The College Football Playoff: Why Six is Better Than Eight

November 12, 2019

Since the dawn of the College Football Playoff, there have been thousands of arguments as to why "Team A" should've made it in over "Team B." Many people want the CFP to expand to eight teams. I'm going to share some numbers as to why six, instead of eight, is the best move to help eliminate these arguments and give us the best football moving forward. Let's take a look at the top eight from each of the first five years under the format.

 

 

How did things turn out?

 

2014:

 

1. Alabama 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 2)

2. Oregon 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 1)

3. Florida State 13-0 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 14)

4. Ohio State 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 4)

5. Baylor, 11-1 (No Championship Game / FPI Rank: 6)

6. TCU, 11-1 (No Championship Game / FPI Rank: 3)

7. Mississippi State, 10-2 (No Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 10)

8. Michigan State, 10-2 (No Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 7)

 

(https://www.dallasnews.com)

 

Note: Both the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds finished with two losses, while No. 6 TCU ranked inside of the top four for FPI.

 

 

2015:

 

1. Clemson, 13-0 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 5)

2. Alabama, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 1)

3. Michigan State, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 18)

4. Oklahoma, 11-1 (No Championship Game / FPI Rank: 2)

5. Iowa 12-1 (Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 33)

6. Stanford, 11-2 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 7)

7. Ohio State, 11-1 (No Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 3)

8. Notre Dame, 10-2 (No Conference Championship Game / FPI Rank: 11)

 

Note: Both the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds went to the conference championship, with one bringing it home. Neither No. 7 or No. 8 made it to theirs. However, only No. 7 Ohio State ranked inside of the top four for FPI.

 

(http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com)

 

2016:

 

1. Alabama, 13-0 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 1)

2. Clemson, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 2)

3. Ohio State, 11-1 (No Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 4)

4. Washington, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 5)

5. Penn State, 11-2 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 13)

6. Michigan, 10-2 (No Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 3)

7. Oklahoma, 10-2 (No Conference Championship Game / FPI Rank: 7)

8. Wisconsin, 10-3 (Conference Championship Game Loss / FPI Rank: 12)

 

Note: Each No. 5 and No. 6 either made it to the conference championship or ranked inside of the top four for FPI. The same can't be said for the other two seeds, as only one made it to the conference championship game, while neither ranked inside of the top four for FPI.

 

 

2017:

 

1. Clemson, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 5)

2. Oklahoma, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 6)

3. Georgia, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 3)

4. Alabama, 11-1 (No Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 1)

5. Ohio State, 11-2 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 2)

6. Wisconsin, 12-1 (Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 7)

7. Auburn, 10-3 (Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 9)

8. USC, 11-2 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 16)

 

Note: All four of the lowest seeds made it to the conference championship game. Both the No. 5 seed and No. 8 seed won their conference, but only one ranked inside of the top four for FPI. 

 

(https://www.denverpost.com)

 

2018:

 

1. Alabama, 13-0 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 2)

2. Clemson, 13-0 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 1)

3. Notre Dame, 12-0 (No Conference Championship Game / FPI Rank: 7)

4. Oklahoma, 12-1 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 5)

5. Georgia, 11-2 (Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 3)

6. Ohio State, 12-1 (Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 4)

7. Michigan, 10-2 (No Conference Championship Game Appearance / FPI Rank: 6)

8. UCF, 12-0 (Conference Champion / FPI Rank: 25)

 

Note: Seeds No. 5 and No. 6 not only made the conference championship, but both ranked inside of the top four for FPI. Seeds No. 7 and No. 8 were both out of the top four, with the lowest seed winning their conference. 

 

 

Average:

 

#1 Seed: Average Record: 12.6-0.4 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 5/5 | Average FPI Rank: 3.0

#2 Seed: Average Record: 12.2-0.8 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 5/5 | Average FPI Rank: 2.2

#3 Seed: Average Record: 11.8-0.8 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 3/4 | Average FPI Rank: 9.2

#4 Seed: Average Record: 11.6-1.0 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 3/3 | Average FPI Rank: 3.4

#5 Seed: Average Record: 11.2-1.6 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 2/4 | Average FPI Rank: 11.4

#6 Seed: Average Record: 11.2-1.4 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 1/2 | Average FPI Rank: 4.8

#7 Seed: Average Record: 10.2-2.0 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 0/1 | Average FPI Rank: 7.0

#8 Seed: Average Record: 10.6-1.8 | Conference Championship Wins/Appearances: 2/3 | Average FPI Rank: 14.2

 

 

Based on the statistics, expanding to an eight-team playoff would mean that a team with no conference championship and a team with at least two losses would be getting in. The only seeds to produce a team with three losses are No. 7 and No. 8. Also, there has been a team outside of the top 10 for FPI, ranked either No. 7 or No. 8, every season. According to ESPN's FPI metric (found here: http://www.espn.com/college-football/statistics/teamratings), five teams that ranked inside the top four, finished as either the No.5 or No.6 seeds in the final CFP rankings. This means that one team that ranked inside of the top four of ESPN's FPI didn't make it to the playoff, while one team that ranks outside of the top 10 would be getting in with eight teams being selected, on average.

 

(https://www.greenvilleonline.com)

 

How would that play out?

 

Here's my playoff scenario:

 

1. The top two seeds get a bye week, as both seeds have always finished with at least 12 wins. No other seeds can say that, so I think they should be rewarded because of it.

 

2. The other four seeds square-off, on a neutral site, to see who plays the top two in the next round. (Highest vs. Lowest)

 

3. The winners of those two games play for the National Championship trophy.

 

 

Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree, or just on your thoughts on a potential expansion in general. You can find me on Twitter at Ryan4Melton.

 

 

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