What the College Football Playoff Would be if it had 8 Teams or 6 Teams

posted by Bruce Hooley / dm -

The Buckeyes are two wins away from their second College Football Playoff championship in three years as the prepare to play Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Eve.

But if the Playoff were structured the way a lot of people want, we'd be getting ready for Ohio State to play Michigan for the right to move on and seek a national title.

Stick with me and I'll show you what I mean.

For three years now, the release of the final College Football Playoff rankings has been met with considerable outcry for the playoff to double in size to eight teams or to expand to six teams.

The advocates for eight teams favor playing the first-round games on campus sites, then moving on to a Final 4 like we have now, with two playoff games in bowls and the winners meeting a week to 10 days later for a winner-take-all finale.

There are two schools of thought on how to structure the eight-team playoff. Some favor taking the Top 8 teams in the final College Football Playoff rankings and seeding them that way on the bracket.

If they did that, look how things would shake out this year.

College Football Playoff

(8 teams, seeded by Playoff Committee rankings)

# 1 Alabama vs. #5 Penn State

# 4 Washington vs. # 8 Wisconsin

       Semifinal: Winner #1-#5 vs. Winner #4 #

#2 Clemson vs. #7 Oklahoma

#3 Ohio State vs. #6 Michigan

       Semifinal: Winner #2-#7 vs. Winner #3-#6

Look there on the bottom, where No. 3 Ohio State would match up with No. 6 Michigan in a rematch of their Nov. 26 game the Buckeyes won, 30-27 in double overtime.

There's also a second way some believe an 8-team playoff should be structured.

This would take the 5 conference champions seeded 1-5, with the final three spots going to the highest-ranked remaining teams who did not win their conference.

In that case this year, the Big Ten would get Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin into the playoff as at-large teams after league champion Penn State.

Even though the Buckeyes finished third in the Playoff rankings and Penn State fifth, the Nittany Lions would be the Big Ten champ and thus would go on the bracket in the No. 4 spot.

Alabama would stay No. 1. Clemson would remain No. 2, Washington would be 3, Penn State 4 and Oklahoma -- champions of the Big 12, No. 5.

Then, once the five conference champions are on the bracket, Ohio State would go on in the sixth spot -- again, below Penn State because the Lions won the league -- with Michigan No. 7 and Wisconsin No. 8.

Here are the first-round games in that scenario would play out:

College Football Playoff

(League champions seeded #1-#5, at-large seeded #6-#8)

# 1 Alabama vs. # 8 Wisconsin

#4 Penn State vs. #5 Oklahoma

       Semifinal: Winner #1-#8 vs. Winner #4-#5

#2 Clemson vs. #7 Michigan

#3 Washington vs. #6 Ohio State

       Semifinal: Winner #2-#7 vs. Winner #3-#6

 

So, in that scenario, Ohio State would go on the road to play at No. 3 Washington, and would then get the winner of No. 3 Clemson and No. 7 Michigan.

You can see that in both 8-team playoff formats, Ohio State would play Michigan, immediately in one, and after winning its opener in another, provided the Wolverines advanced, too.

What about a six-team playoff? Well, take a look.

College Football Playoff

(Six teams, seeded by College Playoff Committee rankings)

#4 Washington vs. #5 Penn State

       Semifinal: #4-#5 vs. #1 Alabama

#3 Ohio State vs. #6 Michigan

       Semifinal: #3-#6 vs. #2 Clemson

In a 6-team field, seeded according to ranking by the Playoff Committee, Ohio State would stay No. 3 and Michigan would stay No. 6. And they would meet in the Playoff opener, with the winner advancing to play No. 2 Clemson.

I'm fine with the Playoff as it is, and I'd favor a 6-team field over either option with an 8-team format.

The current playoff contract has nine more years to run. Will it last that long unchanged, or will it be amended, tweaked or totally torn asunder.

There's no way to know right now.

But what you should know is, expansion of the playoff might mean rendering the Ohio State-Michigan game in late November just another game on the road to a bigger game between the schools a month later.

If you're OK with that, then by all means advocate for an expanded playoff all you want.

But if you treasure the tradition of one Ohio State-Michigan game per-year, then maybe tread lightly around fixing what isn't broken.


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