At first glance, this seems contrarian:
With a field of 65 teams — possibly growing soon to 96 — the NCAA tournament might feel like more of a crapshoot than a fair method of selecting the nation’s best college-basketball team. But it turns out that it has a better chance of coronating the best regular-season team than the NFL’s 12-team playoff does.
… the NFL — which has just 32 teams overall, fewer than half the number of teams in the NCAA tournament field — might seem to have a far easier time seeing its best flourish. Also, NFL playoff games before the Super Bowl are played at the field of the higher-seeded team, which usually is the better team.
So how to explain this? Two reasons:
But football games include far fewer possessions than basketball games, meaning that the superior team has fewer chances to assert its superiority. And the best college hoops teams usually get top seeds, so they get relatively easy early-round games…
both of which would suggest that if your primary consideration in designing a D-1 college football postseason is to have the best teams playing for the title, then you want as small a playoff field as is credible (i.e., eliminate the Auburn 2004 scenario). That, of course, is not the same thing as settling it on the field, letting Cinderella mess with your brackets, funneling more money to every school in the Mountain West Conference, etc. – so other people’s mileage may vary.