For Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, a four-team playoff isn’t enough for college football. Given the platform last week at the ACC Kickoff, he suggested again that an eight-team playoff would be a more equitable alternative.
“I’m an old guy – I came out of the I-AA deal where, if you won your conference, you went to the playoffs,” he said. “I just think you could take more of the subjectivity out of it.”
Johnson was highly successful at Georgia Southern, which won four national championships in Division I-AA (now FCS) playoffs. The FCS playoffs now includes 24 teams, beginning on Thanksgiving weekend, going three weekends into December and concluding in January.
Johnson’s solution would give automatic berths to the champions of the five power conferences – the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. The highest-rated champion from the other five conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt) would also get a bid, as would two wild-card teams.
“At least only the wild cards would be subjective,” he said. (Arguably, the sixth conference champion to gain entry would have to be decided by some method requiring subjectivity, either a computer ranking or a committee.)
Last year, using the playoff selection committee’s rankings as a guide, the field might have looked something like this:
1. Clemson (ACC champion)
2. Alabama (SEC champion)
3. Michigan State (Big Ten champion)
4. Oklahoma (Big 12 champion)
5. Iowa (wild card)
6. Stanford (Pac-12 champion)
7. Ohio State (wild card)
8. Houston (highest-ranking champion from non-power five).
One likely complaint against an eight-team playoff is that it would extend the season one more week into the spring semester and diminish the importance of the regular season and bowl games. Johnson disputed the problem of extending the season.
Johnson: “You can have an eight-team playoff, and you talk about more games, they didn’t have any problem adding a game (for the four-team playoff) a few years ago. You’re only talking about two teams that would play an extra game anyway.”
The contract for the four-team format extends through the 2025 season.