Restore tradition, more interest in eight-team CFB playoff

Brad Morris

The College Football Playoff is producing blowouts and championship games that most of the country doesn’t care about.

The two semifinal games were decided by 21 and 23 points over the New Year’s Holiday Weekend and the national championship game next Monday will have televisions in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles watching other programming, something that ESPN won’t like.

The current playoff system has ruined the prestige and significance of traditional bowls when they don’t host the playoff, leading to players and coaches opting out, and lots of empty seats, as the Fiesta Bowl saw on Saturday, despite having Notre Dame in the game, and the Peach Bowl witnessed with its matchup of Pitt and Michigan State.

But despite these handicaps, the four non-playoff NY6 games produced exciting comebacks by Ohio State (Rose), Oklahoma State (Fiesta) and Michigan State and a nailbiter that Baylor won over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.

Clearly, the current playoff system is broken, is excluding portions of the country and usually requires a pillow for viewing. With this in mind, the major conferences have been meeting to determine what possible expansion would like and when it would begin.

Allow me to put forth an eight-team expansion plan that makes way too much sense to be considered.

January 1 or 2 (when New Year’s falls on Sunday) National quarterfinals
Rose Bowl – Big Ten champion vs. Pac-12 champion
Michigan vs. Utah
Fiesta Bowl – At-large vs. Big 12 champion
Ohio State vs. Baylor
Sugar Bowl – At-large vs. SEC champion
Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Orange Bowl – At-large vs. ACC champion
Georgia vs. Pitt

Isn’t that nice? A New Year’s lineup of games that brings back the tradition of the big bowls.

The conference champions are assigned to the bowl games that are traditional for them. No ranking is needed. But what about matching up 1 vs. 8 and 4 vs. 5? I think by now we know that rankings are subjective.

A possible holdup to the expansion of the playoff is the Big Ten and Pac-12 long-time association with the Rose Bowl that dates back to the years following the Second World War and wanting to keep the Rose Bowl locked into its place on New Year’s with kickoff at 5 Eastern/2 Pacific. This format maintains that tradition and eliminates the hurdle.

What about Cincinnati? While it’s true that this format would have left the Bearcats out as I see the Power 5 forming their own playoff, by the time the new playoff would start the Bearcats would be in the Big 12.

The three at-large spots will be determined by a rankings system. Notre Dame will be eligible for the second or third at-large spot if it has two or fewer losses. Want to be eligible for the top at-large spot or to be assigned to a quarterfinal site? Join a conference.

The maximum number of playoff spots a conference is allowed to have are two – sorry Oklahoma and Texas. Guess you should have stayed in the Big 12.

In addition, all quarterfinal games will match teams from two conferences/Notre Dame to avoid immediate repeats of conference championship games.

National semifinals – January 15 or 17
Hoosier Bowl – Rose and Cotton Bowl winners
Peach Bowl – Sugar and Orange Bowl winners

What in the heck is the Hoosier Bowl? A concern about doing neutral sites for three rounds is the ability of fans to be able to attend all of the games. To help reduce travel, a bowl game in the playoff should be in the footprint of all Power 5 conferences. Indianapolis is a natural pick for the Big Ten due to hosting the conference championship game, long history of hosting major national events and a fantastic indoor facility in Lucas Oil Stadium.

If the Big Ten is eliminated from the playoff by the semifinal round, Indianapolis will soon be in the expanded footprint of the Big 12 with Cincinnati down Interstate 74.

Having two weeks between rounds also allows fans additional time to make plans and for teams to prepare and have more time to heal from a tough quarterfinal game.

I’d prefer for the national semifinals and championship game to be on Saturday, the traditional day for college football, but the major networks would likely not prefer that due to the NFL playoffs, leaving Monday as the logical day for the semifinals and championship game.

National championship – January 29 or 31
Cotton Bowl – Winners of Hoosier and Peach Bowls

With north Texas being in the middle of the country, the Cotton Bowl makes sense to host the national championship. Likely, the other bowls would also like to host the national championship, so a possible rotation could be considered.

It would also be ideal to deal out the playoff games to multiple television companies to maximize profit and also not have one network control all the games while lobbying for one conference over the others in much of its programming.

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