Ari Wasserman ($$) nails exactly what I find so exasperating about this whole “playoff expansion will fix some of college football’s parity problems” narrative. [HINT: It won’t.]
This part in particular is perfect:
There seems to be this longing to duplicate what the NCAA Tournament does for basketball. We love Selection Sunday, the CBS theme music and the potential for a few upsets. We love seeing the little guy end the powerhouse’s season. In college basketball, nearly everyone is invited to the party, and we all hope an 11 seed makes it to the Sweet 16. We love Sister Jean. We love Cinderella stories.
But you know what else we love? Regular-season upsets in college football.
And in college football, upsets in September, October and November have a tendency to end seasons the very same way they do in the NCAA Tournament. That’s why we all collectively turn a game on when an undefeated, top-five power is losing in the fourth quarter. We sit on the edge of our seats and hope and pray that the top-five team loses, taking a huge punch to its CFP resume. We love the stakes. We love what losses mean. And, above all, we love the CFP discourse, the arguments, the Twitter beefs, the podcasts. We love all of it.
Do we really want to devalue upsets in college football? Do we really want to say, “Who cares, they’re making the CFP anyway” after a traditional power suffers a critical loss or a second loss? College football is amazing because the stakes are so high every week. Taking away those stakes because we’re starved to want more participation isn’t healthy. It’s not the problem-solver we think it is.
If you prefer the tl;dr version of that, here ’tis. “All we’re doing is taking teams that aren’t fit to compete for a national championship and guiding them to a 28-point blowout loss to the teams that would have made it in the four-team field.”
Beyond that, if you’re pro-expansion, there are some troubling statistics you’re going to have to deal with.
Since the CFP’s inception in 2014, the teams that ranked between No. 5 and No. 12 in the final poll the most were Ohio State, Georgia and Penn State — each did it four times. Ohio State, in the world of an expanded Playoff, would have made the field every year (keep in mind, OSU has lost more than three games only twice since 2001).
Wasserman asks if we want a world where Michigan knocks off Ohio State in the regular season and the Buckeyes still make the playoffs. That is what folks like me mean when we talk about expansion devaluing the regular season.
So is this:
If (when?) the CFP expands to 12 one day, the first No. 8 seed to win a national title isn’t going to be a Cinderella. It’s not going to be Pitt or Baylor or Wisconsin or Washington or Cincinnati. It’s going to be a two-loss Ohio State, Alabama or Clemson that does it because those are the types of teams that are talented enough to win multiple games on that stage when things click.
What’s the point of that? Other than to let the conferences make more money, I mean.
Look, I know I’m on the losing side of this debate. I’ve made my peace with that. I only wish the people jonesing for expansion would quit creating all these horseshit justifications for it. Just say you’re bored, want brackets and be done with it. We’ll all be better off for it.