What an 8 Team Playoff Would Look Like This Season.

Submitted by M-Dog on December 2nd, 2018 at 6:22 PM

The current 4 team playoff this year leaves out two of the five P5 conferences (and also the top G5 team). 

Based on the committee’s discussions about Georgia, it almost left out three of the five P5 conferences.

This is the third year in a row that the Big Ten champion has not gotten in (although Ohio State did get in as a non-champion).  The Pac 12 is also left out again.  It has been left out three of the five years of the CFP’s existence. 

This is not a sustainable situation. 

Keep in mind that the CFP is an artificial construct, created by an agreement among the P5 conferences.  If it keeps leaving out 40% to 60% of those conferences, it will not survive. 

It needs to be expanded beyond 4 teams.

An 8 team playoff is the sweet spot.  It allows the five P5 conference champions to all get in, the top G5 team for “fairness” / anti-trust reasons to get in, and two worthy at-large’s to get in.

Based on this year’s conference champions and the committee’s rankings, the 8 teams would be:

- ACC champ:  Clemson  (#2 seed, based on CFP rankings)

- Big Ten champ:  Ohio State  (#6 seed, based on CFP rankings)

- Big 12 champ:  Oklahoma  (#4 seed, based on CFP rankings)

- Pac 12 champ:  Washington  (#8 seed, based on CFP rankings)

- SEC champ:  Alabama  (#1 seed, based on CFP rankings)

- G5 “champ”:  UCF  (#7 seed, based on CFP rankings)

- At Large #1:  Notre Dame  (#3 seed, based on CFP rankings)

- At Large #2:  Georgia  (#5 seed, based on CFP rankings)

Based on the CFP rankings, the first round of games would be: 

#1 Alabama (SEC champ) vs. #8 Washington (Pac 12 champ)

#2 Clemson (ACC champ) vs. #7 UCF (G5 "champ”)

#3 Notre Dame (At Large #1) vs. #6 Ohio State (Big Ten champ)

#4 Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. #5 Georgia (At Large #2)

Those are some compelling matchups that include all five P5 conferences, the top G5 team, and two worthy at large’s.

A twist on Seedings:  If it was up to me however, I would only seed the top 4 ranked teams – #1 through #4.  The bottom 4 ranked teams – #5 through #8 would be seeded randomly via a lottery draw. 

So, #1 would still play #8, #2 would still play #7, etc., but which teams are #5 through #8 are would be determined randomly from the bottom 4 ranked teams.   

This keeps the G5 team from always being the sacrificial lamb having to play the #1 or #2-seed every single year.  It also adds some actual drama and excitement to “Selection Sunday” where the seeding lottery draw could be done real-time, ala the NBA lottery.   

This year, the top 4 teams would be #1 ranked Alabama, #2 ranked Clemson, #3 ranked Notre Dame, #4 ranked Oklahoma.

The bottom 4 ranked teams would be Georgia, Ohio State, UCF, Washington.  These 4 teams would randomly draw for seeds #5 through #8.  Any one of them could get matched up with #1 Alabama.  Any one of them could be matched up with #4 Oklahoma, etc.  It would be up to the draw.  This would help keep the first round from getting too stale with possible mismatches.

Should all P5 champions get in, even if they have multiple losses?  I would say yes.  If you win a P5 conference championship in December, you have something on the ball, even if you got off to a slow start.  If Northwestern had beaten Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, then they would be a team that has gotten it together by the end of the season.  They are not just an “8 and 4” team.  They are ready to compete in a playoff environment.

Why 8 is much better than 6:  The problem with 6 is that it has most of the logistics issues that 8 has, but without the benefits. 

The main benefit of 8 over 6 is that it helps preserve the integrity of the regular season . . . the very DNA of college football. 

The two at-large’s in an 8 team playoff retain the incentive to schedule quality OOC opponents, for the same reason that incentive exists today with a 4 team CFP. 

Even if you are Alabama, you cannot assume that you will automatically win your conference and get a P5 auto-bid.   You will want to be in a position where you can get in via the at large route, competing with a group of other at large candidates.   With 2 at large's, you know you won’t have a shot of getting in if you schedule like Washington State does.  

As far as 6 goes, it is better than 4, but it still has two big problems: 

If 6 includes all five P5 conferences plus a G5 team, then it becomes just a pure auto-bid system.  There are no at large’s.  There is no incentive to schedule quality OOC games, just win your conference.  OOC games become exhibitions.

