The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Will Korn 

Talking Sports: College football playoffs need to expand to 16 teams


In the last two years, college football has made tremendous progress by changing the way a national champion is decided. For 15 years, the notorious Bowl Championship Series system had produced several flawed champions – most notably in 2007, when two-loss LSU not only had a spot in the national title game, but beat Ohio State to win it.

Or how about the 2012 National Championship game between the aforementioned Tigers and the seemingly incumbent – thanks to all that SEC bias – Alabama Crimson Tide? The final score was 21-0. Alabama beat LSU in the regular season that year and the Tigers had no business being back in that game, as the score indicated. It was a total snoozer, one of the most boring National Championship games in recent memory and maybe ever.

The bottom line was that the most deserving teams were only occasionally selected for the big game.

That has all changed and I applaud college football for moving to a system that determines a true champion. No longer will Alabama simply get the benefit of the doubt and get in. Nope. They’ll have to beat a really good non-SEC team to earn their spot. That’s how it should be.

This season, college football will experiment with the four-team playoff bracket it originally concocted. It should be interesting and I’ll be watching for sure. Assuming the teams in the current top four hold – Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State – it should be a pretty exciting three games to get down to a winner.

In my opinion, four teams isn’t enough though. Really, any Top 10 team has the talent to win the National Championship. But since 10 teams would make for an odd bracket, I’d like to see the playoff bracket expanded to 16 in the future. I believe it would be possible to phase in an eight-team bracket for the 2015-16 season and then branch out to 16 the following year.

What does a 16-team bracket mean? Sure, it increases the number of games and rounds that need to be played and many people that are against anything more than four teams usually cite that reason as the main drawback.

But more important than the sheer number of games played is the added variety of the teams involved.

Looking at this year’s playoff rankings, give me a good reason why No. 13 Wisconsin – with the fourth-best defense in the nation and Heisman contender Melvin Gordon – couldn’t give anyone in the top four a good game or even beat them.

Or how about Mississippi State? The Bulldogs took down three different top 10 teams this season and nearly defeated Alabama on the road three weeks ago. Why shouldn’t they have a shot after that white-hot start?

What about Baylor’s top-ranked offense nationally? Or Arizona, who’s already beaten Oregon this year?

Sixteen teams would equate to four rounds of games, with the fourth being the National Championship game. Here’s how it should work.

Take the top 16 teams according to rank in the playoff rankings and seed them as such. For example, Alabama would be the No. 1 seed, Oregon the No. 2 seed, TCU the No. 3 seed and so on. The bracket would be set up just like the NCAA March Madness Tournament, with No. 1 playing No. 16, No. 2 playing No. 15 and so on.

Now, since dissenters also point out that the top teams wouldn’t gain any reward for their regular season success with a typical playoff bracket, here’s the solution to that: the higher-seeded teams would get the game at their home field. In this case, top-ranked Alabama would have home-field advantage all the way through the bracket until the championship game, which would still be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

This is the best combination of reward for the higher ranked teams and variety for the fans. There’s just no reason to believe the No. 5 team in the playoff rankings couldn’t beat the No. 1 team, just like there’s no reason to believe the No. 9 team couldn’t beat the No. 1 team. It’s college football – these are amateur athletes – anything can happen in any given game.

Let’s not suppress that reality by limiting the field of possible champions to just four teams. A 16-team field would be incredibly exciting and I don’t think you could find one player who would actually tell you ‘Man, you know, I really don’t want to play four more weeks – I’m beat up and tired,’ if his team was in the bracket and had a chance to win it all.

Players love to play. Fans of college football love the drama that comes with the every-week mentality. Why not give them both what they want?


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