Welcome to the Eleven Warriors Barbershop, where the fades are tight, the beard trims are on point and we will literally argue about anything.
For six years, we've lived in the era of the College Football Playoff. At this point, it's ingrained in the fabric of the sport.
But can we do any better? What, you might ask, is the perfect playoff format? Well, that's what we're all in the Eleven Warriors Barbershop to figure out.
I’ll open this edition of The Barbershop™ by suggesting perfect is the enemy of better. The CFP is better than the BCS. Let’s improve it. We don’t know what college football will look like in five years let alone 50.
My opinion on the ideal College Football Playoff format: Eight teams. All five Power 5 champions, highest-ranked Group of 5 champion and the other two highest-ranked teams. Top four seeds get first-round home games, and you have to be a conference champion to get a top-four seed.
I think Dan's right. Damn, that was a quick barbershop.
I agree on eight teams. My main gripe with the Power-5 champions is a team like Washington in 2018 getting in when there are like 15+ other better teams out there.
My opinion lines up almost perfectly with Dan's. My original thought was to have the Power 5 conference champions be ranked 1-5, then the Group of 5 champ and two wild card teams ranked 6-8. Then I thought about the madness that would ensue if No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) had to play No. 7 Georgia (11-1).
On-campus hosts for that first round [heart-eyes emoji]
Top four seeds hosting the first round sounds too perfect to be true and the amount of money that'd roll in for those schools would be (chef's kiss)
The first round being played on campus feels like it’s both A.) so cool it should be non-negotiable, and B.) never going to happen because it makes too much sense.
If anyone's against first-round games on campus, we will kick you out of this Barbershop. Just throwing that out there.
With the next evolution, I think six teams is the next step: The five champs and one at-large. The No. 1 and No. 2 teams get byes in the first round. The No. 3 team hosts No. 6. The No. 4 team hosts No. 5. The No. 1 team hosts the worst-ranked team that makes it to the semifinals, and the No. 2 team hosts the best-ranked team that makes it to the semifinals. After a few years of controversy, what is college football without controversy? The field will be expanded to the eight-team format Dan mentioned.
I’d like to see the CFP expand from four teams to six: Five Power 5 champions and one at-large. Top two seeds get byes and the other four play to get into the final four. A reward for being the two best teams, plus preservation of the regular season’s importance, plus spreading the playoff out over three weeks instead of two.
Ramzy and Matt. I'm with you. I think the CFP gets expanded to eight teams at some point during the 2020s. It almost feels inevitable right now. But I'm here for a six-team playoff.
I’m on board with the 8-team format. I don’t have a beef with the 6-team plan, but if we all agree it’s going to expand to 8 at some point anyway, why not bite the bullet?
This marks the first time that Andy doesn’t have beef. Hey, I don’t mind a steaming turd conference champion like the Pac-12 champ or SEC East Pulling An Upset In Atlanta champ getting in. This elevates some of your conference championship games into Cinderella rounds.
Andrew, I understand your concern about a "weak" conference champ making it, but that goes back to making the playoffs a beauty contest...which it is now. Winning a Power 5 championship should be rewarded.
Don’t know if you guys remember, but the year Ohio State won the CFP it lost at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech team.
I’m also with Ramzy. But no matter if it’s four, six, eight, 16 teams someone’s getting left out.
I think schools will take an extra home game. I also think a 2/3-seed won’t be sad about getting a 3 because of it.
To get this out of the way: Is there anyone who thinks a four-team format is the best?
It was only ever a bridge to something better.
Well, no, with the caveat that expansion beyond six teams needs to come with a reduction in regular-season games.
Adding an extra game is definitely another point that will receive pushback. A question I honestly don’t know the answer to is whether an 8-team playoff would generate enough revenue to offset the loss of an extra home game for teams, because I think you could just shorten the regular season to 11 games. That extra game against Bowling Green or Buffalo isn’t really that important. (And we might see what a shortened regular season looks like this year.)
Can we at least say it's better than the BCS era?
The 2019 season was a rarity in that you had three teams who were extremely worthy, like good-enough-to-win-it-all-in-any-other-year worthy, and then a gigantic drop-off. Usually you get two. With a 6 or 8-teamer, the jockeying beginning in November would be incredible theater.
