With college football now just about two months away from kicking off its 2014 campaign, my thoughts in that regard have largely centered around the excitement that will come with the first ever "College Football Playoff". It will be exciting to actually have four spots available rather than two, and I really am finding I like the whole Selection Committee component and the fact they'll also be selecting the other eight teams for the remaining Big Six bowls, as well. I think it adds some intrigue to the whole equation.
Of course, as I ponder this, I also think about the future beyond this season and when the playoff eventually expands to 8 and possibly 12 or 16 teams.
In the current model, the non-Big Six games can survive, because, well, only four teams are making it and there will still be interest in all those other games, kind of as a lead up to the big ones. However, with more games moving off of Dec. 31 and January 1st, and as more talk about expanding the playoff comes to the forefront, I do wonder about the post-season model and how that will change in the future.
I also just look at the sheer number of games -- 40 -- and how that is, in my view, watering down the post-season to not really be a postseason but really a 13th week for 2/3 of the teams in college football. Really, that's what it is, when you think about it..
Which leads me to my idea...
When we get to the expanded playoff model, I do think that we will have to re think the entire model of the postseason. As it stands now, it makes sense that bowl games can serve as the semi finals with an additional neutral site game for the title game, but if we go to 8 and 16, are the bowl games really going to encompass all the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals? It seems to me we'll have to go to a campus-site model for earlier-round games.
And if that happens, then the entire postseason system is going to take on a new look. So, what about the bowls?
In my view, the solution is simple. Given they're already basically a 13th week, go ahead and go the full distance and make them a 13th week -- but put them at the beginning of the season as a special "kickoff weekend" in the last weekend of August. This has several benefits:
1. It would open up the potential of cold weather cities to host games, such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver, Pittsburgh, etc, that could also serve as hosts for regional bowl games that don't require as much travel.
2. Games involving 6-6 teams from the previous season would draw more interest, because the game wouldn't be a meaningless postseason tilt with different motivation levels, but a fresh game for the new season.
3. You wouldn't be competing with holidays.
4. By making it a 13th week, it allows teams to play home games and thus make revenue off the rest of the current 12-game schedule.
5. In the new era of schedule strength, it adds at least one decent non-con matchup on a neutral site.
Now, there are some questions, such as:
- How would the teams be selected? By a committee? By the bowls? I'd actually base it on the previous year's finish and have it set by a committee, with teams ranking higher getting the "high end bowls" and lower end teams playing in regional bowls. But, this seems easily solvable, regardless.
- What about the 47 teams or so that don't play in a bowl now? Well, if there weren't enough bowls to fill them, they would get the ability to schedule a 13th game that same week against another team that wasn't selected.
- Would it ruin having the first game not be on a campus site? Not really, to me...we already have done this format essentially with games against Illinois and Arkansas State in year's past. I think that first home game is special no matter whether it's Game 1, 2, or 3.
- What about the postseason, for teams that don't make the playoff? I think this is a good question -- honestly I think a great system would be to allow for the creation of non-championship playoff "NIT-style" tournaments where the games would be played on campus sites. I'd like to see us get to a 16 team championship playoff and a 16 team "B tournament", which I think would be interesting. And to me, 32 teams making the "real postseason" is enough.
So, I know not everyone will agree with this...but I thought I'd throw it out there for conversation. I think it's a solution that could work, once the playoffs expand.