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Pope: It’s time to expand the playoff
Michael Pope

We are just a couple weeks away from championship Saturday and selection Sunday for the college football world, and I believe it’s time to make a few more changes to that process. 

The college football playoff has been the perfect remedy from the BCS system that led to a few lopsided games, but the playoff system can still be improved.

The number one gripe about the playoff system is the limited number of participants. A four-team playoff has been outstanding, but it does make it incredibly hard for non-Power Five schools to make it into the playoff.

Schools are punished for the conference they play in, which is unfair on multiple levels. The committee flirts with putting these teams in and will usually rank them on the fringe of top 10, but never really giving them strong playoff consideration.

I understand the hesitations that people have with these types of non-Power Five teams because they "don't play anyone." To that issue, I say look at the schedules of the Clemson and Alabama this season.

With the current rankings, Clemson has not played a single top-25 team, and Alabama's schedule has only faced one, which it lost to by 5 points. 

Two potential playoff teams have not defeated a single top-25 team, and they could easily waltz into the playoff because of their history and conference.

The success of non-Power Five schools in the past had to play a part in the move from the BCS system to the playoff system. However, the treatment of a team like the 2017 University of Central Florida Knights is a prime example of how this system is not 100 percent fixed yet.

If Alabama and Clemson can go into the playoff with possibly only one top-25 team, then a non-Power Five team like UCF deserves to be firmly fixed in the conversation in a year that they had two top-25 wins. 

Everyone talks about how the playoff is made to put in the "four best teams," which makes the decision extremely tough for the committee. The past has even seen Power Five conference champions be left out, while a team from the same conference that did not make it to the championship game was put in the playoff.

Of course, I'm referring to the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes, who made it into the playoff over the Big Ten champion Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State did have two losses prior to the playoff to the Buckeyes' lone loss, which came against Penn State.

However, I believe there should be some sort of reward for being a Power Five champion because, for the most part, earning the title of conference champion in any of the Power Five conferences is notable.

Here is my proposal for the future of the college football playoff and how potential expansion should work. 

For starters, expand the playoff to eight teams. A six-team playoff is a good idea, but I think once you get to the playoff, no team should get a bye. 

As mentioned earlier, I believe there should be a reward for being a conference champion in this eight-team playoff, five of the eight spots should be awarded to the Power Five conference champions. 

People will complain about conference champions that have multiple losses like Pac-12 teams continuously have. Still, the rankings will alleviate that because the higher-ranked teams will be decided by the committee that gives that team the best version of the home field. 

That means the games will be decided similarly to today in that they take into consideration the lower-seeded teams' proximity to the possible game site. 

We saw that in 2019 with Alabama playing Oklahoma in Miami at the site of the Orange Bowl rather than the Cotton Bowl site because of its proximity to the University of Oklahoma. 

So with my eight-team playoff, the first five seeds will be each Power Five conference champion, and the final three seeds will simply be three at-large bids. Conference champions would get home-field advantage, and the lowest-seeded Power Five conference champion would be judged on its actual playoff ranking. 

Although UCF was the 12-seed in the final playoff rankings before the playoff, I believe an undefeated season would have to be an automatic qualifier regardless of the team. More often times than not, undefeated will put a team in the top 10 or make the team a Power Five conference champion. 

Undefeated is so hard to do, so in 2017, when UCF went undefeated, the playoff would have included No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Georgia, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 13 Stanford as automatic bids. The at-large bids would have been No. 12 UCF, No. 4 Alabama and No. 6 Wisconsin.

The first-round matchups would have been Clemson vs. Stanford, Oklahoma vs. UCF, Georgia vs. Wisconsin and Ohio State vs. Alabama. There's no telling if this would have led to the same outcome, but it gives smaller schools a chance to compete for the title, which is warranted.  

I understand how some people may believe this makes some championship games unimportant, but earning an automatic bid into the playoff will be extremely valuable in any one of those Power Five conferences. 

In fact, the potential of a team like Alabama making it in over a possible Big 12 champion Oklahoma team just shows today's playoff system almost makes these games unimportant, and other examples in the past have put out similar results. 

With an eight-team playoff, these two teams would probably face each other, so there would be no debate once that game was played. 

I know my system may not be perfect, and the powers at be should be able to come up with a better playoff system than my own. However, I still believe they need to find a way to give these smaller schools a chance at competing for the championship. 

An eight-team playoff can make that happen.