Playoff Expansion: A conversation with Dan Wetzel
Rece Davis was on Finebaum yesterday and openly admitted that playoff expansion comes at a cost. The cost being that late season, winner-take-all match ups between the highest ranked programs (such as LSU/Alabama 2019) will basically be reduced to fodder for seeding purposes. See the full comment below.
Hear that folks? Perhaps it's time to give up the only thing that makes college football unique. Dan Wetzel had the following response.
Which led to this exchange between he and I.
Read the exchange closely. Wetzel, first says that this could never happen, then he says steps should be taken to make sure it doesn't happen. I find it hard to believe that corporate sponsors with vested financial interests or the Rose Bowl committee would be chomping at the bit to move a lucrative semifinal playoff matchup out of their venue and onto a beloved college campus near you, all in the name of preserving the regular season. When I first posted this I suggested that Wetzel may not have thought of this scenario. To my surprise, he reached out and informed me that he has most assuredly considered these implications having co-authored books on a college football playoff years before we ever got one (I read one of those books a decade ago, and took notes in the margins, and have since lost it in a move). I accept the egg on my face for being called on a snarky comment, and I would certainly defer to Dan as an authority on the subject, but I still fear this issue is on the horizon once the playoff expands. We already see it every year in the NFL, i.e., the most prominent American football league on planet earth.
I want to be clear, I hope I'm wrong about this admitted hot take, and perhaps I'm being overly presumptuous when I frame it as an inevitability. I've been shouted down, called names, and kicked out of twitter spaces for suggesting that coaches might eventually rest starters to prepare for a 12 team playoff. I was told that the players who we've seen skip major, non-playoff bowl games and transfer between rival programs would never get behind it because they care too much about their team. I was assured that coaches who regularly bounce from program to program would have way too much pride in the history of their current university to tank a regular season game in exchange for an easier path to a championship. I was guaranteed that administrations and fans alike would run a coach out of town on a rail if he brings home a measly national championship after resting starters against a hated rival. And as the piece de resistance it was made very clear to me that the CFP Committee would never allow this to happen. I'm not sure what, if any logistical basis was being used in these conclusions, but suffice it to say I hope they're right.
There are a lot of moving parts here, and this conversation will be ongoing for years. Perhaps conference realignment and the elimination of divisions will help to alleviate the problem. For instance, in 2017 if there were no divisions in the SEC, does Alabama still get to bypass the SEC Championship game en route to the playoff despite losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl? Possibly still yes, but perhaps not. I won't go into all the detail of that scenario here. I started typing it out and it got convoluted pretty quickly. In another post perhaps.
Regardless, the idea that implications of playoff seeding will effectively move the needle in high caliber November matchups is probably fantasy. Any way you slice it, as Davis stated, a 12 team playoff comes at a cost, and that cost is the diminished significance of late season games featuring the best teams in the country. Let's just hope it doesn't eventually get to a point where top 5 ranked Ohio State and Michigan are disincentivized to compete against one another at the end of the year. But hey, if that happens at least we can flip over to watch Iowa State and TCU fight it out for the 12 seed.
Edited by Craig Lawson
Dan Wetzel did not like my post