Players sound off: Should the College Football Playoff expand past four teams?
CBS Sports surveyed 40 playoff participants to gauge their thoughts on expanding the title race
Sixty percent of players surveyed from this season's College Football Playoff believe four teams is the right number for the playoff.
In a CBS Sports poll of 40 players at Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington, many spoke about the physical toll they feel by playing 15 games. Some players also expressed concern that the longer season runs into the next academic semester and the start of winter conditioning with very little time off from football.
This season marked the first in which three CFP participants (Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State) had previously experienced playing 15 games. Many Alabama and Clemson players said they were physically spent for last year's national championship game that the Crimson Tide won 45-40. Players from Washington, which hasn't played 15 games before, were the most likely to say they want eight CFP teams.
The number of CFP teams gets debated often by the media and fans. This year, the controversy became No. 5 Penn State getting left out despite winning the Big Ten. Even NCAA president Mark Emmert said he would like eight CFP teams so all five Power Five champions are included.
Yet the actual players have no collective voice. No players are on the College Football Playoff Board of Managers or Management Committee, which ultimately would decide if the playoff ever expands. The CFP has shown no sign of wanting to expand anytime soon.
"I think we're gonna be at four for a while," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said.
CBS Sports asked about 10 players from each CFP team what they think is the ideal number of playoff teams. The results: 60 percent like four teams, 25 percent want eight, 7.5 percent said two, and 7.5 percent prefer six. These are some of the players' thoughts.
Linebacker Reuben Foster: "[Four] is the right number. It's a physical grind. It was hard, man -- tiring, beat up, but at the same time, it's football. But you don't want to [have] wear and tear with another game. What you've got to realize is when does the NFL hit every day at practice? They don't hit much. So we've got to get less of that [hitting in practice]. Really, they should cut it back."
Linebacker Rashaan Evans: "Four teams. You can add two more teams and make it six, but all it's going to do is put more demand on your body. There are gonna be guys who want to leave early for the NFL. You got to put that into account. ... We were whipped last year [entering the Clemson game]. Even if you didn't play many snaps, it's very demanding because you practice more than you play games so [there's] constantly pounding on your legs, your shoulders, your head, just your body in general.
"Also, mentally, sometimes you go, 'Wow, this is a long season.' If you don't have a good coaching staff at motivating you, you're going to fall into the pit of darkness of the bowl season. It's serious, man. You've got to have very mature guys to keep guys from doing what they want to do, like going out. Because at this time of year, we've done everything we're supposed to do and our whole life is around football. Now you just have to keep it all together and hold it for a couple weeks."
Tight end O.J. Howard: "I think four is good for the first five years to see how it goes and to start out the sixth season you need to go eight. Once you get to [year] No. 10, if you like eight, go back to four. ... [Eight] makes it a lot more fun. You could make a case for Penn State, honestly. They won their conference, beat Ohio State, but lost to Michigan. Michigan would be back in it also. It would be cool to see all those teams play each other. Everybody would love that."
Wide receiver ArDarius Stewart: "I think it should be just one end-of-season game. We've been working the whole season and it just makes the season longer. It makes you more injury prone. Things can happen. If you can't win through the whole season, you don't need a playoff."
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley: "There's way too many games. There's no way you can add more games. It won't work. It's amazing to play [in the playoff], but it's very tiring, especially coming straight out of high school and you're not ready for those long seasons. I went into the championship game [against Clemson last year] pretty tired. This year is going to be different."
Offensive lineman Korren Kirven: "Four is fine. My body [at last year's championship game] felt pretty broke down. You're sore. You're kind of ready to shut it down a little because the season is physically training on you. We go from Fourth Quarter [winter conditioning] to spring ball, get a little break and go straight into the summer and fall with maybe a bye week or two bye weeks that's three days. We don't get to rest our body so we have to cherish the time we get so we can recover."
Quarterback Deshaun Watson: "I think they got it right. There's so many games now. We're college students. The NFL is different. That's their job. That's all they live for. College, you have class, you have study hall, you have all this different stuff so it's time management that's really key. ... At the end of the day, we're 18- to 22-year-old college students so there's a lot going on. We don't really know any better and you kind of want to live and have fun sometimes and not really take care of your bodies. If you add more teams, that means the season's got to go on until the middle of January, which is very, very long."
Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow: "I think four is a good number. Eight might also be good, but it's a lot of playing. The big thing is not playing so late in January so you cut time off getting bigger and stronger in the offseason. ... As a football fan my whole life, I like that in college every single game in every season matters, and that's not so much in the NFL. Mentally, it takes a little toll because we play so long in January and we usually have that time off, but it rolls right into classes. This year, we play [the championship game] on the 9th, the 10th we fly back, and we start classes on the 11th. There's so much adrenaline in those games, you don't mind playing them at all."
Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley: "I like four. Last year was physically draining. That's the most football I've ever played in my life. I think we were kind of limping through the finish line and now that we know what to expect, I think we'll sprint through the finish line this year."
Linebacker Connor Sekas: "Four max. If we play the national championship game, we don't get out till almost the middle of January. It cuts into our offseason. It's like the season is never ending. We missed the first three days of school last year. People don't look into that."
Offensive lineman Pat Godfrey: "I think six. Honestly, what I'd do is a first-round bye for the top two seeds and put each Power Five champion in there, and I'd put the Group of Five champion in there. The Group of Five needs to be involved in the playoff at some point."
Defensive end Jalyn Holmes: "I'm cool with 15 games. You want to go home. You want to see your family as much as you can. [There's] school work on top of that. ... I got friends back home who say you need to make it an eight-team playoff. No. Then you can't see your family as much as you want." What about the NCAA president advocating for eight teams? "He graduated. I got exams."
Linebacker Jerome Baker: "I'm 19 years old. I will play as many games as I can. I don't look at it like my body is breaking down or anything like that. I look at it as another chance to get better -- another chance to do what I love. ... If you're mentally out of it saying you're tired or you're wore out, of course you're going to be wore out. I'm 19 years old. I think I can go 17, 18, 19 games if I really need to."
Offensive lineman Trey Adams: "I would say eight to give more teams a chance. That would probably be a lot more fun for the fans. We were close to getting left out. If you're a top-10 team and lost one game, you could be No. 7, No. 8. Still getting in would be cool. Being able to play a lot of these teams you never play is a cool part of it."
Linebacker Psalm Wooching: "I think four is the right number because, if you just keep on adding and adding teams, it's gonna kind of eliminate the value of other bowl games. Everybody's trying to get to these playoff games and it's almost like if you get to a different bowl, it's lesser value and I don't think that's correct. All these bowls are special opportunities to showcase your talent."
Punter Tristan Vizcaino: "I think an eight-team model would work well. You see Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette not playing in bowl games. I think what the playoff kind of does is dissuade guys from playing in bowl games so having that eight-team playoff might make it a little more interesting. Yeah, it's a grind and very time-consuming. But I think if you ask any college football player, I'm sure they'll be willing to do it if it means competing for a national championship."
Center Coleman Shelton: "Right now, four teams is good and it always seems like it's not enough because two more teams are right on the fringe. If you have eight, that's fine too, but then if you get into different semesters or quarters, that's where it gets really hard. Like if a senior is preparing for the NFL Draft, is he going to go to school to keep playing football or is he done? I don't think it's ever going to be a perfect system."
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