If four is good and eight is great, what would sixteen be?

Well, gosh darn it, who among us could have seen this coming?

C’mon, man, what about pride?  You gotta give the Gus Bus some kind of fuel to run on.

Actually this was coming a week ago, as everywhere you turned in the media — including Finebaum’s employer, by the way — you heard the Georgia-Auburn game described not as the next installment of the South’s Oldest Rivalry, but as Auburn’s next stepping stone in its march towards making the CFP.  That narrative worked out well.  Who needs regional rivalries when you’ve got a selection committee bringing the excitement?

The bigger picture isn’t any more attractive.  Just ask Stewart Mandel.

I’ve long believed, and still do, that an eight-team playoff would severely harm the regular season. But four teams was such a relatively modest change I figured it would have only a minimal negative effect, if any. And the first two years bore that out. If anything, it made those regular seasons more compelling.

But the muted impact of last weekend’s upsets was definitely vindication for the old BCS proponents/playoff opponents. I’ve found myself thinking back this week to Nov. 17, 2012, when No. 1 Kansas State (against Baylor) and No. 2 Oregon (against Stanford) both lost on the same night, turning the BCS title race on its head. No. 3 Notre Dame went from possible championship game snub to lone remaining undefeated team. K-State and Oregon were essentially done.

Compare that level of upheaval to the much quieter aftermath of Nov. 12, 2016, when No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington all lost, and only the Huskies suffered even mild consequences.

But this is the trade-off we accepted by expanding the field to four. Were this the BCS, the No. 5 and 6 teams from last week, Ohio State and Louisville, would move up to Nos. 2 and 3, no questions asked. And if Alabama and Ohio State won out, they would meet in the BCS championship game, albeit with no shortage of hand wringing if the Buckeyes don’t win their division.

But also under that scenario, the only remaining games with national title implications would be the Iron Bowl, the SEC title game and Michigan-Ohio State. As it is, we’ll also be paying close attention to any games involving Clemson, Washington, Louisville, Wisconsin and Penn State, including likely all four conference title games.

If anything, the field widened, not narrowed last weekend.

And we all know there’s only one way to fix a widened field.  Brackets, baby!

Make college football great again.

I, for one, welcome our new Cinderella stories overlords.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

46 responses to “If four is good and eight is great, what would sixteen be?

  1. Russ

    NFL-Lite, except for the money. The money isn’t lite.


    • Otto

      Make College Football great again, repeal the playoff


      • Mayor

        Build a wall and make the NFL pay for it!!


        • down island way

          What we don’t know is if saban$ contract read$ per win$/championship$/undefeated $eason etc., saban would blow an artery if the scout team got penalized for being in motion/ wrong formation…..plus look what expansion has done to ncaa hoops seasons, made some relatively meaningless.


  2. 81Dog

    “Were this the BCS, the No. 5 and 6 teams from last week, Ohio State and Louisville, would move up to Nos. 2 and 3, no questions asked.”

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Just like No. 4 UGA moved up to No.2 in 2007, when numbers 2 and 3 lost, remember, Stewart? Nothing like a little “superior insight signaling” to show everyone how smart he is, except, well, facts.

    4 is plenty. 8 is just a cash grab. Just because the 8th or 9th best team in the country MIGHT be able to win a tournament doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to have one, unless you are a bean counter or a problem gambler.

    As for the Iron Bowl becoming meaningless, you mean like about 8 of the last 10 years? Besides, if AU manages to beat Alabama, check back with me about how meaningless it was (although if Alabama wins the SEC, I guess it wont keep them out of the playoff).


    • Jeff Sanchez

      Right – I agree with Mandel that the playoff has lessened the impact of some games, but Bama / Auburn, Ga / FL, OsU / Michigan, et al will never be “meaningless”


    • Irwin R. Fletcher

      #1- It’s always the years where there is no ‘clear’ #1 and #2 that this kind of stuff comes up. We don’t have two undefeated P5 champs so how do we decide? Can’t take a non-conference champ…until you can. Can’t take a one loss team over an undefeated…until you can. Etc. Etc. Etc. If you try to create a ‘system’ to handle years like this, you will screw it up.

      2-The issue is and always has been subjectivity, IMO. Create a system where you have automatic bids for conference champs. We’ve been playing for conference championships for how many years and the ‘sanctity’ of the regular season has survived…


      • LamontSanford

        The Herbstreit Doctrine is real…and its spectacular. #nonconferencechampionlivesmatter


      • CB

        Agreed wholeheartedly on point 1.

        Can’t get with you on the conference champs though. There have been times one conference has two or three of the best teams in the nation.


