(A second note: There won’t BE a Power 5 next year, unless a Pac-2 of Oregon State and Washington State gets grandfathered in. And enough with the digressions.)
Over the CFP’s first nine years, none of the 36 qualifiers seemed outclassed. Michigan State of 2015 is regarded as the least of the bunch – the Spartans lost to Alabama 38-0 in the semis – but MSU was a one-loss Big Ten champ that felled reigning titlist Ohio State. Have we argued over the relative merits of the last team in and the first team out? Often. Have we asked if any No. 12 deserved inclusion? Never.
Be honest. How many teams have a legitimate shot, as opposed to a theoretical one, at this season’s title? Georgia and Alabama. Ohio State and Michigan. Florida State, definitely. Texas, maybe. Washington and Oregon. (Conveniently enough, those are the CFP’s top eight.) And that’s it – eight teams, some of whom will beat one another before the first Sunday in December.
Eight is not 12. Eight is four too many for this year’s playoffs. Eight won’t be enough for next year’s.
The two greatest truths in sports: Seasons never get shorter, and playoffs only get bigger. Some network will always pay for live content. For those who felt a four-team playoff rewarded too few, an eight-team field would have sufficed. Excess, however, ruled the day.
This year’s playoff will last a week. Next year’s will last a month – beginning Dec. 20 on campus sites, ending at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 20.
Twelve is too many. There are 130 teams in FBS. Beginning next season, 9.2 percent of that number – almost one in 10 – will grace the tournament that determines the national champion.
Two wild cards made the World Series. Guess how many teams MLB allows in its playoff? Twelve! So this means the CFP will throw open its gates to the sort of charming equity – we assume folks in Texas and Arizona think it’s charming – we’ve seen this fall, right?
Nope. College football is not baseball, where anything can happen in a short series. College football is where pretty much the same thing happens every year.
Of the nine CFP titles, eight were won by four teams that accounted for 21 of 36 berths. (Only LSU took the title in its lone playoff run.) It took nine tries before the semis – Georgia-Ohio State, TCU-Michigan – produced a pair of close games. Those narrow winners met in a final decided by 58 points.
If the CFP as constituted has an issue, it’s not the failure to admit enough deserving teams. It’s the sport’s failure to produce enough deserving teams. Alabama and Clemson were paired four years in succession, three times in the title tilt. Bama and Georgia met in the final twice in four years.
Back to Missouri. It was outscored 32-14 over a second-half home loss by two-loss LSU. It’s possible Mizzou comes to Athens this weekend and topples Georgia. It is not probable. The Bulldogs are 15.5-point favorites. The Tigers are having a nice season, but they’re not cut from championship cloth.
Next year’s No. 12 team won’t be, either. But it will play in the tournament that decides who’s champ. CFP elders will insist expansion affords opportunity. I’d say it offers only clutter.