What Would an 8-Team CFP Look Like?

So for a while now, this year more than usual, people are calling for the heads of the CFP committee for their decision on who gets into the playoff. Last year people were upset that Ohio State got in despite not playing for their conference championship and this year the same thing happened with Alabama. Both teams have the same thing in common: they lost to the wrong team. Had both 2016 Ohio State or 2017 Alabama lost to somebody other than Penn State or Auburn, then they would have certainly been playing in their conference title games. I first heard a proposal by an SEC coach (I think it was Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, who is now their former coach, but I’m basing that on very little, don’t quote me on that citation) about an idea for an 8-team playoff. All Power 5 champs get in and 3 at-large teams. I’m actually a huge fan of that idea. While I am also a fan of the current format, I think an 8-team playoff would ease peoples’ bitching and take the whole “they didn’t win their conference” argument out of the picture, which I think is the biggest crutch facing the committee right now.

So for this blog, I’m going to take a look at what the Playoff picture would look like if we did have an 8-team playoff. As you may have seen, here is how the CFP voted in the current 4-team format:

1.Clemson

2.Oklahoma

3.Georgia

4.Alabama

5.Ohio State

6.Wisconsin

Of course, people are irate about the #4-#5 rankings. A lot of people are saying that you can’t leave the Big Ten champs out. Before I go into any more depth I got to get this off my chest: Ohio State is the fifth best team in the country. I’ve gotten a chance to watch them live twice this season: their first game of the year against Indiana and their last game against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship. Now both were Buckeyes victories, but one thing I noticed is that they got away with sloppy play in both games. Against Indiana, their secondary was swiss cheese against Richard Lagow, who was benched midway through the season for a redshirt freshman who can barely throw a ball 30 yards. Lagow threw for over 370 yards on them. I noticed SIGNIFICANT improvement between that game and the Big Ten Title game, particularly with cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward had a lot of hype going into the season and I was NOT impressed by his play against Indiana. However, I felt the exact opposite about him against Wisconsin, where he didn’t allow a single catch and won a jump ball against tight end Troy Fumagalli for an interception. But Ohio State won the game 27-21 and they should have won by a LOT more. Their defense had been shutting down Wisconsin’s offense all day, making Alex Hornibrook look like a D3 quarterback. Yet the Badgers were in this game to the very end because of self-inflicted wounds. JT Barrett threw a pick-6 when he stared down his receiver in his own endzone. Mike Weber fumbled inside their own 20 (however it’s debatable if his knee was down or not, the view the stadium jumbotrons gave us did not give conclusive evidence), and Barrett threw another pick on a ball that was dropped by his receiver into the arms of the Wisconsin linebacker. You don’t see these mistakes out of Alabama. When they’re better than you, they step on your throats. I know the CFP says they don’t consider margin of victory, but their leader in an interview with ESPN immediately after the rankings were released straight up said that they couldn’t in good conscience include Ohio State with a 31-point loss to an unranked team on their resume. If all losses are equal, then why the Hell would he say that? Alabama’s only loss came against an outstanding Auburn team at the worst possible moment. So I do believe the committee got it right with their selection of Alabama over Ohio State. Rant over.

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So here are the Power 5 conference champs that would automatically earn playoff berths in an 8-team system:

ACC: Clemson Tigers

Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

PAC 12: USC Trojans

SEC: Georgia Bulldogs

Those 5 teams are in and are likely the higher-ranked teams. I’m assuming that seeding would be determined based on each team’s position in the rankings. So based on that, it would be:

Clemson vs #3 At Large Team

Oklahoma vs #2 At Large Team

Georgia vs #1 At Large Team

Ohio State vs USC

The two lowest ranked conference champs, which in this case are Ohio State and USC, would square off while the top 3 are rewarded for their excellence by receiving the at-large teams. So who would their opponents be?

Georgia’s opponent would be the Alabama Crimson Tide, an SEC-on-SEC matchup, however these two teams did not meet in the regular season, so it’s basically like the other matchups on these lists. This very nearly was the SEC title game and if we had an 8-team playoff, we would get the matchup anyway.

Oklahoma’s opponent would be the Wisconsin Badgers, based on the committee’s rankings, though I wonder if they were voting on it, how much weight their loss in the Big Ten championship would carry. Would they still be in the playoff if their loss was so recent? My gut tells me yes, though that loss would likely change who they would face.

Clemson’s opponent would be the Auburn Tigers, a rematch from earlier in the season when Clemson won 13-6. Auburn is ranked 7th by the committee, yet they have 3 losses, so that would spark even further debate. The debate goes from “should a 2-loss get in” to “should a 3-loss get in,” which I think would be a lot more damning considering how many good 2-loss teams there are. Because here are a list of some notable 2-loss teams: Ohio State, USC, Penn State, Miami (FL), Washington, Memphis. You mean to tell me you’d prefer a 3-loss Auburn team to get in over these guys? The debate would be a lot fiercer and I think it would really affect the rankings because at this point, once you’re out of the Top 4, your ranking really doesn’t mean anything anymore.

So here is the seeding in a theoretical 8-team playoff based on the committee’s final rankings:

1.Clemson Tigers (vs #8 Auburn)

2.Oklahoma Sooners (vs #7 Wisconsin)

3.Georgia Bulldogs (vs #6 Alabama)

4.Ohio State Buckeyes (vs #5 USC)

5.USC Trojans (vs #4 Ohio State)

6.Alabama Crimson Tide (vs #3 Georgia)

7.Wisconsin Badgers (vs #2 Oklahoma)

8.Auburn Tigers (vs #1 Clemson)

And here it is in Bracket Form:

1 Clemson vs 8 Auburn

4 Ohio State vs 5 USC

3 Georgia vs 6 Alabama

2 Oklahoma vs 7 Wisconsin

Draw the brackets yourself, I don’t have an illustrator function on this WordPress thing. I seriously doubt that if we did have this format that Auburn would get in with 3 losses. The honor of the 8-seed would likely end up going to either Penn State, Miami, or Washington, or Hell, even the undefeated UCF. And if the Knights were legitimately in the playoff discussion, does head coach Scott Frost leave for Nebraska? We may never know. Personally, I’d love to see this format in action. I disagree with the argument that it would “devalue” the regular season. That’s bullshit, you need to perform in the regular season to get to these seeds. If anything, it amps up the importance.

You want to devalue the regular season? Do a 128-team playoff. Everybody gets in (though I think the NCAA is at 130 FBS football programs right now, could be wrong). Then the committee REALLY has to work and rank every single team and the lone two teams that don’t make the playoff have a fight to the death to see which program gets demoted to the FCS in favor of the FCS champion coming up to take their place. A Sacko Bowl, if you will. 128 teams play in the playoff and the 2 that don’t make it have to play in a bowl game for the right to stay in the FBS. I need to tone down my hypothetical excitement. And just so we’re clear, no, I’m not projecting that in a blog. I’ve only had a single dollar donated to my Patreon so unless I’m making that scrilla (I promise I will never use that word again), I’m not putting in all that effort.

Now yes, I know it is Monday, which I’m trying to make into my weekly story day. But this is too topical at the moment for me not to blog about it on Monday. Don’t worry, that blog is still coming this week, I do have a story in mind from my JV baseball days. Probably won’t be until Wednesday because based on what I’m reading, Tuesday’s blog may end up being another Giancarlo Stanton blog, because reportedly the Marlins have deals in place with the Giants and Cardinals and they just need to ask Stanton which one he wants to go to. So he could be traded at any moment now. If he’s not traded today, then Tuesday’s blog will be the story. I promise. So what do you think of the 8-team playoff? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

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