Big Ten media days started today, and Jim Harbaugh, who was the only coach not wearing a suit and wearing a baseball cap, said that more teams would be better in the playoffs.
Jim Harbaugh on @CFBPlayoff: "More would be better in the playoffs. Let’s go to 8 and eventually get to 16"
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 23, 2018
If you’ve listened to me on the radio long enough, you know I’m in favor of a slightly bigger playoff. While I would definitely take 16 so that all 10 conferences had a shot, I’d also take 8.
Peter Burns of ESPN responded to Harbaugh’s quote:
If you go to a 8 team playoff, teams would not be held accountable for 31 point losses like Ohio State had to Iowa last year or Michigan's 42 point loss to Penn State.
I'll pass on devaluing the regular season.
It's what makes CFB the best sport out there. https://t.co/IsHnbSYkYu
— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsESPN) July 23, 2018
My response to all of the criticism towards Harbaugh is – how are games against FCS teams not devaluing the regular season more than allowing four more teams in the playoffs? What devalues the college football season is a system that eliminates half of the FBS teams before Week 1 ever even kicks off.
I’ve also been somewhat in favor of just ripping the band-aid off and splitting Power 5 and Group of 5 into their own divisions, and I feel like that is the best solution if the playoffs are never going to change. Power 5 and Group of 5 basically already are their own divisions. All any team in the Group of 5 can fight for is a conference championship and a shot at a slightly less mediocre bowl game.
If you don’t expand it to 8 – which then the most logical choice would be all five Power 5 champs, two at-large and the top ranked G5 team – then split things apart.
The only thing gained from them being together right now is that the Power 5 teams get 2-3 free wins each year and the Group of 5 teams get a little money for it. That’s literally it. Sure, you have the standout teams that do win games against Power 5 teams. In the first three weeks of the season last year, a popular time to play these games, Group of 5 teams went 13-94 against Power 5 teams. The Power 5 teams that lost were teams that finished near the bottom of their conference for the most part.
The perfect solution is to go to 8 teams or keep it at 4, and split the Football Bowl Subdivision yet again and have three Division 1 subdivisions. Basically get two divisions where there was one.
The Power 5 Division would have 64 teams, 65 if you include Notre Dame, which you would have to. You could either get four new conferences, or keep it the way it is now. Play your schedule out like normal, maybe bump it down to 11 games again, but after your 8-9 conference games, that leaves 2-3 non-conference power five games. Then choose your four teams the way it is now.
Nick Saban is in favor of playing only Power 5 teams. If it ever actually got to that for all of the conferences, then that would essentially eliminate Group of 5 by default.
The Group of 5 teams might lose their Power 5 game, but let’s take UAB for example. They have one Power 5 game this year (Texas A&M) and had one last year (Florida). UAB did receive $1.5 million last year for their game against Florida, and I know UAB is a school that could apparently use the money after the issues they had about a month ago. However, I think the answer to solving the money problem is to pay more for bowl games. The payout for the Bahamas Bowl was about $225,000 for UAB, and that is actually one of the smallest payouts. By comparison, UCF made $4,000,000 for the Peach Bowl.
However, if you split the Group of 5 off so they can have their own playoff, there is way more opportunity for conferences to make money, therefore sharing the revenue with their teams. If Conference USA had a representative in the Group of 5 playoff, which they most likely would with Florida Atlantic, then that would be more money via TV deals and larger bowl payouts to then share with member institutions.
In my opinion, there is as much prestige in the FCS playoff as there is in Group of 5 bowl games, if not even more. Why not add more prestige by having an actual national champion instead of UCF just pissing everyone off by falsely claiming one?
The FCS championship between North Dakota State and James Madison last year got higher ratings than multiple Group of 5 bowl games, including 200k more people than Troy’s game against North Texas and almost 700k more people than UAB vs. Ohio.
UCF vs. Memphis in the AAC championship and USC vs. Stanford in the Pac-12 championship had the same rating (2.3) during championship week. When you put good Group of 5 match-ups together, you get people to watch.
One of the biggest arguments against 8 teams in the playoffs has been the extra wear and tear on the players. If you split Group of 5 off where a Power 5 team doesn’t have to worry about filling 2-3 extra games each year against teams we know 90% of them will beat by 40+ points, then you can afford to lose a week of the regular season and go back to 11 games like it was for so long until a few years ago. Everybody loses one game so that 8 teams can potentially gain one.
There are easy enough fixes to all of this. Moving it to 8 teams allows conference championship games to mean something. If conferences are going to be stubborn enough to keep divisions into a conference championship game, then they need to mean something. History is full of teams that people thought shouldn’t make the playoffs, yet they go on a run and sometimes win a championship.
People act like going to 8 teams is going to make it where half of the teams make it. That’s not the case. Even with 8 teams, the FBS would allow the smallest percentage of teams of any major sport to make the playoffs. The FCS allows 19.2% of teams to make the playoffs while Division II allows 16.2% of teams and Division III allows 12.8% of teams. Division I basketball has 19.3% of teams make NCAA Tournament. Baseball sees 21.5% of teams make the playoffs.
The NBA and NHL allow over 50% of their teams to make the playoffs. 37.5% of NFL teams make the playoffs. 33.3% of baseball teams make the playoffs.
8 teams in the FBS playoff would not only give every single one of the 130 schools a chance to make it, but it would also only be 6.1% of the teams. If you split the division and kept only 4 teams, it would still only be 6.1% of the teams in each of the playoffs.