Four isn’t enough and eight is way too much.
There is a perfect number of college football playoff teams and it falls right between the two. The NFL uses a six-team bracket for each conference (for now) to determine the most important sporting event in the world each year for a reason.
Because six is the perfect number. It solves every problem imaginable. Well, almost.
First, a six-team playoff gets all five Power 5 conference champions into the playoff — an issue most are complaining about already — if all five are deserving. Second, it gets roughly 10 percent of the Power 5 teams into the postseason. Third, it allows for a possibility that a Group of 5 champion could sneak into the sixth spot. Fourth, unlike an eight-team playoff, no three-loss teams will ever be in the postseason mix, maintaining a certain level of exclusivity for the prestigious national championship.
But how would a six-team playoff work? What would the rules and regulations be? And what would the bracket have looked like had it been in place this season (Hint: It would have been awesome).
One of the best aspects of a six-team playoff is a first-round bye for each of the top two teams. Like in the NFL where the best two teams in each conference get an extra week of rest, so too, will the top two teams in the nation. It rewards four quality teams while also giving a big edge to the two most deserving teams in the nation — who would have earned the right to rest. Additionally, it shortens the season by one game as compared to the eight-team bracket for those concerned about student-athletes playing too many times.
Use home sites
One of the biggest issues many have with the four-team playoff was the usage of bowl games as semifinals. Despite what Bill Hancock wants you to believe, it’s not ever been about protecting the sanctity of the bowl system. No, it’s cronyism at its finest. There are 36 other bowl games that provide 72 other teams a season-ending celebratory trip. The bowl system is just fine and doesn’t need any more additional revenue. Instead, let’s allow college football to showcase what makes college football so uniquely great: Electric atmospheres on picturesque campuses and stadiums. And asking teams to travel to three consecutive neutral-site games like an eight-team playoff would require is just stupid. In the six-team structure, both first (quarterfinals) and second-round games (semis) would be played at home sites with the top seeds hosting each game.
Rotate the final
Just like the Super Bowl, the national championship game should be rotated every year throughout every region of the country. This is the NATIONAL championship not the regional or southern championship. I love New Orleans and Tempe as much as the next fan, but Indianapolis, Detroit and New York have proven that title games can be held successfully in the Midwest and Northeast as well. Like the Super Bowl, the majority of the games would be held in warm-weather locations but it doesn’t mean the sport should ignore the Pacific Northwest, Midwest or Northeast in the process. Lucas Oil Stadium and Indianapolis got rave reviews for the Super Bowl it hosted and would be an excellent fit for the college championship.
Shorten down time
One of the biggest issues that the four-team bracket hasn’t fixed is the inordinate amount of down time between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. It has improved on the amount of down time that the BCS provided by a little more than a week. But the first two games of the three-round playoff could be held annually on Christmas Eve, for example, beginning a new college football tradition. The second round would still be held on New Year’s Day and the final played a week later.
Re-seed the second round
Obviously, the initial seeding process would determine matchups between No. 3 and No. 6 as well as No. 4 and No. 5. Should the six-seed upset the three-seed, then the second round would be re-seeded. This guarantees that the No. 1 seed will always face the lowest-seeded team in the second round.
A six-team playoff doesn’t solve every issue for college football. No system can be perfect. It doesn’t matter how big or small the postseason is, someone will always be upset about missing out. The ninth-ranked team in the eight-team playoff would be just as upset as Baylor and TCU this year. The same could be said about the seventh-ranked team in a six-team format.
That being said, a six-team format would have been perfect for 2014.
No. 6 TCU at No. 3 Florida State
How awesome would this be in Doak Campbell Stadium? The unbeaten, undisputed defending champion with Jameis Winston under center against Gary Patterson’s reinvented offense? Yes, please. If the Seminoles win, they’d face No. 2 Oregon in Eugene while a TCU victory would have sent the Horned Frogs to Tuscaloosa to play No. 1 Alabama.
No. 5 Baylor at No. 4 Ohio State
Does anybody in Waco want the opportunity to prove that the Bears are better than the Buckeyes? Baylor fans would travel to any city in the world to play Ohio State if it meant a chance to prove the Bears belonged in the playoff. But The Horseshoe is as good a location as college football has to offer for the postseason and I promise BU would relish the opportunity. Where the winner of this game goes would depend on who wins the other matchup.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon get a first-round bye and sit at home for an extra week. Then Bryant-Denny Stadium and Autzen Stadium would host national semifinals before the final two teams meet on a neutral field.
All in favor?