Carney Column: No, college football doesn’t need an 8-team playoff
The 2018 bowl season was quite the dud, especially the College Football Playoff, as both games were largely blowouts, capped off by Notre Dame’s disappearance against Clemson in a 30-3 loss. That performance led to a larger discussion on the College Football Playoff expanding, or making sure the four best teams in the country get into the final dance, regardless of résumé.
It’s time to put the 8-team playoff discussion to bed. It’s not happening anytime soon, and it doesn’t make bowl season any better.
Looking at the 2018 playoff bracket, it’s quite clear that Alabama and Clemson are head-and-shoulders better than nearly every other program in the country. That doesn’t mean Notre Dame, which came in a perfect 12-0 with wins over Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse on the season, didn’t deserve a playoff berth. Nor does it mean that Oklahoma, which came in 12-1 with wins over West Virginia and Texas — the latter of which was good enough for the Big 12 championship, wasn’t deserving of a playoff spot either.
What it means is this: Alabama and Clemson are in a class of their own and would have done what they did to Oklahoma and Notre Dame to any other program in country, full stop.
I could have made an argument for Ohio State getting in over Oklahoma, but when you lose to a Purdue team by 39 points on the road, that’s a bad look, even if you win the Big Ten championship. What makes that loss to Purdue look worse is the fact that the Boilermakers got smoked by Auburn 63-14 in their bowl game, the same Auburn team that came into the bowl season with a 7-5 record and lost by 31 points to Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and lost to a terrible Tennessee team as well.
Georgia players were more worried about jumping on Twitter Saturday night to mock Oklahoma and Notre Dame instead of preparing for Texas. The Longhorns wiped the field of the Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl, while Ohio State buried Washington.
If the College Football Playoff committee were to expand to 8 teams, it would create more headaches for players, coaches, and administrators. Expanding outside of the 4-team playoff as it stands right now would have put Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, and Central Florida in the dance this season.
That would have made the matchups Alabama-Central Florida, Clemson-Michigan, Notre Dame-Ohio State, and Oklahoma-Georgia.
If you watched the Fiesta Bowl between Central Florida and LSU, you saw how overmatched and outgunned Central Florida was. LSU held the ball for nearly 45 minutes in a 60 minute game, and racked up 555 total yards against the Knights, who claim to be the 2017 National Champs. LSU did that with an unknown quarterback in Joe Burrow; could you imagine what Tua Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide would have done against Central Florida? That’s not a matchup I’d want to see as a football fan, and that’s certainly not a matchup UCF fans would want, especially after the Fiesta Bowl showing.
As for Clemson-Michigan, that would likely be a bloodbath too, since Michigan was whitewashed by a Florida team that never really put it all together in 2018 until the bowl game. I’m betting Clemson would have done to Michigan what they did to Notre Dame.
Yes, Notre Dame looked generally awful Saturday night, but again, they deserved the playoff spot because of the work they did during the season. They had quality wins and went undefeated, which is what you ask of a team not in a conference. It was an easy decision for the committee to put them in, but that being said, I think this is really the only game you could circle in an expanded 8-team playoff where a different team would be in this year’s final group of 4. I would pick Ohio State over Notre Dame, but there’s no chance I could bring myself to pick Georgia over Oklahoma, not with the real deciding matchup coming down to who you like better at quarterback: Jake Fromm at Georgia, or Kyler Murray at Oklahoma. I think I know everyone’s answer to that.
So, if you were to do the 8-team playoff, you’d really only be swapping out one team in a semifinal matchup, with Alabama playing Oklahoma again, and Clemson playing Ohio State. Think Clemson smokes Ohio State like they did Notre Dame? I sure do.
I understand the “need for more” syndrome with college football fans. I absolutely get it; the College Football Playoff is tantalizing, and with just 4 teams getting in some school (or 2, or 3) is going to feel slighted by the committee. But maybe fans just need to ultimately step back and realize that even though the semifinal games were mostly duds, that’s not changing with an expanded playoff.
Out of 10 College Football playoff games, half of them have been decided by 20+ points or more. Only 2 games have been decided by less than a touchdown. Blowouts and duds are the norm in the College Football Playoffs. Get used to it. An expanded playoffs won’t make the product better; it would only water it down that much more.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. He is an avid Alabama Crimson Tide football fan and is looking forward to the national championship game against Clemson on Monday. Roll Tide.