The CFP Must Expand the Field

by Ryan McCarthy, BBM Staff Writer

Since the early 1990’s, the NCAA has been trying to find a way to correctly determine a national

champion in Division 1-A (or the Football Bowl Subdivision) football. The results from the this season's College Football Playoff semifinal games and Clemson's thrashing of Alabama on Monday night has left many fans wondering if it needs a redux.

It does. But why?

The first reason why is the matchup of teams has been consistently bad: the average margin of victory in a CFP Semifinal game is nearly 21 points (20.6). The average margin of victory in a 2 vs. 3 semifinal game is 23 points. The average margin of victory in a 1 vs. 4 semifinal game is nearly 15 points. Ohio State won by 22 in the inaugural championship game, but the three previous championship games have been very competitive with the average margin of victory being three points.

The second reason why is the disparity amongst the conferences: the CFP was supposed to try to assuage the controversy of the “right” teams earning a shot at the national title. However, it has only stirred up more controversy as the playing field is consistently tilted in favor of the “Power Five” conferences and the remaining “Group of Five” conferences in FBS are left out.

So, here’s how the CFP can be fixed: 

Expand. The. Field. 

Here’s how it would work: all 10 conference champions will be awarded automatic bids. After the automatic bids are decided during the first weekend in December, six at-large bids are awarded. Overall seeding will be based on parameters such as strength of schedule, average margin of victory, and quality wins. This makes games in late August and early September more important and conference games more competitive.

The preliminary and quarterfinal games will take place at twelve bowl sites for the following two weeks and the semifinal will be played at two of the six the historic bowl sites on a rotational basis similar to the current system. The championship game will be played at an NFL stadium which will be open to bidding. The remaining eligible FBS teams will be allotted the remaining bowl games, so schools will still get their money and networks will be able to fulfill their broadcasting contracts.

The four big networks (ABC/ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC) will broadcast two bowl games each in the preliminary round and one bowl game each in the quarterfinal. Here is where it gets really interesting: similar to the Super Bowl, each network will have the opportunity to bid for exclusive rights to the semifinal and the championship game.

The biggest hurdle to expanding the field is the broadcast deal that the CFP currently has with ESPN and the current contract goes through 2025. Naturally, ESPN will be the most resistant to the change. But ratings have started to go down and fans have started grumbling on social media for better matchups, so the field will have to be expanded down the line.

That is, if the Worldwide Leader is willing to humble themselves and take a loss to make fans happy.

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