Four reasons why an eight-team playoff is better than a four-team playoff

In New Orleans this weekend during the Final Four, NCAA President Mark Emmert was asked about every college football fan’s favorite topic–college football playoffs. He made quite an interesting statement  in response.

“The momentum seems to be — and I’m just reading the tea leaves, pretty much like you — the momentum seems to be toward an eight-team playoff.” (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

EIGHT-team playoff? Wait, what?

Everything conference commissioners were saying, publicly at least, prior to Emmert’s statement seemed to be focused exclusively on a plus-one/four-team playoff scenario. Yet, here is Emmert saying the momentum is towards eight.

That would surely be fantastic news.

I would rank the options something like this:

Eight-team playoff > Four-team playoff > Explosive Diarrhea > BCS.

Sure, a four-team playoff would be much better than the BCS, but an eight-team playoff would be even better for a number of reasons.

1) There are typically at least 8 very good teams in any given year. An eight-team playoff doesn’t really water down the quality of competition much. For instance, if there was an eight-team playoff last year that was based solely on BCS standings it would have included the following teams: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, Arkansas, Boise State, and Kansas State. That’s a great field of teams. There would be no “undeserving” teams in the bunch.

2) You could get all the BCS conference champions in. A four-team playoff would keep out at least 2 of the BCS conference champions. For fans that feel that every BCS conference champion should get a title opportunity, an eight team playoff would work better than a plus one. To keep the Big East a bad BCS conference champion from getting an automatic slot you could create limiting rules that require the conference champion to be ranked in the top 10 or 12 to get an invite.

3) Give the little guy a shot. An eight-team playoff would create more opportunity for a non-BCS team to get a shot in the playoffs. They often get shafted in the polls due to a weak schedule, so even undefeated non-BCS teams may end up outside of the top four. An eight-team playoff creates opportunities for a Butler or VCU style run in football.

4) Less argument for the team left out. One of the most convincing arguments against the BCS is that a deserving team may have been left out. A four-team playoff eases that concern some, but it still leaves open a lot of room for debate. Take the 2008 season, for instance. That year, three one loss teams (USC, Texas Tech, and Penn State) and two undefeated teams (Utah and Boise State) would have been left out of a four team playoff. That’s a disaster scenario for a four-team playoff that would be eased by increasing the field to eight. (Admittedly though, 12-0 Boise was ranked #9 that year and would have still been left out.)

I appreciate the steps college football is making to improve the sport by exploring a plus one/four-team playoff. However, since Mark Emmert decided to open up the can of worms and mention an eight-team playoff, it’s never to early to think ahead. Although he essentially has no control over the issue, let’s hope there’s some truth in his words.

LaRue Robinson

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