If 6 is instead “top 6”, or “top 5 plus top G5” (i.e. no auto-bids), it will still regularly leave out conferences and worthy at large’s in favor of conferences like the SEC which will frequently get multiple teams in.

If you are going to expand, an 8 team playoff is the way to go. 

As shown for this season, it allows the five P5 conference champions to all get in, the top G5 team to get in, and two very worthy at-large’s to get in.  It also solves both the “Notre Dame problem" and the perennial “second SEC team problem” without screwing the rest of college football.




December 2nd, 2018 at 6:34 PM ^

You don't need 8 teams. 

You have 5 major conferences. You have the group of 5. 

There it is. 6 teams. Conference champs go, best group of 5 team goes. Let the conferences sort out how they want to decide their champion. Makes the regular season matter all year long. 

If Notre Dame doesn't want to join a conference, they can go fuck themselves. 


December 2nd, 2018 at 8:39 PM ^

I agree. Why not say any conference champions with two losses or less, qualify for the playoffs. If a four loss team wins the conference championship, open up that spot to an at large team.  If I recall, an 8-8 team was in the Super Bowl a few years ago (Arizona Cardinals?). Once something like that happens, the relevance of the regular season is greatly diminished, ie college basketball.


December 3rd, 2018 at 12:37 PM ^

I like this, but would add one more qualification: the conference champion must have had at least one non-conference game be against a major conference team (maybe counting Notre Dame as an ACC team for this purpose).  Teams that play only cupcakes for non-conference games should not be rewarded.   


December 2nd, 2018 at 10:15 PM ^

Do you like the Tourney in college basketball?

This proposal makes college football much more fun and makes the conference season extremely meaningful.

Win and you’re in. Right now is just not optimal as deserving teams are left out. Yes, there will always be teams left out but at eight you’re definitely getting a legit champion as everyone is represented and gets a chance. Also, eight is still an absurdly low percentage for teams that make up college football.

Sign me up for this idea.

snarling wolverine

December 3rd, 2018 at 6:39 AM ^

You do realize that under the model described above, Michigan basketball wouldn't have made the NCAA tournament last year, since we didn't win our conference and weren't one of the top two at-larges?

In fact, we wouldn’t have made the tournament in 2013 either.

Northwestern went 0-3 out of conference this year.  This model makes non-conference games completely irrelevant.  Only the conference season matters, which then favors teams in garbage divisions like the B1G West.


December 3rd, 2018 at 12:32 PM ^

If the goal of playoff expansion is to enfranchise all Power 5 schools with a seat at the playoff table then the possibility of an unworthy team sliding in via upset is a possibility that has be accepted.  Otherwise, it's just back to the beauty contest system we have now where polls overvalue the SEC and everyone else is out in the cold.


December 5th, 2018 at 9:03 AM ^

I think this actually incentivizes conferences to reexamine how they pick a champion. For as much as I hate the Big XII, they have 1 vs. 2 and would have been happy with either winning the conference. As long as you have unbalanced divisions (see SEC East before Georgia resurgence) you always have the possibility of a statistically inferior team winning a 1-off conference championship game. That's on the league structure and no team should be penalized because they followed the rules and won. Maybe the B1G needs to look at realigning the divisions more frequently. Maybe they need to move to a round robin. Maybe they divide the conference into 2 divisions based on past performance and decide the champion out of the "better" division. The point is, when you don't play everyone, you make rules that can make you look dumb. 


December 3rd, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

Whether you have a 3-4 loss conference champ, or an undeafted conference champ, I think it should be rewarded to win a Power 5 conference chapionship. And that reward should be the playoffs, at a chance to measure your success. It also brings the adrenaline factor into playoffs......A team that is flying high after winning their conference championship, as an underdog can create a problem for for a team that has been the favorite all year in all their games. Brings excitement to what could end up being a boring "SEC tailgate party" postseason


December 3rd, 2018 at 3:33 PM ^

A team that is flying high after winning their conference championship, as an underdog can create a problem for for a team that has been the favorite all year in all their games. Brings excitement to what could end up being a boring "SEC tailgate party" postseason

Agreed.  It's hard to win a P5 conference.  When you do, you are a team that is playoff-ready at that point.  Regardless of what happened in September.

And with an 8 team playoff, you still have some at-large's available for compelling non-conference championship teams.



December 4th, 2018 at 10:39 AM ^

The way to think of this is through the lens of European club soccer. 

Your conference is your league (English Premier League, Bundesliga, etc.) and the playoff is the Champions League. 

