Once again, the College Football Playoff rankings have shown that conference championships are not actually a huge part of the equation, as was once thought. For the third year in a row, we will likely have a non-conference winner in the field, with Notre Dame joining 2017 Alabama and 2016 Ohio State.
Neither of those teams even won their divisions, but made it into the field. The selection committee looks for the "best four teams," which is probably the correct standard, but it has turned the conference championship games into additional data points more than anything else.
Many, if not the majority of, college football fans would like to see an expansion beyond the four team system that has been in place since 2014.
Six and eight-team College Football Playoff fields using the same committee set-up, or a move towards automatic bids for Power Five champions with at-larges filling the other slots. Either would be a fairly simple change.
One Nebraska football writer has a far more radical idea for a major overhaul to the College Football Playoff, and the sport as a whole.
Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Heraldproposes for a new 12-team playoff, not unlike the NFL set-up. To go along with it, he wants the entire current conference system to be blown up, and reorganized into smaller, regional leagues with full round-robins, and prearranged non-conference scheduling arrangements.
From his piece:
We know conferences were the foundation of college football tradition. So let’s not scrap them. Let’s make them stronger. How do we do that? By shrinking them and re-emphasizing geography and rivalries. Kinda like the old days, only with a modern postseason bracket.
Thus, a proposal: nine conferences with eight teams apiece.
The season structure is simple. Play seven games in your league. Play four opponents from other major leagues (preferably determined a few years in advance not by the schools but by a non-partisan system which takes into account traditional strength, geography, etc). In other words, teams shouldn't be able to cherry-pick their opponents.
Finally, you get one game against anybody you want. If you want to schedule Alabama, great. If you want to play Akron, fine.
For the Huskers, he drew up the "Great Plains" conference, with rivals from the old Big Eight and current Big Ten. The full league breakdown:
DESERT: USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Arizona, Arizona State, San Diego State, Fresno State
NORTHWEST: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, BYU, Boise State, Colorado
LONE STAR: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, Houston
GREAT PLAINS: Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota
GREAT LAKES: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana
EAST COAST: Penn State, Maryland, Pitt, West Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College
SUN BELT: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State
SUNSHINE: Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF, USF, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia Tech
BASKETBALL ONLY, PLEASE (I’m kidding, but I’m not sure what else to call it): Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Some of these are much more difficult than others, but he notes that with a bunch of at-larges, there could be situation where four teams from the same league make it, if they are the best options.
Of course, this is a very hypothetical, and the current conference structure will be stable until media rights deals start to expire in the next 5-10 years. From there, we could see a big shake-up, but it doesn't seem super likely that these smaller leagues will be the direction in which teams go, even if there are serious advantages.
Still, there is a lot to like here, and the effort is appreciated, even if we can only imagine how it would play out.