    • Napoleon BonerFart

      In terms of Alabama’s championship aspirations, the Iron Bowl is meaningless. If Saban were so inclined, he could rest every starter and let his scout team play against Auburn. If they lost 100-0, they would still be ranked in the top four, and probably still at number 1.

      They’ve already clinched the West, so they’re playing in Atlanta win, lose, or draw. If they win there, they’re in the playoff.

      So, yes. Meaningless.


      • Mayor

        Bama is in Atlanta whether the Tide beats Auburn or not. So why not tank the game and rest all the starters? Well, for one thing, they are having an undefeated season and if Saban rested his best players and lost the game then the undefeated season is out the window. Even Bama doesn’t have those every year.


  3. Rocket Dawg

    We are inching closer and closer to me abandoning college football completely.
    Why can’t we just leave well enough alone? The punditry have already been casually tossing out Saban resting his starters a la NFL against Auburn because the game means nothing on a national or conference level. I doubt that he would do it but let something happen to Hurts or Ridley or one of the star defensive guys. This scenario comes up again you can almost guarantee that the next coach will pull his best players. Can you imagine Kirby resting Eason, Ridley, et al against the gnats because we are undefeated and guranteed to be in the SECCG against a weak West opponent who we should beat easily? We are headed to hell in a hand basket wearing gasoline soaked under shorts.



    I disagree on the zero implications…IF Bama wants to choose their venue for the semi, they need the number one seed…loose to AU and that is more than likely out the window. Also a loss to AU gives them zero room for fault in the SECCG.


  5. 6claude

    I actually think the playoffs have enhanced the regular season. In the past, fewer teams had a legitimate shot at one title game. Now, 4 teams have a shot and that means more “meaningful” games.

    Ultimately what I think a lot of people are lamenting is the National Championship or bust attitude. That is why Mandel and others deem some games irrelevant because of the lack of impact on the championship. No system will cure that.

    I view college football on a longer continuum than just one season. Rivalries matter, direction of the program, other things. Even in down years, though I enjoy watching each game for itself. The lust for a National Title I think kills that for a lot of people.

    I do lust for one myself but am able to step back when needed.


  6. sUGArdaddy

    The problem is that we have a system that essentially doesn’t value being #1 over being #4, especially since a late upset can actually send the 2nd best team in the country to #4. Being #4 doesn’t actually mean you’re the 4th best team. You’re all playing at neutral sites. This year, Bama surely wants to be in Atlanta, but what if they play Clemson in Atlanta. Is that really much of an advantage except for not having to travel.

    If the semis were last year’s sites, they’d have a real conundrum. Miami and Dallas were washes. Neither was decidedly more favorable like New Orleans or Atlanta over Pasadena and Phoenix.

    The other part that we still struggle with is that it’s a beauty pageant. If WVU goes 11-1 and is the conference champion, how in the world can you take 11-1 Ohio St. who is not even a division champion. Are we really sure the Big 10 is that much better than the Big 12? Maybe they just can’t score in the Big 10?

    So, we’ve got 2 fundamental problems: 1. It’s a beauty pageant, which skews too much thinking and even game planning (trying to blow people out and risking injuries). 2. The value of being #1 vs. being #4 is diminished. And there is thought that in some circles you will have years where it’s actually better to NOT go to your conference championship game. Is Ohio St. actually better off NOT going to the Big 10 title game?

    Howevah…If you have a 6-team playoff in which the Power 5 champions go, you have made conference games mean everything. Absolutely everything. Last Saturday morning, South Carolina would have woken up with a chance still in mid-November. There’s no more beauty pageants. Win your league and you’re in. Conference Championship Saturday would be the best day of the year. 5 essentially quarterfinal games.

    But (and this is the key), #1 and #2 get byes. All of the sudden, the value of being 1 and 2 are astronomical. Bama HAS to beat Auburn because they’ve got to get that bye. Going undefeated would have tremendous value. Sure, there would be years the ‘beauty pageant’ has to determine who #2 is, but OOC scheduling and conference strength would play a huge role in that. That encourages better OOC scheduling.

    #3 and #4 get first round home games. So, maybe a tough loss put me out of that bye, but I’ve got to keep pace to keep one of those slots, because I don’t want to travel to Eugene or LA or Norman or Columbus in that first round. Being #5 or #6 would be a tough gig.

    There’s simple rules. There’s 1 at-large. You can be ranked no higher than #5 if you’re an at-large. If you’re the at-large, you’re going on the road and gotta win 3 games. But you got your shot, either as a non-conf. champion or a group of 5 champion. That gives some leeway for an 11-1 OSU to be ranked higher (with a slightly easier path) than a 10-2 Oklahoma whom they beat.