The top leagues (England, Spain, etc.) get more bids into the Champions League. Lower level leagues (Belgium, Russia, etc.) get fewer bids. The P5 conferences are the Englands and Spains of of the world. The G5 conferences are the Belgiums and Russias. 

In my mind, most leagues would do away with the conference championship game in this scenario because you would want teams playing as many of each other as possible to determine a real champion, similar to how the European leagues play each team twice, home and away. This way you don't have the possibility of Northwestern getting in at 9-4. 

This scenario also ensures maximum SEC whining, so it can't be bad. 

Kermits Blue Key

December 3rd, 2018 at 11:48 AM ^

I do not like the 6-team proposal. Having a first round bye would be an enormous benefit, and that piece would still need to be left to polls and committees - no thanks. 8 teams so that no team gets an unfair advantage due to archaic polls and biased opinions. 6 teams only works in the NFL because the rules are clear about how to earn those spots, and it's not subjective in any way.

Goldenrod Mandude

December 3rd, 2018 at 2:13 PM ^

The CFP is horse shit until you have at least 8 teams playing. It is currently the most archaic, bullshit  way to crown a champion in any sport at any level. Have LSU play Northwestern in November at Northwestern.  Have Georgia play MSU in November in Lansing. The NCAA and all the tit sucking conferences don’t have the balls to do the right thing. They’d rather take the money and put on all these horseshit conference title games in a dome or warm weather.


December 3rd, 2018 at 2:34 PM ^

Need to have a consistent formula and factor in conferences can have some ups and downs, or worse upset in championship game.  Power 5 + 3 at large.  Herbstreit would be happy and GA makes it, think he wanted that more than his alma mater where he was a captain!  Solves the PITA ND issue, which is no question this year.  Based on the final #'s, Washington moves up to #8 and Central Florida moves down.  Easy call for committee with QB being out.  Quarterfinals at higher seeded home field, then move to neutral for semi and championship game.  Bama v Washington.  Clemson v. Michigan (fun watching FR QB against Don Brown). ND v OSU. OU v GA.  


December 3rd, 2018 at 3:27 PM ^

The goal is to find the sweet spot between auto-bid's and at-large's.

If the CFP is all conference champ auto-bids, then you will kill any incentive to schedule quality OOC games.  They will become meaningless exhibitions.

If the CFP is all at-larges, then you have the "SEC beauty contest" issue you have today, and too many conferences are shut out year after year.  At some point if you keep leaving out 40% to 60% of the conferences, they will feel disenfranchised and retaliate by shit-canning the whole system.

8 teams gets you to the sweet spot between auto-bid's and at-large's.  You can reward conference champions while still leaving room for worthy at-large's like Georgia this year.

It's a sustainable system that maximizes quality without involving just the same few teams every year. 

rob f

December 3rd, 2018 at 5:48 PM ^

ND relegated to G5-level unless and until they become full members of a P5 conference.  

Not only that, but if one or more G5 teams that ARE in a conference goes undefeated while ND loses one or more games, the highest-ranked undefeated G5 team is guaranteed a CFP slot over ND.  Otherwise the committee picks the best team for that particular at-large slot from among G5, ND, or a higher--ranked at-large P5 team.

Essentially, this means that for G5 teams including Notre Dame, there is NO guaranteed spot unless it is earned by the rules and if it isn't, then that slot goes to the best at-large team.

If ND doesn't like it, too f'n bad. Join a conference or suffer the potential consequences.


December 3rd, 2018 at 8:15 PM ^

6 is dog shit. Byes are massive, massive advantages in college football. Also, if there's only conference champs without at-larges you will certainly get a weird team that is definitely not the best team in the conference in there every once in a while (a Northwestern or a Pitt this year). 

8 is the only good number. There's never more than 8 elite teams. You don't have byes. You can get all the power champs AND have 3 slots for the committee to correct for fluke conference champions.


December 3rd, 2018 at 9:01 PM ^

I've proposed this before! 

8 geographically based conferences. 

2 OOC games and 8 conference games. 

4-team playoff for conference championship, and all teams who don't make the conference playoff get to schedule two more conference games against conference opponents they haven't yet played (one home, one away).

All conference winners make the 8-team national playoff. Other bowls carry on as before.


December 4th, 2018 at 11:46 AM ^

Cool. Do the first round after the last game of the season, then play the bowl games at the normal time. Problem solved.

By the way you agree with me as you stated below. The problem is that college football isn't going to move to 8 conferences. But we do have 5 major ones and the G5. 