I think expansion is inevitable and good. I think all Power 5 conference champions deserve a shot. I’m also firmly on the train that expansion should give Group of 5 teams a shot (one big reason why I’m in favor of going from 4 to 8), and if it doesn’t, the Group of 5 should just form its own playoff.
And going off of Dan's point, March Madness is the most beloved postseason tournament in all of sports (generally speaking, I guess). An eight-team format that minimally includes a Group of 5 team that had a transcendent season (aka Cinderella teams like George Mason in '06, VCU in '11) in the format would be better for the sport, in my opinion. People are often clamoring for more parity in college football and what better way to include parity than that?
The issue with any postseason solution is that nothing is ever going to be perfect, as Ramzy pointed out. What I'm more interested in is creating a solution that allows for a team to get hot and go on a run (a la 2014 Ohio State) but also gives credit to teams that dominated during the entire season.
I just want to see a system that gives teams like 2015 Ohio State a chance
The 2019 FCS champions - your North Dakota State Bison - finished 16-0. No reduction in games.
Right. What I envision is a regular season that is tight, encourages high profile games, and puts a big emphasis on conference scheduling.
…which sounds pretty win-win to me, Johnny.
You get one or two big-time OOC games, and then play the hell out of your conference to decide playoff representatives.
As for timing, in 2020 you would have conference title games Dec 5 and then Army-Navy and 1st round games on Dec. 12, Your Final Four is Dec. 19, and the title game Jan. 2. Or you could push from finals week to Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, respectively. It’s crisp and fairly continuous. One thing I despise about the current college football postseason is the huge gap. Still mad Ohio State had 51 days off between beating Michigan and playing Florida. That was a completely different team.
It was an eternity.
Agreed. That’s the worst. I’ve seen some suggest the playoff not start until after all the bowl games which would only widen that gap.
An expanded playoff gives it some semblance of a season cadence.
The challenge is, you have to work it around when schools have final exams. You might have to move the season up a week.
I mean, I could probably lose 30 lbs in 51 days, if I really tried. Troy Smith gained about that much in 51 days. The point is it’s too damn long. A two-week break in between rounds is basically another bye. A three-week break is also fine. Four weeks is what we have now with most bowl games. And five weeks. It’s stupid.
If there is a positive to the long layoff, it's that it allows the players to rest and heal up from the rigors of the season. However, I agree the negatives outweigh the positives. What is this school and exam stuff you speak of, Dan?
Rest has diminishing returns beyond 2-3 weeks. It goes from rest to offseason and if you really care about a champion from that season, it should be from that season. Anyway, congrats to the 2006.5 Florida Gators.
It could definitely work, because the first-round games could be more like regular games, where the visiting team just travels the day before, rather than being bowl games. Though I’m not sure everyone would be in favor of that, because then the teams that lose in the first round wouldn’t get the benefits of a traditional bowl practice season.
There are so many little things like that Dan, that average fans never think about, that really complicate things like this that seem super simple.
December Madness, with escalating playoff rounds (culminating in early January) and lesser bowls during the week might kick a little ass.
We’re rapidly moving from college football being this pure amateurism fantasy to a minor league for the NFL anyway; at this level of competition it makes sense to also evolve from tradition to something more resembling regular seasons-to-playoff.
What's interesting about this discussion is that any talk about what the playoff should look like also has to involve considerations for other bowls, because of how entrenched some of them are financially.
Johnny, I’m also eagerly waiting on you to make the case that we’re ultimately talking about unpaid athletes potentially playing a full NFL regular season…
Personally, I'm freaking Robespierre and would lop off about half of 'em. Oh, no doubt Andy.
But you’re right, the Bowl system is such a huge piece of the sport traditionally, the expansion of the playoff will surely involve the big bowls in some way.
In 2019, a six-team playoff would have been: No.1 LSU & No. 2 OSU (bye), No.3 Clemson hosting. No. 6 Oregon, No. 4 Oklahoma hosting No. 5 Georgia
Eight teams: No. 1 LSU hosting No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 2 OSU hosting No. 7 Baylor, No. 3 Clemson hosting No. 6 Oregon, No. 4 Oklahoma hosting No. 5 Georgia...and then to the CFP sites.
