The din of displeasure calling for college football to expand to an eight-team playoff has been quieter this year than in years past. This is the fourth season of the grand experiment which doubled the field from two to four and further expansion does, sadly, feel like an inevitability. Not for the right reasons, of course, but for the bottom-line ones that matter the most.
When that happens, things will get worse. The regular season, currently the most special of any in sports, will be diminished. The stakes will be low for months and months in the sacrifice of two more clearly marked playoff games.
What so many don’t realize, either out of intentional lack of curiosity or laziness, is how many more games have real meaning in the four-team system. The playoff eye is so narrow that only the most pure may pass through. There’s feverish sense of urgency because there are so few tomorrows afforded.
This weekend is a perfect example of hour the four-team playoff works, and works all year.
TCU at Oklahoma is an elimination game. The loser has no chance of making the playoff. Both could make a hypothetical eight-team field, making Saturday’s game and the potential rematch in the Big 12 championship quite hollow and stake-free.
Washington, still holding playoff hope, travels to Stanford tonight and is fighting to keep that hope alive. The same for USC tomorrow. Michigan State and Ohio State are each praying to win out and a chaotic final few weeks. They have no margin for error.
The simple point being: a four-team system affords a season-long playoff. It affords fans to live and breathe on every possession because the stakes are so high. The only true way to guarantee entry into the tournament is to go undefeated. Anything else puts fate in another’s hands.
To throw some of this away would be a waste and yet, one day it will be thrown away.
We’ll miss weekends like this in the eight-team era when we’re bored, waiting for the postseason and its fringe-quality teams. Mark my words.