And if the conferences want to be represented by the best team, guess what? They'll get rid of the conference championship game once a terrible team flukes into a win and start playing as many conference regular season games as possible. 


December 5th, 2018 at 10:39 PM ^

Makes the regular season matter all year long. 



If Notre Dame doesn't want to join a conference, they can go fuck themselves. 


I know there's a lot of ND hatred around here, but that's ridiculous. That's a non-starter. Can't force anyone to join (or stay in) a conference. ND means too much in terms of $$ and exposure for college football to exclude them.


December 2nd, 2018 at 6:37 PM ^

The only thing I don’t necessarily agree with with this is having a G5 autobid. There isn’t going to be a UCF every year that would deserve a spot.


December 3rd, 2018 at 3:40 PM ^

Frankly, the G5 autobid is a Realpolitik thing.

Not always appealing, but necessary I think.

It fends off anti-trust / political intervention in the system that is just around the corner.

The CFP is not just a P5 monopoly anymore if there is always a seat at the table for the G5.

An 8 team playoff (vs. 6 or 4) let's you do this without giving away too much.


December 4th, 2018 at 6:06 AM ^

#1 UCF's best win this year is over #42 Cincinnati.  If UCF truly just wants a chance at a national title while playing in the American Athletic Conference then they need to give themselves a chance with a very tough OOC schedule.  They should have played an OOC schedule that looked like this: LSU, Iowa, Oklahoma State, and Oregon. 

Otherwise every big fish in a small pond should never schedule a decent team in their OOC schedule, because it is an easy ride in to the playoffs.

#2 If anyone should be getting sued it should be the students suing the midmajor schools for spending an amount equivalent of $1,000 per student in tuition on the sports program so they can pretend to be on the same level as the big boys.

Look at how many kids leave college with massive college debt with interest...It could be $5,000 less per kid at those midmajor schools if they were honest about their programs and dropped down a level. 


December 4th, 2018 at 7:29 PM ^

You do realize they can't schedule unilaterally, right?  I'm sure UCF would have loved to play some big time P5 teams, but they need those teams to accept games against them.  Same problem Loyola this year, and Gonzaga for many years, had in basketball - good teams won't play them because the upside is very low.  It's easy to say "just schedule better teams" but it's a lot easier said than done.  


December 3rd, 2018 at 8:18 PM ^

I agree. If we all think the G5 team is a top 8 team, then give them an at-large by ranking them in the top 7 or 8. However, the best G5 team will not always (in fact, more often than not) be one of the best 8 teams. They don't deserve it. The best system would have produced these teams and matchups this year:

1. Alabama vs. 8. Washington

2. Clemson vs. 7. Michigan

3. Notre Dame vs. 6. Ohio State

4. Oklahoma vs. 5. Georgia


December 2nd, 2018 at 7:17 PM ^

They should do this while eliminating divisions and conference championship games.  Reduce conferences to 10 teams so that you can play a round-robin and determine the conference champion that way. Tough luck for teams like Rutgers that would get booted from conferences that no one would take.

Red is Blue

December 3rd, 2018 at 10:39 AM ^

I agree with the idea of eliminating the extra conference championship game.  While reducing conferences to 10 teams would be the best outcome, the conferences aren't going to let someone dictate to them how many teams they're allowed to have.  So, it would be up to the conferences to decide how to select a champion without having a championship game.


December 2nd, 2018 at 7:23 PM ^

A couple of big pluses for this format:

1). Puts bigger emphasis on winning your conference.

2). Should incentivize teams to play tougher September inter-regional matches like Mich vs Georgia as 1 loss will not kill your playoff chances.

Other thing they should include with this is mandatory 9 game conference schedule.







December 2nd, 2018 at 7:25 PM ^

G5 could win a game but not 3 straight. Let them compete with the other teams for an at large. Truth is, most years they would be an underdog against a power 5 runner up. The anti-trust concern is valid but the G5 are too dependent on the P5's revenue to push the issue. 

Also, college football should tell Notre Dame (and the other independents) to go fuck themselves. If they want to participate, they can go through the ringer of conference play.

You could allow a trigger where if a division winner has 2 or 3 fewer losses or whatever but loses the CCG that it triggers preemption of conference champ by the highest rated team. Think the Big 12 used to have a rule similar to this related to the BCS? This alleviates the issue of mediocre division winners screwing things up but it does minimize the importance of some conference championship games. Has to be based on a set of rules agreed upon in advance.