College football playoffs: Why is the ‘unfair’ four-team format bound to enrage many teams?

College football is set to expand its playoff format beginning in the 2024 season.


College football playoffs: Why is the ‘unfair’ four-team format bound to enrage many teams?

2022-23 National Champions Georgia Bulldogs (Image via AP)

It has been nearly a decade since college football fans were blessed with a four-team playoff format. Since then, there have been so many memorable playoff moments for the fans. But, the four-team playoff format has also created a lot of chaos among the fans.

Ever since the format was created, it has always received criticism of being an unfair format. In this format, a committee decides which 4 teams are the best in that season and will rank them in the top 4. Those four teams will play in the playoffs to decide the national champion.

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However, since the Top 4 teams are decided by a committee and not by any decisive equation, fans always argue the No.5 or No.6 ranked team could’ve easily been ranked ahead of a team that got into the top four.

For instance, in the ongoing season, there are multiple teams still in contention for a playoff spot. 0-loss conference winners the Michigan Wolverines, Washington Huskies, and the Florida State Seminoles are almost guaranteed to get into the postseason. But, for the remaining one spot, there are several one-loss teams including the defending national champions Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas Longhorns are still in the mix.

Apart from Michigan, no other team is guaranteed a playoff spot. Any team could fill up the remaining three spots and fans would still have problems with it. The committee can’t look away from 0-loss conference winners, but they also can’t leave the SEC Champion out of the playoffs when they have a shot.

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But the problem is the SEC champion Bama has the same record as the Big 12 champion Texas. Besides, Bama’s only loss this season came against the Longhorns. Therefore, if Bama got ranked in the Top 4 ahead of Texas, it would not sit well with fans on social media. So, it’s safe to say no matter what the committee decides, there is going to be a massive outrage among football fans and their decision could enrage some teams.

This season college football playoffs is more chaotic than ever

College football playoff rankings have always been a very chaotic process every single season. But never in the history of its existence, it was more chaotic than this season.

Brock Bowers Georgia Bulldogs Alabama Crimson Tide Jermaine Burton
Brock Bowers (Via SI)

The reason for that is the strength of the teams involved in it. The Bulldogs, Longhorns, and Crimson Tide all have the same record and at least one of them is expected to miss the playoffs.

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But the problem is those three teams are some of the biggest teams in the college football world. Besides, two of those teams went out of their way to schedule a non-conference matchup. And Alabama actually lost their non-conference match, which is their only loss in the ongoing season. So, the committee will think twice about punishing a team for aggressive scheduling.

On the other hand, in a very unlikely situation, all three of these big teams can make it to the playoffs, but that will set off the entire college football fandom except for these three teams. So, the committee has a very tough task on their hand and someone is going to be very angry tomorrow, no matter their decision.

New college football playoff format will be the solution

In 2024, NCAA is set to implement the new extended playoff format, which will bring an end to the current chaotic 4-team playoff format. In the new format, 12 teams will compete in the postseason instead of 4.

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Quinn Ewers Texas Longhorns college football playoffs
Quinn Ewers (Via SI)

Back in September 2022, the College Football Playoff’s board unanimously voted to expand the playoffs to a 12-team format. However, the ranking of the teams will continue to be asserted by the committee, but will have some major changes. Besides, it won’t be a big issue since 12 teams’ playoffs are more than enough for college football fans.

In the new format, the 6 highest ranked conference champions will receive an automatic spot in the postseason. By that method, even the Liberty would’ve qualified for the playoffs this season. Furthermore, the top four teams will also receive a first-round bye to the quarterfinals. All the quarter-final games and the semi-final games would be played in bowls on a rotating basis, according to reports.

Multiple conference commissioners welcomed the new playoffs format at the time and it continues to gain popularity among fans. If that format was implemented this season, the committee wouldn’t have to choose between three of the biggest college football markets in the entire nation.

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Mark Keenum feels the new format will allow many teams to participate in CFP

Mississippi State president and the chair of the CFP board Mark Keenum talked about the new format back in 2022 and that getting more teams in the playoffs is what motivated the board to change the playoff format.

We're not naive to understand there's added value by having an expanded playoff, but I can tell you from being part of these discussions from the very beginning, what motivated the presidents and me as well was that we needed to have an opportunity for more participation of teams in our nation's national championship tournament.
Mark Keenum via ESPN.

Furthermore, he acknowledged the new format will allow more teams to participate in playoffs, unlike the unfair four-team format. He also refuted the claims that money was the main motivation behind the expansion.

Having only four teams, we felt like that's not fair to our student-athletes from a participation standpoint. ... We do recognize the additional revenues that will be available, but that hasn't been the driving force behind this ultimate decision. It has not been.

Nonetheless, the new 12-team format will surely be welcomed by the majority of the college football fans across the globe. From next year, CFP will be bigger, better, and less chaotic than in the past.

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