Urban Meyer, Clay Helton Satisfied with College Football Playoff Format Despite Ohio State, USC Being Left Out As Conference Champions

By Dan Hope on December 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Urban Meyer

DALLAS – After two straight years in which two Power 5 conference champions have been left out of the College Football Playoff, some people believe the playoff should expand to eight teams.

The coaches of the two conference champions who were left out of this year’s playoff, however, believe the current format is fine the way it is.

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer said that with the well-being of the players in mind, Meyer does not believe an expanded playoff would work logistically.

"I think the thing to always keep in mind is there’s really one group that really counts and that’s the players," Meyer said Thursday during the Cotton Bowl head coaches’ press conference. "You start extending this thing, and you’re starting to talk about adding one more game and it’s not just another game, it’s two sledgehammers going at each other. So I don’t see where that calendar would work. I don’t see it happening."

USC’s Clay Helton said he isn’t worried about expanding the playoff, but rather focused on trying to improve his team so that it is good enough to make the playoff under the current four-team format.

"As a head coach, you really don’t worry about things that you can’t control," Helton said Thursday. "To have the ability to have this game, (between) two really premier teams in the country, that’s what you focus on. And then you worry about next year and you try to become one of those four teams. Maybe try to take that next step from going from a conference champion to go ahead and being a playoff team. We’re close, but we’re not close enough right now."

Although it’s up for debate whether Alabama should be the fourth team in this year’s playoff without winning its conference championship, the reason why the Crimson Tide made the field over the Buckeyes and Trojans is simple: Alabama lost only one game, while Ohio State and USC each lost two.

As a result, Ohio State and USC – who would have traditionally met in the Rose Bowl, one of this year’s two playoff semifinal games, as the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions – are set to play each other in the Cotton Bowl on Friday.

“I don’t see where that calendar would work. I don’t see it happening.”– Urban Meyer on the possibility of an eight-team playoff

There’s no question that the Buckeyes and Trojans would prefer to have a shot at a national championship, and Meyer hopes to someday have the opportunity to coach in a Rose Bowl, "the one bowl game I've never been to." Both coaches believe, though, that the current playoff format – first utilized in 2014, when Ohio State won the national championship – has been great for college football.

"The fans wanted to have a playoff, and it's worked out great," Meyer said. "I think it’s very strong right now. A lot of televised sports are kind of going down in certain areas. College football’s just hitting on all cylinders right now. So I don’t know how much I’d change."

"The playoff system has been great for our game," Helton said. "You see the excitement that it's created over the lost couple years."

Both coaches also say they and their teams are excited about having the opportunity to participate in the Cotton Bowl.

"The great thing about this is you're going to see the Pac-12 champion against Big Ten champion on a great venue," Meyer said. "And that's why college football is so strong right now."

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