July 8, 2020

Here's Why the NCAA College Football Playoffs Shouldn't Expand

Since its inception in 2014, it’s safe to say that the College Football Playoff has been a smashing success. Based on that success, it seems inevitable that the CFP will expand beyond four teams. Maybe it’ll go to six teams, or eight teams, or even 16 teams. After all, there’s always one or two teams that feel unfairly left out of the top four, so the obvious solution is to expand it beyond four teams, right?

Well, in the words of college football analyst Lee Corso...

It’d be wrong to assume that expanding the CFP is the right decision. The belief is that it will happen eventually, and to be fair, there is a strong argument in favor of expansion, assuming it’s done the right way. However, there are also reasons why college football would be better off maintaining the status quo and keeping the playoff at four teams.

More Teams Make It Less Special

In any part of life, the things that are most special are also exclusive. Getting married is special because someone is pledging to love you and only you. Winning championships is special because there is only one winner. When it comes to the College Football Playoff, it’s special because there are just four teams invited. It’s special because there are good teams that get left out. Nobody would complain about more games between high-level teams, but some of the meaning would be lost because it wouldn’t be as exclusive.

Consider if the NCAA Basketball Tournament were to expand to 128 teams. There might be more games, but the field would be watered down. The fight just to get into the tournament wouldn’t mean as much, and the same would be true of the CFP if the field were expanded to eight teams.

Part of the reason why the CFP has been so successful is that the event has remained exclusive to just the four best teams, which adds immense value to the regular season. Which leads us to our next point...

The Regular Season Won’t Mean As Much

To piggyback off the fact that the CFP would be less special if more teams were allowed in, the college football regular season would be less meaningful if the field were expanded. Part of what makes college football different from other sports is that every single game matters. 

One loss can be the difference between reaching the CFP and being left out. It forces teams to be at their best every single week and rewards teams that prove that they are consistent and don’t have off weeks.

College football should never get to a point where a team knows that they can lose a game and still be guaranteed a spot in the CFP. If the Playoff is allowed to expand to eight teams then ultimately 16, that will eventually be the case, causing the sport to lose one of the trademarks that make it different from other sports.

There's No Need to Diminish Bowl Season

There is no question that an expanded CFB will diminish bowl season for the dozens of teams participating in those contests. More playoff games would mean more bowl games will be used for playoff games and fans caring less about the bowl games that aren’t a part of the CFP.

Much like its high-intensity regular season that has no margin for error, bowl season is a huge part of what makes the college football special. There are 130 teams at the FBS level and almost all of them make bowl eligibility their primary goal at the start of every season. Why take that away from them? 

At least part of the college football spotlight should remain on the teams that fight and claw every week just to reach a bowl game.

It would be a detriment to the sport for everything to revolve around the CFP.

The Results Won’t Change

In terms of declaring a champion, there’s little reason to expand the CFP beyond four teams. It’s unrealistic to think that a team outside the top four is going to end up winning three CFP games to win the National Championship.

Just look at the 2019 season when three undefeated teams — LSU, Clemson and Ohio State — were clearly head and shoulders above every other team in the country. Adding more teams would not have stopped one of those three teams from winning the title.

In six years of the CFP, only three conference champions with fewer than two losses have been denied entry to the CFP. That’s a limited amount of teams that could have argued that they were capable of winning the title if given a chance to join the top four.

While it might be considered fair and necessary to give the champion of every power conference a guaranteed spot, it will do nothing to change the outcome of the CFP, making it ultimately pointless to expand the field.

There Will Always Be Controversy

Finally, there is no point in expanding the field for the sake of including the fifth- and sixth-best teams in the country and avoiding the inevitable controversy. 

As long as there are humans on the CFP Committee making subjective decisions about what teams are in and what teams are out, there will be controversy.

If eight teams are allowed in, the Nos. 9 and 10 teams will complain.

There is no reason to expand the field to make everyone happy because you will never make everyone happy. The NCAA Basketball Tournament has gradually expanded from 64 to 68 teams, and yet there are still bubble teams that complain about being left out.

In fact, the controversy is good for the sport because it draws even more interest in the four precious CFP spots. The exclusivity of the four spots and the controversy over who deserves the four spots has helped to fuel the immense popularity of the CFP.

There is no legitimate reason to change that and no need for the College Football Playoff to be expanded beyond four teams.

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