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Why the Expanded CFP Will Ruin the College Regular Season

Expanded CFP
© Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

"This is a travesty to the sport," ESPN's Booger McFarland said on the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Show in December 2023.

"What is the point of playing games?" asked Florida State coach Mike Norvell in an infuriated statement that same day.

"The games don't matter!" said almost every person on X.

Some of it is true. The CFP committee keeping an undefeated Power Five conference champion out of the CFP definitely wasn't the path of least resistance, which is the path they've taken all of previous nine years. But the CFP's criteria, listed right there on its website, like it or not, is to include the "four best teams." If you think it should be the four most-deserving teams, that's your prerogative. But that's not what it is.

So many people started saying that ESPN runs the playoff because they own the Southeastern Conference media rights—ignoring the fact they also own the Atlantic Coast Conference's rights—and they perhaps bribed them or just flat out made the committee put Alabama in the playoff over Florida State. Some were saying that college football is just "a beauty contest" and not a real sport where every team is playing for a national championship. And some were saying we might as well just pick the four best teams before the season and run the playoff. A lot of overreaction, in other words.

But to the most popular argument amongst the FSU defenders: Does this ruin the regular season? Will the games matter from now on? At least as much as they have in the past?

The answer is no. And it's not because of Florida State being left out of the playoff—it's because of the looming expanded 12-team playoff.

Alternate College Football Ending

Think back to November 2023. College GameDay, Big Noon Kickoff, and the entire college football world woke up focused on Ann Arbor, Mich., where the No. 3-ranked Michigan Wolverines were hosting the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in "The Game." The winner moved to 12-0 and would face Iowa in the Big Ten Conference Championship, and assuming they pulled off the win, they would be a lock for the playoff. The loser would fall out of the top 4 and would need a lot of help to find their way into the playoff. Essentially, both teams' seasons were on the line.

A week later, then-ranked No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Oregon faced off in the Pac-12 Conference Championship. The winner would be a lock for the playoff. The loser, again, would need a lot of help to get in. Essentially, both teams' seasons were on the line.

Expanded CFP

And there was also the Iron Bowl in Auburn, Ala. Then No. 8-ranked Alabama needed to convert for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 31-yard line to take the lead. If the Crimson Tide couldn't convert, they would lose to the Auburn Tigers and their season would be over. Everyone was tuned in to see what would happen—and the Tide came through. They survived on a miracle to keep their season alive, and that's what made it so miraculous.

Ruining the regular season

What if we would have had the 12-team Playoff?

Both Michigan and Ohio State would've been locks for the playoff. All they would have been playing for would have been a first-round bye. And so what for the loser? The team that ended up losing, Ohio State, would get to host Penn State—a team they already beat handily. Oregon and Washington would be the same story. And if Alabama had lost that Auburn game, they would have still been in, too. As for Florida State's miserable performances against Florida and Louisville? They would have gotten a first-round home game against Liberty. Not much of a difference from a bye.

Expanded CFP
© Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Some other quirks with a 12-team playoff this season include Ole Miss traveling to Georgia, and Oregon getting another crack at a title. Remember the first time we got the exact Ole Miss at Georgia game? The Bulldogs devastated the Rebels 52-17. That definitely wasn't a fluke, so why would Ole Miss deserve another shot at it? Why should Oregon get another chance at a title when they have proven—twice—that they can't beat Washington? And we already mentioned the Penn State at Ohio State matchup.

So what do all those games matter in the regular season? Why play those games if the loser is just going to get another crack at it anyway? It's funny that all the media personalities that complained about Florida State's CFP snub ruining the regular season and making it meaningless are the same ones who are just full of excitement for this playoff that will do the same thing? It seems a bit backward.

Playoff Expansion Problems

Twelve teams for the Playoff is too many. Every year, there'll be undeserving teams like Ole Miss, Penn State and Oregon from 2023. Imagine the teams we would've had in 2022: No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Utah, No. 10 USC and No. 11 Penn State. There are some other borderline teams in there too. Almost every year before 2023, the committee has struggled to find four teams that are truly worthy of the playoff. Last season was the first year where we've really needed more than four teams.

Now, a 14-team playoff has been discussed. With the Big Ten and SEC dominance, and auto bids by conference, everything that could possibly diminish a regular season is included. In 2023, LSU would have been in the playoff. In 2022, that year's Washington and Florida State teams would have been in. That's too many teams.

Expanded CFP
© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Teams that finish 9-3 shouldn't have a chance at a playoff berth. Even two-loss teams shouldn't unless we are talking about a team the caliber of 2023 Georgia losing to just Alabama and Texas, for example, if they had. That team would deserve a spot in a six-team playoff, but that's far from including LSU as a 14th team.

Becoming a Postseason Sport

The regular season in college football has always been the most sacred in sports and that's what made it so great. The NFL regular season is one that doesn't matter. If the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers were playing in Week 18 as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the NFC, they would both be in the playoffs no matter what, and that game would just be the difference between a bye or playing an No. 8 or No. 9 NFC South team. It wouldn't be the do-or-die we got with "The Game" in 2022 and 2023. Is it fun to watch and bet on still? Sure. But it doesn't have that feel to it.

Now, college football will become a postseason sport, just like every pro league out there. Because of that, the games won't matter like they once did. And that's not because the committee made the right choice in selecting the four best teams in 2023, it's because there will be too many teams in the College Football Playoff.


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