Utah Could Be Catalyst For College Football Playoff Expansion

Nov 11, 2019, 10:50 AM | Updated: 11:21 am
College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conferen...
A detail view of the College Football Playoff logo shown during a press conference on October 16, 2013 in Irving, Texas. Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University professor and former United States Secretary of State, was chosen to serve as one of the 13 members that will select four teams to compete in the first playoff at the end of the 2014 season. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – College football is slow to evolve. First, there was the Bowl Alliance, then there was the Bowl Coalition, which then led into the Bowl Championship Series, and the BCS transformed into the current four-team College Football Playoff, but it’s time for an expansion of the top 4, according to KSL Sports’ Sam Farnsworth.

Each step of the way, the higher-ups within the sport always made excuses why No. 1 vs. No. 2 couldn’t play each other in a bowl game or why a four-team playoff is unnecessary. The typical arguments surrounded bowl tradition and not playing too many games because these are student-athletes.

Before the ink was dry on the 12-year agreement for a four-team playoff, there was clamoring for it to expand to include more teams. The current deal is at the midway point and has had the rotation of semi-finals cycle through each major bowl game.

There is no substantial talk about the playoff expanding but what would it take to expand beyond the four-team format? Would it be seeing an outsider like Utah make the top 4 or maybe seeing only two conferences represented in the top 4 push expansion conversations?

Flawed From The Start

Going from a two-team playoff to a four-team playoff was never going to satisfy everyone but the rhetoric was that this is better than before.

The four-team playoff is really an invitational – there are no automatic bids and there are five power conferences which means at least one will be left out each year. There is always talk of the SEC having two teams in the playoff – only the 2018 field has featured more than one – or independent Notre Dame which made the playoff last season.

The Big-12 was looking at expansion to try to get better footing for a playoff invite and the Pac-12 has only made the top 4 twice in five years.

Farnsworth saw these and other playoff problems well before the first games were played.

“The problem is that [BCS officials] felt the pressure and were so high on their horse and the BCS was alright and they didn’t need a playoff,” Farnsworth said on KSL’s UnRivaled. “However, they felt they needed these traditional bowl games, but finally, they succumbed to the pressure by adding an extra game and make it into a championship with four teams.

“It clearly was not enough and every year there is a team out there we can easily say, ‘I’d like to see this team get a shot.’ We are on track to see multiple teams that probably deserve a chance at the playoff and Utah very well could be one of those teams,” Farnsworth said.

Utah Catalyst For Change? Again.

Utah has been in a position to force change in college football before this season. The Utes crashed the BCS in 2004 and the threat of a lawsuit opened the BCS to allow easier access for non-power teams to get into a major bowl game.

The Utes are not an outsider at the moment, but they are not a traditional power. So, if Utah gets in the field of four it might cause folks in the SEC to reconsider keeping the playoff at four teams.

There are more than four teams good enough to win a national title and that list should start with every conference champion within the Power 5 conferences, according to Farnsworth.

“Sixteen teams isn’t too much. I don’t think it’s too much and I know that we have to take baby steps but to wait until 2026 before we can expand this is ridiculous. We should be at least at six teams now and pushing to eight and then eventually getting to 16,” Farnsworth said. “The FCS has 24 teams, Divison II has 28, and Division III has 32 teams in their playoff.

“Why can’t Division I have a bigger playoff? All of the arguments that the committee and presidents are going to throw my way, it is never going to convince me that they have it right until they expand the playoff,” Farnsworth argued.

More teams in the playoff and using the bowl system would allow some of the smaller bowl games to have matchups they have never seen before. With money being a driving force for bowl games, having a playoff game featuring a pair of top 20 teams would bring more interest and money compared to a matchup between two far-flung Group of Five teams.

Tune into KSL UnRivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast. 

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