For 2019, having Oregon, Baylor and Wisconsin in there represents a conference champ and two conference runners-up!
If we want to talk a six-team format vs. an eight-team format for a bit: Why do you eight-teamers want the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in there? Have you looked at who those teams would have been over the past six years? It's not particularly pretty.
I honestly don’t have much of a preference in terms of six vs. eight. I just know that four is clearly not the answer.
We probably should be more in favor of six teams because an eight-team playoff probably just means four more SEC teams in there, amirite?
And for all of you who want the G-5 teams in there, I hope you would have enjoyed these games: LSU-Memphis (2019), Clemson-UCF (2018), Clemson-UCF (2017), Alabama-Western Michigan (2016), Clemson-Houston (2015), Alabama-Boise State (2014).
Actually Colin that would own bones.
Would it? How many times does the G-5 team win in six years?
I would have enjoyed Clemson-UCF. And who’s to say WMU doesn’t upset Saban????
Saban says so, Andrew
If it's once, Colin, that would be enough.
I don't think it's once.
I think once would be a big stretch.
I honestly feel like it would be a waste of time. If there's a G-5 team that's deserving, it should be able to make an eight-team playoff with at-large bids. But I'm a six-teamer anyway, so *shrug*.
I feel like UCF is the only G-5 team in recent memory that even deserved to be in the discussion. Unless I’m forgetting an obvious one.
From a player's standpoint, do you think extra playoff games are an incentive for premium talent to stay through the season, leave earlier - or neither?
Ramzy, I’d have to imagine Draft-eligible talent would stick around through a playoff, because they’re still in the hunt for a title. It’s not like playing in the Poinsettia Bowl and risking an injury for a prize suite.
That's a great question, Ramzy. As far as the elite players in bowl games outside of the playoffs, there will probably be a large number skipping the "meaningless" game.
Right, like will missing an expanded playoff send even more elite players on Poinsettia Bowl teams packing.
Frankly, they should be thinking of doing that now anyway.
In a way, Johnny, I think it already is happening.
Eh, maybe? But I'm not going to make my CFP format decisions based on who's lining up in the Cheez-It Bowl.
The trend of players on non-playoff teams sitting out bowl games is only going to increase regardless of whether the CFP expands. I don’t think it makes much of a difference.
NCAA and NFL should broker an agreement to raise the rookie minimum for a) undergraduate degrees and b) graduate degrees. But that’s a subject for another barbershop. More Joe Burrows.
I like that Ramzy. Unless there is a real financial incentive for them to play the game, or they have some other vested interest in playing…
What's kind of cool is that regardless of what form we think it should take, The Playoff as a format seems to be pretty entrenched in how we view college football championships. At this point in the life of the BCS, people were already thinking of ways to dismantle it because of how frustrating it could be. We're all talking about ways we'd like to see the playoff change instead of replacing it wholesale with like, primogeniture or something.
Primogeniture excuse me Johnny, this is a barbershop not a dollar store for fancy words.
I had to look up how to spell it if we're being honest.
Going back to the playoff format, we've bounced around six and eight teams. Which is best? Six, eight or Mike Leach's 64?
But I will say that having a permanent spot for Yale and Harvard in the playoff so we can watch both lose by 75 points every year is tempting to me.
FCS has 24 teams. Top eight get byes. Under that system in the FBS you’d have No. 24 UVA in the playoff let’s goooooo. I go with six because it’s an evolution. Doubling the size of anything feels a little too drastic. Incremental growth, assess and expand further or stay the same.
Those who want eight instead of six: Why?
I think a lot of folks who say eight simply want more football. I don’t really have a reason for always thinking eight was the magic number, so maybe subconsciously that’s the reason I feel that way too.
Yeah, I don't hate that. I think it'll be eight teams eventually strictly due to money. I just think keeping it at six teams is best to make the regular season and conference titles as valuable as possible.
But the more I look at WMU and some of those other teams from past years, the more I sort of lean toward six teams.