    But think of Western Michigan right now. They’d be thinking: Michigan beats OSU, and Louisville gets upset by Houston or UK and we’re in. I think that’s good for college football. And if those 2 upsets happen, you’d be out of 1-loss teams, so you’d almost have to take them.

    I don’t know why this is so hard to figure out. The playoff they created actually settles it in a board room still, not the field. Make the conference games mean more (automatic bid). Make the non-conference rivalry games have higher stakes (bye, home field). Give the little guy a real shot at access and/or take the headache out of the dilemma when you have a top team that didn’t win it’s conference.

    Playoff rant over.


  7. 92 grad

    It would be so much nicer if they would just call it what it really is. They’re just playing for a trophy, it’s not the national champion of college football.

    It’s a tournament with a trophy at the end for the winner. Call it the ESPN trophy and be done with it.


  8. Derek

    College football is a lot more fun if you don’t listen to the talking heads. There is so much airtime to fill they just babble about BS anyway. The content is mostly wrong or stupid.

    For example, one of the ESPN channels was on the day after the cubs won and a subject for discussion was: does the Indians loss put more pressure on Lebron?



    • @Derek: I should have entered another line of work, being a talking head on ESPN, Fox sports, any of them. Hell, I can pontificate with the best, act sullen, get all fake angry, act like Holtz and Mays, and for enough money turn into a Saban brown nose. I turned all these guys off years ago. Tooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much babble. Alamosa, caller on line three.


  9. SouthernYank

    4 is plenty. If you’re 5 or 6, you likely didn’t take care of business, like Ohio St. against Penn St. So too bad for you.


  10. CB

    There needs to be at least 6, but I’m all for 8 especially if they play home games during the first round. This anti playoff rhetoric is just a joke to me. There have been plenty of years where the Iron Bowl has essentially been meaningless, but if Bama loses then they’ll risk losing the #1 seed so THERE ARE implications.

    If you want to make it better, get rid of the committee, bring back the BCS ranking system, and let the computers choose the best 6-8 teams. Like it or not the playoffs are going to expand and players are probably going to be getting paid. Deal with it.


  11. CB

    Scenario Bama loses to Auburn then loses the SECCG, and they’re out of the playoff. They aren’t going to throw the game.


    • Mayor

      This^^. Bama could win the Iron Bowl and lose the SECCG and STILL finish in the top 4. Lose the Iron Bowl and the SECCG–they would be out of the playoff.


  12. B-UGA

    We’ll all see if the CFB kills the conference championship game…if Ohio State and/or Michigan get in without winning their respective conference championship, I call BS! I don’t think you should even be considered a top 4 team if you can’t win your conference championship….If it was a one loss Mississippi State or Missouri that didn’t win the SEC, you think they would even be considered for the top 4!? Only if your name is Ohio State, Michigan, or Notre Dame would you be considered if you don’t win your conference.


    • CB

      Conference championship games are arbitrarily scheduled extra games that only mean anything bc the conferences say they do. If you think about it what do they really prove?


      • B-UGA

        What!? arbitrarily scheduled extra game!? It’s one of the criteria the CFP committee said they were going to take into consideration…and what every Bowl used to pick their teams. It’s one of the main goals of every football team in the country. How many times have you seen the 3rd best team in a conference play for a national championship? The conference championship proves your the best in your conference & that you should represent that conference in the post season….It’s always been that way…until this year! Come on! Really!? Are you a OSU, Michigan, or Notre Dame fan?


        • CB

          Where to start.

          “How many times have you seen the 3rd best team in a conference play for a national championship?”

          Never, that’s my point it has never been possible. But I believe it was 2011 when Bama, LSU, and Arkansas were all ranked 1,2,3. Which means Arkansas was likely better than whoever won the ACC or Big 12 that season, but they get left out of the equation because they didn’t win the mythical “conference championship.”

          “It’s one of the criteria the CFP committee said they were going to take into consideration…and what every Bowl used to pick their teams. It’s one of the main goals of every football team in the country”

          The CFP committee is a complete joke so any criteria that they use won’t win you any arguments. Bowls are also a bunch of meaningless extra games that fans get excited over for no real reason. It’s nostalgia I guess. I for one am over it. Winning a bowl game is the most overrated accomplishment in college sports. “We went 7-5, but we beat the 5th place Big Ten team in the Capital One Bowl, so this season was a success.” I don’t think so.

          “The conference championship proves your (sic) the best in your conference & that you should represent that conference in the post season….It’s always been that way”

          This is also false, the SEC championship game has only been around since 1992. Ask yourself this if Tennessee wins the east and beats Bama, are they the best team in the conference? Or did we just add an extra game to the schedule that ended up biting Bama in the behind. Conference championships are more of a risk than anything. It kept Tennessee out of the national title game in 2001 when they got upset by LSU. It’s a money grab and nothing more. Like I said, it only means something bc the conference commissioner says it does.


