Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

And now there will be 12?

I’ve been a longtime advocate of an eight-team college football playoff. I’ve been on that stump for somewhere around 30 years. Way before the BCS tried to correct things. Before the BCS the Coaches Poll and sportswriters’ poll would vote on the national champion after the bowl games. Usually they agreed, but not always. It was so obvious to many that the idea of sportswriters and coaches voting on the champion was ridiculous, the title needed to be settled on the field.

So, the Bowl Championship series was formed. That guaranteed that the number one and two teams would meet head-to-head in a bowl game to decide the championship. It was a step in the right direction, but did nothing to dissuade me from my eight-team mantra. All too often there was just too much doubt about whether the pollsters got the right two teams into the game. Nothing at all about the BCS formula did anything to appease college football fans.
The NCAA took a big step toward getting it correct in 2014 with the initiation of the College Football Playoff. A committee would select four teams to play for the championship. Many applauded the move, I still pined for eight teams, but this was a big step for the NCAA that trips as often as it successfully takes a step.

While I was still vocal about having eight teams, it’s difficult to argue that the best team ever missed the field. There has been, however, times the difference between teams three through five or six was so minute it seemed wrong to exclude those teams that were squarely in the mix. Having eight teams would have allowed them to compete. Those arguments convinced most that expansion to an eight-team field was inevitable, and sooner rather than later.

Last week, seemingly out of nowhere, came word that not only was the NCAA prepared to expand the playoffs, but they were going to make it a 12-team affair, not eight. Further, approval is expected, and this thing could happen as soon as the 2023 season. At first I scoffed as I have basically ridiculed anyone suggesting a 12 team format over the years. I saw no reason to introduce byes into the mix as that would take us right back to the issue of picking teams from three through five, six or seven. Use what ever numbers you want, I just thought byes were a bad idea.

I’m still not crazy about the byes, but after looking at the proposal I’m comfortable with what they want to do. The 12-team playoff will increase the number of games from three to 11 and that should be good for the average fan. Sure, some games will be blowouts, but we already have those. I’m thinking more entertaining games will be generated than flat out busts. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The proposed College Football Playoff bracket would feature 12 teams: the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus six at-large teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions would earn first-round byes, and the next four highest-ranked teams would host the teams ranked nos. 9-12 in first-round playoff games. After the first round, all of the games would take place at neutral sites.

By taking six conference champions, the Group of Five is guaranteed at least one team in the field. If this format was in use last season the Group of Five would have had Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina in the field and the Pac 12 would have missed the field.

One parting shot at the Domers. Even if Notre Dame finishes as the number one rated team, they can’t receive a bye because they won’t be a conference champion. That’s particularly interesting since Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is part of the four-member committee that came up with this proposal. Is the AD secretly looking for a reason to get permission to give up their independence and join the ACC?