How to Expand the College Football Playoffs AND keep bowls important

Yes we make bars... but why?  Because we are fans.  We love the action, love our teams, love to tailgate.  Like all fans we are fired up for the college and pro football seasons just days away.  As we get into college season we will inevitably debate who should make the 4 team playoff, should the playoff be expanded, and again argue if the bowls mean anything anymore.   There is a solution to this debate that could expand the playoffs and not only maintain the traditional of the bowls, but increase their importance.   Let me explain.  Let's play the season out like we have using the current playoff ranking system and at the conclusion of the year the top 8 teams get an automatic bid into the playoffs and would be the top seeds. 

A top 8 spot probably does not happen if you didn’t win your conference and had an excellent regular season.   An automatic spot in the playoff and what amounts to a 1st round bye is a premium reward to conference winners and keeps important the regular season and conference championships.   

IN 2014 these 8 teams would have had a bye into the playoffs:

1.      Alabama
2.      Oregon
3.      Florida State
4.      Ohio State
5.      Baylor
6.      TCU
7.      Mississippi State
8.      Michigan State

* Based on 2014 end of season playoff rankings

After that bowl bids go out as normal - less the 8 teams with a bye into the playoffs.  Here is where this gets really good.  After all bowls are played a committee selects 8 teams not discounting regular season performance, but putting a strong emphasis on performance in the bowl.  This would round out a playoff field of 16.  A bracket over 3 weeks starting the 2nd weekend in January of 8 games, 4 games, 2 games, and a championship would put a Championship game on the week off between the NFC/AFC Championship games and the Super Bowl.  Maybe play the games on Thursday and Friday nights to stay out of the hair of the NFL playoffs.

Now I will be the 1st to admit this will make a long season for teams making a run into the Final 8, so let's drop a game off earlier in the season (usually a cupcake) and make each team have 2 byes during the regular season. For those who will throw at me that "that's a lot of time away from the classroom" - please...  Kids are on break until late January at most schools.  

Let’s go back to the bowl games and how this really amps them up.  Take say what would normally be a 3/4 capacity pedestrian Outback bowl game between say a 9-3 Georgia vs a 9-3 Auburn.  This game now has all the meaning in the world as the winner likely gets bid.  Game is sold out, TV Ratings through the roof.   Consider the mid major team such as a Boise State who runs a regular season undefeated, but gets left out in the cold because of scheduling strength. In this model they would play an Oklahoma in a bowl game (the have), win (they did) and prove their worth, and get a bid.  On the flip side we weed out a team similar to the 2008 Hawaii team that ran the table but go smoked by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl proving the really were not in big boy category.   Who would want to play a really good Ga Tech team in a playoff game after they thumped a really good Mississippi State team in the bowl last year?  Bowls now mean more than they ever did.   They can be called the same bowls, be at the same locations, keep as much as the tradition as possible.   At the conclusion of the regular season you have 8 playoff teams and another 20 or so teams and fan bases who would still have a chance, a hope, and a dream.   This is WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN for the fans, the teams, the TV networks, and the bowls!   Below is a bracket on how a system like this might have looked at the conclusion of last year’s bowl season.

How about these juicy match ups?   Does Ohio State still win this?

Who got in and who was let out any why?

#9 – Ole Miss: Crushed by TCU in bowl – OUT
#10–Arizona: Lost to Boise in bowl – Last 4 OUT
#11-Kansas St: Lost to UCLA in bowl – Last 4 OUT (tough call)
#12-Georgia Tech: Beat *Miss St. in Bowl – IN
#13-UGA: Destroyed Louisville – IN
#14-UCLA: Beat Kansas St in Bowl – IN
#15-Airzona State: Beat Duke in Bowl – IN
#16-Missouri: Crushes Minnesota in Bowl – IN
#17-Clemson: Crushes Oklahoma in Bowl – IN
#18-Wisconsin: Nail biter over Auburn –IN
#19-Auburn: See above – Last 4 OUT (tough call)
#20-Boise St.: Beat Kansas St but Last 4 OUT (tough call)
#21-Lousiville: Crushed by Georgia in Bowl – OUT
#22-UTAH: Crushes Colorado in Bowl – IN
#23-LSU: lost to Notre Dame in Bowl – OUT
#24-USC: beat Nebraska in Bowl – Still OUT
#25-Minnesota: Crushed by Missouri - OUT

* Miss St. was the only outlier here as they would have been at top 8 seed / yet in this exercise using  last year’s bowl games they lost to Ga Tech.