A few years back, the powers that be in college football fought tooth and nail to prevent it from adopting what pretty much every other sport from the NFL to college basketball uses to crown a league champion:
Now, we're in year three of the College Football Playoff era, and as of yet the sky has not fallen on the sport. Good progress to be sure, but college football can do better.
Instead of making yearly changes to the postseason like the Bowl Alliance and the BCS, the time has come to stop playing around and fix it. Here's three ways how:
Fix No. 1: Give everybody real access to the playoff
Yes, all 128 FBS teams technically could make the playoff by making the top four. Realistically speaking, however, if you're not part of a Power 5 conference you have no chance.
Just ask Western Michigan. The Broncos are unbeaten, yet they're barely in the Top 25 at No. 21. A top four finish for this team is pretty much impossible. If you stocked this team with NFL All-Stars, there still would be no path to the playoff for this team.
College football is the only sport where this can happen. It's way past time that we fix this.
Yes, Western Michigan would probably be a serious underdog if it were to face Alabama in the playoff. But why not give the Broncos a shot? Isn't that what makes March Madness fun, watching David occasionally knock off a Goliath?
Clearly, ranking systems are pretty much never going to let teams outside the Power 5 into the playoff. That leaves only one real solution: At least one automatic bid for the Group of 5.
It is unsportsmanlike and unfair to deny almost half of the division a real chance at a national championship. College football should have fixed this a long time ago, and here's hoping the powers that be will finally do the right thing.
Fix No. 2: Expand the playoff
Basic math tells us that there's no way to give the Group of 5 an automatic bid with a four-team playoff. You can't even give the Power 5 conferences automatic bids when there's just four slots.
Again, there's only one solution: Expand the playoff.
As it stands, the absolute minimum this playoff should have is six teams. That would give automatic bids to the champions of the Power 5 conferences and one automatic bid for a Group of 5 team. That would add two play-in games to the playoff.
An eight-team playoff seems like a solid number, particularly in the likely case that the Big 12 falls apart and leaves us with the Power 4 instead of the Power 5. That would lead to five automatic bids and three at-larges.
For those who say that adding an eight-team playoff adds too many games, take a look at the FCS. They have a 24-team playoff, yet nobody seems to be wringing their hands about them playing too many games.
Fix No. 3: Put the other bowls into a version of the NIT
Let's face it: Most of the non-playoff bowls are simply uninteresting. We're getting to the point that the AutoNation Cure Bowl was pushed onto CBS Sports Network and the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl was an extra conference game between Nevada and Colorado State.
Seriously, who really wants this?
Short of eliminating non-playoff bowls entirely, college football can once again look to college basketball for a solution: Put the other bowls into a football version of the NIT.
Yes, some bowls would likely get cut, but at least there would be some sort of title to play for instead of a one-off exhibition game. And you wouldn't even need to have just one tournament.