Jim Harbaugh has a plan for expanding College Football Playoff to 11 teams
Jim Harbaugh is one of several college football coaches who believe the College Football Playoff needs to be expanded to include more teams, but it sounds like he has given the idea a lot more thought than some of his counterparts. While Harbaugh said previously that he wants the playoff to expand to 16 teams, he has since come up with a more complicated idea.
ESPN’s Heather Dinich polled 62 college head coaches and asked whether or not they believe the CFB Playoff should expand, and 30 are in favor of it. A lot of them think eight teams would be sufficient, but Harbaugh would like to see 11. He explained how he came up with that number.
With Harbaugh’s plan, each Power 5 conference champion would automatically get one of the top five spots. He would eliminate conference title games, however, and determine the champion through regular-season record and tiebreakers, essentially treating them like the NFL treats divisions. Harbaugh then wants to use the BCS system to rank the top six teams in the playoff, which would consist of the Power 5 champions and leave room for one non-Power 5 team. Of those six, five would get a first-round bye. In other words, every Power 5 champion would not be guaranteed a bye and one non-Power 5 team would still have a chance at the bye if its BCS ranking was higher than one of the Power 5 champions. The Power 5 champions are all guaranteed a playoff spot, but they would all need to be ranked 1-5 in the BCS system to get a bye. If a non-Power 5 team ends up ranked higher than one of the Power 5 conference champions, that team would get one of the five first-round byes.
From there, the BCS system would determine the remainder of the field.
Harbaugh believes his plan would be a way to expand the playoff without having certain teams play too many games. His suggestion is to have the playoff begin on the first Saturday of December, which is when conference title games are currently held. The six playoff teams that did not get a bye would play that weekend, leaving eight with the three winners and the five teams that had a bye. The losing teams would still be able to play in bowl games.
“You’d still have the same bowl structure that you have now, and teams that lost on Dec. 1, it’s like they would’ve been in a championship game and then they play in a bowl game,” Harbaugh explained. “Nobody would play 16 games.”
It may not work out exactly how Harbaugh envisions, however. As Aaron McMann of MLive.com noted, if a team played a 12-game regular season, did not get a bye in Harbaugh’s playoff system, and went on to reach the championship game, that team would have played in 16 games.
While complicated, Harbaugh’s system does not sound all that bad. Fans would probably be skeptical of eliminating conference championship games, but no one seems to think they are needed to determine postseason berths in other sports. While an expanded system might strip Dabo Swinney of some of the motivational tactics he will have the pleasure of using down the stretch, there are plenty of people in favor of it.