Reasons I say eight: 1. Will make jockeying for positions in the rankings more interesting. If not, it becomes too dependent on winning conference championships with 5 out of 6 bids accounted for. 2. Allows for a Group of 5 team to get in. I’d also be down for a compromise where the Group of 5 team only gets a guaranteed bid if it goes undefeated (and has to play at least one Power 5 non-conference game and no more than one FCS game), because those are really the teams I’m arguing for not being left out. 3. I’m not sure I want byes being decided by arbitrary seeding, though I am aware the whole thing is arbitrary seeding. 4. Like Andrew said, it’s more football. Also more money, which we’re kidding ourselves if that won’t be the deciding factor here.
I think that compromise could help things RE: group of 5 teams getting in.
I think point No. 3 is strong. I completely disagree with your No. 1 point. I don't think there's actually nearly as much jockeying done for the eighth seed. I think the really interesting jockeying would be for the sixth seed.
Expanding to 8 gets Michigan into the playoff in 2018 and 2016 FYI.
My hottest playoff take is that I don't think that multiple teams from the same conference should be in the mix if the playoff is six teams or fewer. I don't care if the SEC runner-up was 12-1 and lost to the eventual conference champion, win your damn conference or get out.
To Johnny’s point, it would end up being two SEC teams almost every year if it’s a six-team playoff. Also, I think an 8-team playoff should be capped at two teams per conference.
Yeah, the hell with that.
Not true. TCU in 2014. Iowa in 2015. Ohio State in 2016. Alabama in 2017. Notre Dame in 2018. Georgia in 2019.
There will also be a lot intrigue to see who earns the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds for the bye weeks in the playoff with six teams.
I always forget about Notre Dame in this equation.
As you should.
Well, Notre Dame is forgettable.
I honestly think I might be pro-six teams without any auto-bids over all eight-team formats? But I also think I might be crazy for thinking that. I just don't care for the No. 7 and 8 seeds that would've been in over the past six years.
Expanding to 6 teams gets Ohio State into every playoff of the CFP era
Does going to six teams with auto-bids for conferences force Notre Dame into a conference? Do they throw themselves in front of that?
That’s a good question. It would certainly give them more incentive to join one.
Just another reason it'll actually be eight rather than six.
They should be forced to join one or be left out.
Another point I should add on the eight-team playoff, agreeing with Zack earlier, is I think that adds more incentive for teams to schedule marquee non-conference games like Ohio State/Alabama. Though the conference championship auto-bids do that anyway since non-conference losses don’t count in conference standings.
Do we think the potential/likelihood of an expansion to six or eight teams helped lead to series being scheduled like Bama-OSU?
100 percent, Zack.
I keep wondering if those of us who are pro-eight teams are in that camp because we’ve seen Ohio State teams that should be playoff teams not win the conference championship, so we want the mulligan.
Living in a 4-team playoff just feels like we’re on a train that hasn’t yet reached the station. There’s no finality to it; everyone knows it’s too narrow. This was always a stepping stone to the next stepping stone, just as the BCS was a step up from the Bowl Alliance and the Bowl Coalition.
Evolution, not revolution.
Four is bad. Six would be really good (maybe perfect?) but eight still seems like the ultimate landing spot; whenever that may be.
That’s where I am – just rip off the bandaid and make it eight already.
If you come at the king, you best not miss. And money is the king in this situation.
It is true that if it went to six, the conversation about expanding to eight would be never-ending. But I still think six is the sweet spot. For now.
My opinion has nothing to do with how it could help or hurt Ohio State. Truthfully, I think Ohio State’s in a position where it should be winning the Big Ten and be one of the top six teams in the country just about every year anyway. More than anything else, I just think an 8-team playoff with a full first round of four games being played at home stadiums would be awesome for college football.
In the end, I think expanding the number of playoff teams to six or eight teams is a good thing. I prefer six because it rewards the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds for great regular seasons with deserved bye weeks. I will be happy with either especially if it creates better out-of-conference games like we are beginning to see.
One big watch-out with expanding playoff games: Resource constraint. The best of the best get to work those important games. The replay booth/officials who worked the Fiesta Bowl earned their way to Glendale. Makes you think.
Ultimately I'm a big fan of the playoff and think it's here to stay; I also think that when thinking about expansion, priority should be given to conference champions above everything else. Getting into the horse race of which second-place team with no common opponents as another second-place conference team is the best is the same headache that the BCS gave us. Keep seasons short, win big, get in. Simple as that.
I think we did it. We solved college football.
Photo of College Football Playoff trophy courtesy of John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports