As the old saying goes, “why fix what isn’t broken?” While the College Football Playoff is far from perfect, it is also not nearly as broken as many people portray it to be. Four is the correct number of teams that should make the CFP each season.
Now this is not to say that the CFP will not expand. When the current CFP TV contract with ESPN expires following the 2025 season everyone expects the CFP to expand to at least six teams. While this is likely to happen, that does not mean it is the correct move.
The biggest reason expansion is not needed is that most seasons there are only two or three teams truly capable of winning the National Championship. We all know the usual cast of characters. Alabama and Clemson have made the CFP every season except one, while Ohio State and Oklahoma have made the playoff four times. That said, Oklahoma has not exactly been competitive once in the playoff owning an 0-4 record.
Additionally, the number four seed has not had much success in the CFP Era. Number four seeds are just 2-5 in the CFP and both of these wins were by the eventual champions (Ohio State 2014, Alabama 2017). In those 5 losses the average margin has been 20 points with the closest loss being 11 points.
In 5 of the 7 seasons of the CFP the number four seed has not even been competitive in the playoff. Why expand the number of teams in the playoff if the last team getting in is not even competitive most seasons?
Teams that don’t hail from Tuscaloosa, Clemson or Columbus are just 4-11 in CFP games. Of those four wins two came from 2019 LSU on their way to winning it all and that 2019 LSU team was one of the most talented in college football history.
Sure there is an argument to be made for each of the Power 5 champions to make the playoffs each season. After all, they won a Power 5 Conference. That is not easy to do. That said, there are plenty of years that not every Power 5 Conference has a CFP caliber team.
When is the last time the PAC-12 had a true CFP caliber team? The Washington team that made the playoff in 2016 and was blown out by Alabama? Even then, as many of you will likely agree, that Washington team had no business being in the CFP over the team who won the Big Ten that season.
If all Power 5 champions make the field then how is the 6th seed decided? An at-large bid? The top rated Group of 5 team so that they can be the sacrificial lamb to the top seeded team? None of these options sound overly appealing to yours truly.
Expanding the CFP field also lessens the importance of the regular season. One of the many things that makes college football so great is the importance each game carries. Thing about top tier non-conference matchups every season. With an expanded CFP field would they carry the excitement and importance they do now? What about that random game against Purdue or Iowa in October? The answer to both is no.
Is a four team playoff perfect? No, far from it. But that does not mean that expanding the playoffs is a necessity either.