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Room for expansion

Another season has passed and another four-team playoff for college football is set.

It’s also another season of deserving teams on the outside looking in.

When the College Football Playoff Committee selected Alabama over Ohio State Sunday, fans of the Buckeyes — and Big 10 to a lesser extent — cried foul. A conference championship should mean more than a one-loss team that didn’t even win its own division.

It sets a precedent they claimed.

I agree completely. It does set a precedent but that was set last year when Ohio State sneaked into the College Football Playoff over Big 10 Champion Penn State.

If it was fair last year, it’s fair this year — end of argument.

I don’t say that as an Alabama fan (which I am not) or an SEC fan (which I am). I say that because the Crimson Tide is a better football team than Ohio State.

And yes, Alabama’s only loss was to a team with three losses. However, Ohio State had two losses including being blown out by 31 points by a 7-5 Iowa squad.

At the end of the day though, it’s not my opinion that matters. The CFP Committee chose the Tide over the Buckeyes and the matter is closed.

That being said, this whole argument only points to the need for the playoffs to be expanded. I was against the idea of a four-team playoff when the format was announced. I was confident that it would quickly expand to eight teams and I am stunned it hasn’t happened yet.

On Sunday, Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh lobbied for a 16-team playoff.

The idea has merit.

I know even with 16 teams there would still be a dispute as to which bottom two or three teams should be allowed in the playoffs. Still, 16 teams would offer far less opportunity for major controversy.

Imagine the 16 teams that would have qualified for the playoffs this year — Ohio State, Wisconsin, USC, Miami, and Central Florida all would have qualified.

Look at the possible matchups.

How could those not be entertaining for the fans and more importantly, money-makers for college football?

I know. A 16-team playoff would extend the football season by four games.

So what?

It’s not like the College Football Association or NCAA is overly concerned with the well-being of student-athletes — I mean unless they can make money and get good publicity out of it.

The NFL plays a 16-game regular season as well as a four-game preseason in addition to as many as four postseason games. By my admittedly poor math skills, that’s 23-24 games per season.

Colleges currently play a 12-game regular season and some play a conference championship and a bowl game, meaning most of the top Power Five teams will play 14 games and the top two currently will play 15 games total.

There are a couple of solutions.

One is to simply add four games and be finished. The most games in a season would be 19 games.

Another solution — and the one I favor — is to simply drop one regular season game and go back to the 11-game schedule. Yes, I know that only trims one game from the schedule but the season could start one week later. The value there would be one less week of games played in late summer heat as well as building anticipation for the season.

If one really wanted to take it a step further, limit the number of Thursday and Friday games played. If you want to make it about player safety, make it about player safety.

FCS (formerly Division IAA) and Division II and III have operated with anywhere from 12-16 teams in the playoff for years. It’s worked pretty well for them.

If the CFP people were smart, they would go to 16 teams and rotate television networks with each level of the playoffs.

Could you imagine the bidding war between ESPN/ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and Fox?

There’s gold in them thar games — and I don’t mean in turnover chains.

Would some three-loss teams make the playoffs? Absolutely. How fun would it be to see Auburn play Wisconsin or Ohio State this year? How about Oklahoma State and USC?

It would be compelling television and that translates into advertising money. And for all of the talk about student-athletes, cold hard cash speaks much, much louder.

To the powers-that-be in college football: The opportunity is there to do the right thing for universities and fans.

Do not drop the ball.