An expanded playoff would give every deserving team a chance to play for a national title
The College Football Playoff bracket is set, and much like every season since its inception, the selection process is once again mired in controversy. Most of the controversy this season surrounds the committee's decision to put Alabama in the playoff instead of Big Ten champion Ohio State.
This is the second year in a row that the team that won the Big Ten title has been left out of the College Football Playoff. It's also the second consecutive season where a Group of 5 team has run the table all the way to bowl season, only to be an afterthought in the national title picture.
The sport can do better. One of the way it can do better is by expanding the current playoff format to include eight teams. We're not talking about revamping the entire system here. Instead, an eight-team playoff would make the selection committee's job much easier by adding a little bit of subjectivity to the process.
For starters, an eight-team playoff would include five automatic bids. Those bids would go to the champions of each Power 5 conference — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. You would then need to fill the bracket with three "at-large" teams. These teams would be filled with the same selection process that currently decides college football's final four. You would simply take the top two Power 5 teams, according to the College Football Playoff rankings, that didn't win their conference and give them two of the bids. To fill the final slot, you would give a bid to the highest-ranked Group of 5 team according to the selection committee. This theoretically gives every Group of 5 team a chance to play for a national title.
You would then seed the teams 1-8 according to where the committee has them ranked. The first-round games would be played at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. The semifinals and national championship would rotate amongst the New Year's Six bowls and neutral sites, just as they do now.
If this process were implemented today — in 2017 — this is what the eight-team bracket would look like:
|No. 8||No. 1|
|(Group of 5 rep)||(ACC champion)|
|No. 5||No. 4|
|(Big Ten champion)||(at-large)|
|No. 6||No. 3|
|No. 7||No. 2|
|(Pac-12 champion)||(Big 12 champion)|
This system rewards teams for winning a conference title while also giving a nod to teams like Wisconsin, Alabama and UCF — all who had championship-caliber seasons.
And the best part? How about that first-round matchup between Ohio State and Alabama? That might be almost as entertaining as watching their fans bicker on Twitter.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.