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DISH FROM DOHERTY: Change needed in College Football Playoff

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First off, let me just say that I am perfectly okay with the College Football Playoff this year. I believe that if Alabama and Ohio State played on a neutral field the Tide would roll all over the Buckeyes, so I have no issue saying that Alabama is one of the four best teams in the country and deserves to play for a national championship.

To that point, however, how does a Power 5 conference champion not get that chance? I’m not just talking about Ohio State, but also USC. I don’t think it’s necessary to expand to 12 or 16 teams, but there needs to be at least six teams in the playoff, but I’d prefer eight.

It doesn’t sound like that’s coming any time soon, but I think it would make the most sense. All five of the Power 5 conference champions deserve at least a chance to play for a national championship, otherwise why have a Power 5?

I don’t care how the seeding would end up, but the champions from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC all deserve their shot at a national title. I would also argue that the top-ranked team outside of the Power 5, in this year’s case UCF, should be allowed for a shot into the playoff.

I have been a firm believer of an eight-team playoff since they decided to move away from the BCS. That gives you all five of the major conference champions, the top team outside of the Power five and that leaves two at-large bids. Let’s lay this out for this year. You would still have Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia, then Ohio State and USC would get in as conference champions, UCF would be in and then Alabama and Wisconsin (based on final CFP rankings) would be the two at-large teams.

Similarly to the NCAA basketball tournament, a mid-major school (UCF in this case) would get seeded as No. 8 and would have to face the top-ranked team, but at least they have a chance. Then if you believe the at-large team is better than a conference champion, you have the ability to maneuver that around when there are eight seeds to work with.

Winning a conference championship should mean something. Why have them if they don’t have any meaning? It happened to Penn State last year and it happened again this year to Ohio State. In this format, terrible losses kept them out of the playoff over a team with a better resume. Ohio State got clobbered at Iowa by 30. With just four spots available, it’s hard to overlook that bad of a loss. With eight, there is wiggle room to allow them in because they still won their conference.

I’m not sure why it’s so much of a struggle to make something like this happen. The NCAA loves money. Wouldn’t more high-profile playoff games in the biggest stadiums in the country bring more money in? The dates are already set that the semifinals are on New Year’s Day and the National Championship game is the following Monday. Today is December 5. There are three full weekends between now and January 1 to play these games. You play meaningless bowl games on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, so you can’t tell me that you don’t want to send these college kids away for the holidays because you do it anyways to these lesser schools in much lesser bowl games.

You want to keep all of these meaningless bowl games? I’m fine with that, but why is college football the only sport in the country that doesn’t have a true reward system for winning your conference (division) when it comes to competing for a championship? In every other sport in this country, if you win your division, you make the playoffs. You could have a sub-.500 record and still make the playoffs because you won your division. But in college football, USC and Ohio State did the work to win their conference and yet they don’t even have the opportunity.

We call them the Power 5 conferences because they are the five best conferences in the country. There is constant debate each year about which conferences are better and which are overrated. Why not let the best teams in these conferences actually have a chance to play to find out?

Isn’t that we play the game in the first place? To see who the best of the best is? In this system, we truly don’t know because we don’t get to see it with our own eyes. We let a committee only chose four.

It’s time for a change. It doesn’t need to be a massive one, but change is definitely needed.

Chris Doherty is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached a chris.doherty@martinsvillebulletin.com

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