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Reasons College Playoff needs to be expanded: Jim Harbaugh wants it to, and so should you

“The times they are a-changin” - Bob Dylan

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The College Football Playoff has been a major step in the right direction of finding a true National Champion, but another step needs to be taken. While four teams in the playoff is adequate, there still are worthy teams on the outside looking in.

With only four teams being selected, the committee who selects the teams can claim objectivity all they want, but a certain amount of subjectivity exists under the surface. Adding more teams would help with any gripes as to who did get in the playoff and who did not.

Jim Harbaugh is in favor of the playoff expanding

  • “If you look at every other sport, they have a playoff at every level. It’s not a four-team. Basketball goes from 64 to the Final Four. I think that’s the way it should be done to have a national champion like they do in gymnastics, like they do in basketball, men’s and women’s, lacrosse, every other sport you can think of. And you already have the format with the FCS.”
  • “I would change it to 16 teams. FCS, they’ve got a great system. It’s been in place for many years. My dad won the national championship at Western Kentucky when they were I-AA in 2002. I think that’s the best system.”
  • “If not 16, then 12. It makes all sense in the world. You’ve got the best way to do it, a playoff. The argument against is, ‘Well, they would have to play 15 games. There’s teams playing 15, 16 games already, and that’s only if you’re in the championship. Our regular season right now is 12 games. You go to the Big Ten championship, that’s 13 games. You go to the playoffs, semifinals, there’s 14. Play in the national championship, that’s 15.”

Reasons why playoff should add more teams

  • Revenue: NCAA football is a huge money maker, adding more playoff games would add millions and millions of dollars into the pockets of the schools and NCAA body. Ticket sales, commercials, etc all would bring in additional big bucks.
  • No worthy team is left out: While there may never be 16 teams in the playoff, it is likely the playoff will be expanded in the near future. This season there will be worthy teams that won’t make the cut. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Ohio State, Miami, all might not make it. Can we sit here and say the above teams mentioned cannot beat the top four which is Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Clemson?
  • The “Wild-Card” won’t be left out: We’ve seen it a handful of times in history before the playoff, where an Urban Meyer coached Utah team is undefeated yet doesn’t make the National Championship, or an undefeated P.J. Fleck coached Western Michigan squad doesn’t make the cut because of the conference they play in. There are a couple big wild cards this year that have no chance at the playoff, Central Florida and Iowa State. Central Florida is undefeated, while Iowa State has only two losses and has knocked off both Oklahoma and TCU when they were undefeated. Increasing the playoff to at least 8 or 12 would bring wild cards like this into the equation and let the world see if they can do damage on a big stage.
  • Late season surge teams: Some teams aren’t that cohesive to start the season, and get better as the year unfolds, with experience and the seasoning of solid coaching. Enter Michigan. This falls into the category of a hypothetical, but let’s say Michigan wins the rest of their games, and beats Wisconsin and Ohio State, finishing the season 10-2. If the playoff expanded, Michigan would have a realistic chance in this situation. Sometimes teams have to go through some major bumps to become the good team they were destined to be. Michigan aside, other teams fall into this category every season, where they may have lost a game or two but look unbeatable by the end of the season. A good example is last seasons 10-3 USC team and 10-3 Oklahoma State
  • Eliminates getting the playoff wrong: When there are just four teams, worthy teams are bound to be left out. In 2016, Ohio State got clobbered by Clemson in the playoff, and Washington destroyed by Alabama. It didn’t look like the losers were worthy of being there in the first place. If the playoff had more teams, Michigan would have gotten in and could have scored as many points as Ohio State did... zero. It didn’t seem like the committee found the four best teams. While it may not have been their fault, what would have helped is giving them some margin for error, and the only way to do so is by expanding the playoff.


I want to be clear, if Michigan was in the top four, I would be writing this article in the same manner, objectivity should flow within a writer no matter their allegiance. Think of all the wild card teams who have won Super Bowls and World Series championships. If there was only a top four playoff in those sports, the best team wouldn’t always win the biggest prize. The College Playoff committee needs to take a hard look at expanding the playoff. It would be better for everyone involved. Expect this issue to be a big one at seasons end.