  13. JCDAWG83

    8 12 team conferences who all play a championship game and the 8 champions play an 8 game NC “tournament” to determine the true NC. Regular season should be cut back to 11 games and no games against FCS opponents allowed. The 30 or so programs left out of the D1 conferences can drop down to FCS and make that division better and more entertaining.

    As long as there is any kind of “committee” or poll to determine who gets to play for the championship, the championship will not be legitimate. The current system and all the systems up until now to determine a D1 football “champion” is nothing more than a more well attended and higher revenue producing version of figure skating or gymnastics.


    • CB

      Conference champions sound great, until you get a really weak conference with an automatic bid, which results in a 3 loss Big 12 champion getting in over a one loss Ohio State who lost to an undefeated Michigan by a field goal, or a one loss Georgia who lost a close game to an undefeated Alabama in the SECCG.

      Then all of a sudden the Conference Champion idea isn’t so great. This is a scenario that happens fairly often. I say just bring back the computers and let them rank the top 8, and whoever is in gets to go. 9 times out of 10 a conference champion will get into an 8 team playoff, but if they don’t then they probably didn’t have a shot to win anyway. Either way you have to have at large bids because it is often the case that at least one conference has more than one title contender.


  14. Macallanlover

    Great to see all you “16 team playoff” alarmists snuggle up with Mandel…that should scare you off right there. And let’s just ignore the fact that NO ONE has ever rested a player in CFB as you NFL Lite guys tout. Eight is a very exclusive number oif 128 teams, yet inclusive enough that every team that takes care of business would have a shot. We aren’t talking NFL, NBA, NCAA BB here guys. Top 5-6 percent with all conferences have representation. Have to play well all year, even at the end. Craziness.


    • CB

      Would you look at that. Math brings it all into perspective. More than a third of the teams in the NFL make the playoffs. There is no comparison with college football, even with 8 teams.


      • You guys are looking in the wrong direction. How big are the FCS playoffs now?


        • CB

          That’s a good point, but you’re still talking about less than 20% of FCS teams that get into the playoff, and half of them get a bye so seeding is still important.

          Not that my voice matters at all, but I would draw a hard line at 8 teams, but probably wouldn’t want anymore than 6 unless home playoff games are on the table. However, even if they end up with a 32 team playoff I’ll still take that over the BCS computers or random newspaper publications picking a national champion. If you’re worried about the significance of rivalry games, play them in October or September. Problem solved. If you’re telling me that I get a playoff, but the UGA Kentucky game doesn’t have much riding on it, I think I can live with that.

          As far as the NFL comparison goes I would think that you would begin to see diminishing returns if you expanded the CFB football playoff too much. I’m assuming that’s why they didn’t expand the basketball tournament to 96 teams a few years ago. Then again they still let 68 in which is pretty atrocious. I’ll never put it past college football to find a way to screw something up (ie the CFP committee with Condy, and playing games on NYE)


          • Rocket Dawg

            College basketball’s regular season is completely irrelevant at this point. No one pays attention to basketball until after the first of the year and even then the interest doesn’t peak until the conference tournaments.

            My beef is an 8 or larger tournament lets in teams that didn’t win their conference or division. What happens the first time an 8-3 Auburn gets into the 8 team playoff and gets hot and wins?


            • CB

              What if an 8-3 Auburn team is legitimately better than the undefeated Big 12 champion? The only fair playoff in sports that I can think of is the NBA playoff best out of 7, the best team usually wins. Every other playoff in America is flawed, but they are all better than a computer selecting the top 2, and that includes NCAA basketball.


        • Macallanlover

          Peaches and bananas Senator, it is you who are looking the wrong way. Large schools cannot, and will not, get jerked around with multple games played away with only seven days notice. 1AA schools only have a traveling support group of 2-3K fans, at most, and most of them aren’t that influential. The big power schools have 30-40K who will insist on seats and travel accommodations to see their team fulfill their dreams, some of which have been waiting decades for the opportunity to win an event this big.

          The logistics have always been one of the limiting issues of 8 to me, in addition to being the best balance of inclusive/exclusive and making sure the regular season is meaningful to all and preventing all decisions from being subjective and political. With eight, the excuses are removed. Everyone has a path which they can control, just win baby.


  15. Eventually 16. Just way too much $$$$$$$$$$$$$ to ignore. Disclaimer: Fans that complained like hell about teams with 3 losses getting in, would change so fast when their team with 3 losses gets in, is hot and wins it all. See Giants(10-6) vs Patriots(16-0 or so).