Eight-team playoff makes more sense; is it worth the complications?
The four-team playoff is a year away, yet there's already great anticipation for an eight-team playoff. Expansion would bring more fairness, but it could have a negative impact.
The average college football fan is way ahead of the next year's playoff.
Why settle for four, when eight teams makes much more sense?
That's the best question about a playoff that has yet to kick off. An eight-team playoff would take care of all the conference champions that matter plus the best at-large teams that didn't win their conferences. It would be, well, perfect.
One answer is the law of diminishing returns. Even the college presidents and commissioners who green-lighted the playoff beginning next season know there are consequences to further expansion.
Adding a round of quarterfinals (four more games) would "diminish" those financial returns. They would be worth less than $50 million, according to industry sources. The current three-game structure beginning after next season (two semis and a championship) are worth $90 million-$100 million each.
While $50 million would be enough for you and I to put gas in the car, networks like return for their dollar. There's no guarantee those games would be worth it.
"I just don't see it," one media consultant said. "The money is not going to be there like most people think. Some money would be there, but you would absolutely but you start risking regular-season value."
Further breaking down the worth of an eight-team playoff ...
1. Impact on the regular season. Yeah, yeah, you've heard it all before during the BCS era. A playoff was out of the question because of the possible impact on the season.
Then those same BCS defenders established a playoff.
Well, we've already seen a hint of what impact a four-team playoff will have on the regular season. Consider that with a playoff, Alabama's loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl wouldn't have mattered.
Bama most likely would have remained in the top four. The BCS had enough of teams coming off losses playing for championships (Nebraska, 2001; Oklahoma, 2003; Alabama, 2011).
We're already in an era when teams can "afford" to lose games late.
"This year, the whole thing with Alabama is an eye opener," one media consultant said. "That Iron Bowl game [would have] meant nothing."
2. Scheduling. It's a real concern because the college presidents aren't going to allow any more second-semester football.
The playoff will produce the longest seasons (in terms of days) in history. The 2020 and 2025 seasons will end Jan. 13 -- the latest end ever to a season.
If the season can't be lengthened on the back end, then that means the quarterfinals are going to be backed up on the front end -- to around Christmas time.
In the current structure, teams already are going to be arriving in town for the semifinals shortly after Christmas.
They told us never on a playoff. Would they dare schedule games around Christmas?
3. The NFL. Always a concern because college football is never going to go head-to-head with the NFL postseason (or the regular season, for that matter).
One source told me that it is hearing the NFL is considering expanding the playoffs. That means more possible teams, more possible games, more possible conflicts with The Shield.
4. Bowls. Sure, they would already be in place to play host to quarterfinals, but an eight-team playoff would further diminish the value of those bowls.
Using next year's rotation, let's say the four quarterfinal games are in the Fiesta, Chick-fil-A, Cotton and Orange. Again, those games would played around Christmas time. That means eight fan bases would be asked to travel around Christmas faced with the prospect of having to travel twice more to get to a championship game.
All six major bowls would then be "pass-throughs" meaning they wouldn't be end-of-the-season games. I wrote last week about that kind of impact on the Rose Bowl.
Never mind the scrutiny that would be raised by playing 16 games in a season.
"It will be a very tough thing because the mental capacity to get up that many times," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Sunday when asked about a four-team playoff.
5. TV ratings. Yeah, they're kind of a big deal.
Adding a layer of quarterfinals wouldn't necessarily mean better games. Using this year's BCS standings, here's how the quarters would look:
1 Florida State vs. 8 Missouri
3 Alabama vs. 6 Baylor
2 Auburn vs. 7 Ohio State
4 Michigan State vs. 5 Stanford
Sounds like great games, right? A drop of merely one rating point would be "huge," according to an industry source.
"Right now, you have the best of both worlds," that same source said. "With rare exceptions, every game still counts in the regular season. Lose early and you've got a better chance of getting it back. One loss is about it [to stay in playoff contention.] I'm not a betting guy, but I'd bet nothing happens in the next 12 years."
6. Finally, the obvious. It took the commissioners two long, laborious years to install a four-team playoff.
"You also go back to sitting in that room to see how hard it was to agree on four," said a person involved in the process. "My God, if they're going to go to eight, they might as well start right now."
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