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Winter is Coming for College Football’s Four-Team Playoff

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As we approach Thanksgiving and the end of the college football regular season, it’s clear that winter is not just literally coming — it’s also metaphorically approaching for the four-team College Football Playoff system with more doom in the air than “Game of Thrones.”

Let me preface the rest of this column by saying I don’t think an eight-team playoff will be any better than a four-team one, we’ll just be trading in one set of problems (arguing over the No. 4 team in the country) for others (arguing over the No. 8 team in the country and a less dramatic regular season).

But as soon as the BCS perished and finally gave way to a playoff in 2014, fans have been calling for it to expand to eight teams. The playoff avoided chaos the first two years because Ohio State justified the No. 4 seed over TCU by winning the inaugural playoff and last year’s top four teams were relatively clear-cut.

But after five of the Top 10 teams in the playoff rankings lost on Saturday, it appears we are headed for the same nightmare of controversy that typified the BCS era.

Just take a look at the current AP top 10 in which every spot can be debated aside the top one:

1. Alabama (10-0)

2. Ohio State (9-1)

3. Louisville (9-1)

4. Michigan (9-1)

5. Clemson (9-1)

6. Wisconsin (8-2)

7. Washington (9-1)

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8. Oklahoma (8-2)

9. Penn State (8-2)

10. West Virginia (8-1)

The only way I can see this college football season not ending in chaos is if Michigan beats Ohio State and Wisconsin, Clemson or Louisville loses once more and Oklahoma beats West Virginia. That would leave us with a playoff of Alabama, Michigan, Washington and Louisville or Clemson, followed by a bunch of two loss teams.

Good luck to the committee on that exact scenario playing out.

Because it certainly appears right now as if Ohio State, Louisville and/or West Virginia could all finish with one loss and have a strong case for making the playoff despite not playing in a conference championship game.

And then there’s the Doomsday scenario in which Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Louisville, West Virginia and Washington all win out, leaving five one-loss teams to fight over three playoff spots (plus a possible two-loss Big Ten champion in Penn State or Wisconsin) and people howling for an eight-team playoff.

Does your head feel like it’s about to explode? Mine too.

As always, fans everywhere are cheering for chaos because college football is at its best during late-season anarchy and it’s fun to see the playoff committee squirm.

But as I said above, expanding the playoff to eight teams or even 16 teams (or dare I say 24 like the FCS?) will just result in controversy over less deserving teams and make the most important regular season in American sports less meaningful.

The only way I see debate being removed from college football’s postseason selection process is an NFL-style playoff with four super conferences (buh bye, Big 12) and the winner of each conference championship game squaring off in a four-team playoff.

But that scenario is currently a pipe dream.

So do you feel that chill in the air? Brace yourselves, folks, because winter is nearly here:

— Written by Jim Weber, a veteran college sports journalist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Weber has written for CBS Sports Network, NBCSports.com, ESPN the Magazine and the college sports website he founded and sold, LostLettermen.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JimMWeber.