On Sunday, the 2017-18 College Football Playoff field was announced, and - if you can believe it - not everyone’s satisfied with the results. ACC champion Clemson, Big 12 champion Oklahoma, and SEC champion Georgia all felt like pretty natural selections for seeds #1-3. The public divided sharply, however, on the merits of including SEC-not-even-division-winner Alabama or lost-to-Iowa-by-31 Big Ten champ Ohio State.
It’s tough. Had Wisconsin won the Big Ten title, we would’ve had a clear-cut, no-viable-arguments four-team playoff slate. Now, we’ve got three clearly deserving teams and two very debatable ones. So what’s the solution?
“EXPAND THE PLAYOFF TO EIGHT TEAMS!”, you exclaim.
Yes, yes, this would solve everything. Instead of two undeserving teams vying for one spot, we could have eight undeserving teams vying for five spots! That’ll eliminate the controversy. Hey, Siri, who would be the first team excluded in this format, per the Committee’s rankings?
Well, it’s not really their style to raise a fuss.
No, your proposal is bunk. An eight-team playoff can have the same problems a four-team playoff does, or that a two-team BCS system did. It lacks vision.
We need vision.
We need me.
YOU [fool]: expand the playoff to 6 or 8 teams— actioncookbook (@actioncookbook) November 27, 2017
ME [visionary]: give the committee discretion to decide the size + structure of the playoff annually
Look, one of the biggest criticisms people levy on the playoff is that it’s about ratings, and not about who’s the most deserving. Well... yeah. And you know what? ESPN ran a FOUR HOUR special yesterday to introduce the field, when we all already knew three of the teams. Four hours, one piece of actual news. C’mon, let’s fill that time!
THE HUNGER GAMES MODEL
The above-mentioned proposal. To be clear, I’m not saying “revise it each year”. I’m saying, “play out the entire season, then announce the playoff structure at the same time you announce the field”. Could be two. Could be four, six or eight. It’s drama.
What if they’d announced Alabama yesterday, then Steve Jobs’d us all with ONE MORE THING: Ohio State and Wisconsin are in too! Oh, man.
But we can take this further. They don’t need to just announce a playoff field. They could announce a playoff method then too! Every year, a new Hunger Games arena.
Here’s some forms that could take!
THE ‘GAME OF DEATH’ MODEL
There wasn’t a huge advantage to the seedings this year. The field is relatively level, and there was no clear home-field advantage. Clemson would've been just fine at #3 vs. #1. So let’s add some spice to the seedings, with a ladder system!
It’d look something like this:
#5 vs. #6 December 9th. Play it as a doubleheader with the Army-Navy game.
#5/6 vs. #4 December 16th. The Gildan New Mexico Bowl is now a playoff game.
#4/5/6 vs. #3 December 23rd. So is the Dollar General Bowl.
#3/4/5/6 vs. #2 December 30th. You could pick one of the New Year’s Six here, but nope: it’s the Liberty Bowl. The road out of hell is long and hard and goes through Memphis.
#2/3/4/5/6 vs. #1 January 8th. Clemson is rewarded for their #1 ranking, having rested a month to play an Ohio State team that just valiantly battled through games in Philadelphia, Albuquerque, Mobile and Memphis and is going to lose to them 38-0.
THE “FOUR WEDDINGS ON TLC” METHOD
Have you seen this show? My wife loves it. Four brides attend each others’ weddings, then rate them (but not their own). The winner gets a big vacation package. Anyways, what I’m saying here is, have the top 10 or 12 teams in the playoff standings vote on who the playoff field should be, with the caveat that you can’t vote for yourself. There’s no good way to game the system and it’s cruel and petty and full of heartbreak.
THE BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS METHOD
As a caveat: I don’t fully understand how British elections work. I just know that you can call an election early and sometimes it backfires. It’s confusing and lends itself to chaos, so it’s perfect for college football. An overconfident Clemson could’ve called a playoff in October, and lost to whoever our Jeremy Corbyn is.
(Our Jeremy Corbyn is Auburn.)
THE CAN-YOU-BELIEVE-THE-CAR-WE-JUST-DESCRIBED-IS-A-CHEVY METHOD, FEATURING A PANEL OF REAL PEOPLE, NOT ACTORS
We pull together a focus group of casual fans from our local BW3, and give them blind descriptions of the teams’ resumes, and they pick while obsessive fans look on in abject horror.
HOST: So you’re saying we shouldn’t include this team that has two losses, including a blowout to an unranked 7-5 team?
CASUAL FAN WEARING OHIO STATE HOODIE: [nodding confidently] Definitely not.
Is this method likely to get peoples’ houses burned down? Sure, but that’s an operational hazard in college football anyways.
THE PRICELINE METHOD
“The playoff is all about making money!”, you protest! You sweet, sweet baby deer. None of us had realized that until you tweeted that at us. Thank you.
Anyways, of course it is. And we can make more money! This is America! Did you know that each semifinal team gets a $6M payout? We’re paying them to play in these games - games they want to play in! C’mon now.
So, here’s what we do. Every team submits a sealed bid, stating in binding terms how much money they will accept if they are selected as a playoff team. We take the four lowest bids.
Now, of course, Alabama is going to bid $0 and end up in the playoff every year, but Alabama weaseling in is just proof that your playoff system is viable.
Anyways, welcome to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game Presented By Spirit Airlines, Because Fuck You, That’s Why.
THE JIF COMMERCIAL METHOD
I think about this commercial a lot.
It’s a devious method. One child cuts the sandwich, one child chooses. The mom sets the older brother up to think he’s got a clear victory at hand, and then sweeps in with the righteous hand of You Didn’t See That Coming, Did You, This Is What I Do With My Time Now, I Think Of New Ways To Trick You.
I thought long and hard about how this could be a playoff method, and then I realized it’s right there in front of me:
Let a mother of small children select the playoff field.
She’s constantly adjusting. Finding the angles. Watching you adapt to her rules, and adapting her rules to stay one step ahead. You little shits keep finding loopholes, and she’s finding ways to cut them off. Oh, you have complaints about my playoff system? I’d already thought of everything you’re going to say.
Let Mom pick the playoff.