Recipe for CFP ex­pan­sion play­ing out

If ‘power five’ schools keep get­ting ex­cluded, bet on big­ger play­offs

The Dallas Morning News - - Sports Day - KEVIN SHERRINGTON ksh­er­ring­ton@dal­las­

Lord knows we hate to com­plain, but it seems jus­ti­fied to say that go­ing into our fifth Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off, it’s pretty much been a closed so­ci­ety. Four schools — Alabama, Clem­son, Ohio State and Ok­la­homa — have hogged nearly three-quar­ters of the in­vi­ta­tions. This lit­tle coun­try club leaves the feel­ing that, in or­der to make room for a Cin­derella like Cen­tral Florida, the play­offs need to ex­pand.

The funny thing is, Cin­derella may get some help from her step­sis­ters in the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 one of th­ese days, though not be­cause they’re feel­ing al­tru­is­tic.

Let’s con­sider the ob­vi­ous: Alabama and Clem­son are prac­ti­cally locks, one way or an­other. Even if the Crim­son Tide lose to Ge­or­gia in the SEC ti­tle game, the com­mit­tee would take Alabama.

As for Clem­son, it’s prac­ti­cally the same story. Might be the only team in the na­tion that could keep Nick Sa­ban from his sev­enth ti­tle over­all and six in Tuscaloosa.

Notre Dame, 9-0, gets in, too, if it can weather the loss Sat­ur­day of start­ing quar­ter­back Ian Book, who yields to the Ir­ish’s for­mer start­ing quar­ter­back, Bran­don Wim­bush.

Any­thing can hap­pen on game day, which is what Ja­son

Gar­rett tells Jerry Jones, but the three teams above are surely the way to bet.

Where it gets sticky is the fourth spot. If it turns out to be Michi­gan or Ohio State, sta­tus quo is main­tained. Same for ei­ther Big 12 can­di­date of Ok­la­homa or West Vir­ginia.

But if Ge­or­gia beats Alabama, could the com­mit­tee re­ally leave home ei­ther of the SEC’S big dogs?

If just such a sce­nario played out, it would mean the fi­nal four in­cludes two SEC teams for the sec­ond year in a row; the ACC; and an in­de­pen­dent.

No Big Ten. No Big 12. No Pac-12.

Three-fifths of the Power 5. Pffffft.

Tim Brando — Fox broad­caster, pal of the Bal­lzy pod­cast and a guy un­afraid to voice an opin­ion on any­thing — has long been on record that the best path to ex­panded play­offs is the ex­clu­sion of the big boys.

They haven’t jerry-rigged the con­struc­tion of their leagues, thumbed their noses at the NCAA and all but frozen out the have-nots only to sit back and watch some­body else take home all the loot.

They’ll even­tu­ally sup­port ex­pan­sion sim­ply be­cause it means more money. But they’ll be quicker about it if get­ting left out of the CFP be­comes a pat­tern.

They won’t do it to cre­ate more Cin­derel­las. Do you think they care if an un­de­feated UCF gets left out again? The coun­try club­bers will nod sym­pa­thet­i­cally, but it won’t lead to any mean­ing­ful change.

Es­pe­cially when you’ve got so many “group of five” schools happy to be get­ting a big­ger piece of the pie. The high­est-ranked Group of 5champ is guar­an­teed a berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Un­der the BCS, the Sun Belt re­ceived $1 mil­lion or $2 mil­lion a year.

Last year, the Sun Belt pock­eted $15 mil­lion.

As Karl Ben­son, com­mis­sioner of the Sun Belt, told re­porters in Jan­uary, “I’m very sat­is­fied with the cur­rent ar­range­ment.”

But doesn’t every­body love Cin­derella in the NCAA tour­na­ment?

And isn’t it al­most im­pos­si­ble with a four-team play­off ?

“I think it’s harder,” Judy Macleod, com­mis­sioner of CUSA, told the same re­porters, “but some­thing’s got to prove me wrong to think it’s not im­pos­si­ble.”

Bot­tom line: Other than UCF, don’t count on the Group of 5 to rock the boat.

On the other hand, the Power 5 never minds a lit­tle dust-up, es­pe­cially over money.

If two SEC teams make it again, it’ll make two years in a row that nei­ther the Big Ten nor Pac-12 made the play­offs. You’ll start to hear more com­plaints about SEC bias. Or weaker com­pe­ti­tion over­all in the ACC.

A six-team play­off wouldn’t be a panacea, of course, but it would spread the love. You could even re­move the com­mit­tee from it al­to­gether. Take the champs from the five big leagues and use com­puter mod­els to de­cide on an in­de­pen­dent or the best team from the Group of 5.

A far less sub­jec­tive tour­na­ment would take most of the ar­gu­ment out of it, al­though, come to think of it, the heated dis­cus­sion may be part of the at­trac­tion.

Even if change comes, it won’t be any­time soon. We’re not even half­way through the CFP’S 12-year con­tract. But it’s never too early to start knock­ing.

John Raoux/the As­so­ci­ated Press

Mcken­zie Mil­ton and Cen­tral Florida haven’t lost since 2016 but are on the out­side look­ing in at the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off.

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