be a bad idea for a few reasons.
For starters, the regular season immediately carries less weight. If a team has clinched a playoff spot in an eight-team tournament, what’s going to stop them from resting their starters late in the season? That’s something we expect from the NFL, not college football. It also opens the door for less deserving teams that might not have had the best regular season to sneak into the playoffs. In other words, mediocrity would be rewarded, which has become far too common in this “everybody gets a trophy” society we live in today. The cream of the crop should be rewarded for their excellence in the regular season with a spot in the playoffs. That may not happen in a field that includes eight teams or more. In addition, a tournament that includes more than four teams means more games, which leads to a greater chance of injury and the quality of the football potentially decreasing. I realize that injuries can happen at any time, and the four-team field gives us two extra games, but it at least gives a couple more teams a shot while maintaining the integrity of the regular season.
The introduction of a four-team playoff is precisely the shot in the arm that college football needs. It’ll make the race for the national title that much more intriguing and it’ll attract even more interest than the bowl games, provided it stays at four teams. Anything more than that would water down the regular season and dilute the quality of the playoff system.
Brooks Roland is the producer for Out of Bounds, heard Monday-Friday 7-10 pm on 98.7 The Fan. You can follow him on Twitter @BrooksR987