Ask Gary: Should college playoffs expand?

by Gary Shelton on November 11, 2017 · 1 comment

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If the college football playoffs were held today only two of the Power Five conferences would be represented. That is not going to sit well with the majority of fans or college administrators and probably not with the TV people, either. A lot of media and fans would prefer to have an eight-team playoff with the Power 5 conference champions automatically qualifying plus 3 at-large teams. I like that idea because it would greatly reduce the subjective power of the committee that chooses the teams in the current system. What would have to happen to have the format changed? Do you think anything will be changed in the near future?

Larry Beller

Larry, I know Bill Hancock, who is in charge of the college playoff extremely well. I've worked with him for years.

When it comes to the playoffs, Bill has always been steadfast. Four teams. That's it. From the first moment that college football

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decided to have a playoff, Bill has defended the four-team playoff. Repeatedly, he turned a deaf ear to expanding the playoffs.

His point is that the more teams in the playoffs, the more it dilutes the regular season. Does North Carolina-Duke basketball mean as much in the regular season. It can't, can it? Not when they have the conference tournament and a possible meeting in the NCAAs.\

If you're asking me, well, I would prefer an eight-team playoff, too. Not many good teams play each other that often -- why should they? -- and there always seems to have been five teams that had an argument for the playoff. I don't like the idea of a bye week in the post season -- there is too much idle time in December -- so eight would be the optimum expansion.

Eventually, I think we'll get there. There is too much money to be made from an extra week of games. When you can do something for "fairness" and still make money, that's a win-win.

But right now, those who run the playoffs are protective of the regular season. If, say, UCLA and Southern Cal are both in the playoffs, it has to affect their regular season game. That's been part of the problem with so many teams making the college basketball playoffs.

Then there is this: It's asking a lot of a fan base to follow three post-season games (plus a conference title, plus an end of the year rivalry game).

I don't think the outcry from fans or college presidents are going to get it changed. There are usually one or two miffed college presidents; not a great many in the grand scheme. And who the hell cares what TV thinks? When Baylor was left out a couple of years ago, I don't think the presidents were in an uproar. Ultimately, it's their game.

Now, this is important, too. There are currently 10 teams in the college football rankings with one loss or fewer. So do you need a 16-team bracket? A 32-team bracket? Somewhere, you have to draw a line. Take UCF. Even if the Knights go undefeated -- and I would be impressed -- I can't say that they've played a schedule that would deserve a shot at the national title. I would say the same thing about USF (which isn't in the college football rankings).

Let's not fool ourselves. We can talk about five conference champions and three at-large teams, but how long would it be before, say, the SEC wanted a second team over an at-large team? And maybe they would deserve it.

I read a piece out of Michigan this week that grumbled that the Wolverines weren't ranked in the college playoff poll. For crying out loud, they've lost twice. Of course they're unranked. Any team with two losses that is whining about the playoffs needs to look in the mirror.

The clear remedy for this is if the teams played each other more often. But everyone wants to schedule 10 wins, don't they? If the best teams in the ACC played the best teams in the SEC, or the Big 10 played the best of the Pac-12, this would work itself out.

What would have to happen to change it? I think if there were enough glamorous teams left out, and the presidents would want to settle the controversy. A movement that starts with the fans is easy to ignore. The presidents? Not so much.

Until then, we're stuck at four. Hey, it's easy to look at the playoffs and yell "more." But again, this was designed to be a four-team playoff. Would you rather go back to arguing about it?

What if Alex Cobb winds up accepting the Rays $17.4 million qualifying offer?  Does that mean that Chris Archer would be traded to lower payroll somewhat?

Scott Myers

For how many years would his contract run? What happens to his salary over the life of the contract?

Scott, I think we agree that Cobb had a better year than Chris Archer this year. I still think Archer gives up too many home runs, and he isn't exactly fierce with a one-run lead. But the Rays love Archer's abilities. I think they like him better (whether they should or not).

I love Cobb's attitude that he takes the mound with. And I'd probably make that trade. But I don't think the Rays would.

As a diehard Bucs fan, these are the days that try men's souls.  I was a realist before the season started and wasn't predicting playoffs as a sure thing or nearly a sure thing. However, I sure didn't see this. The Glazers have a history of intolerance when it comes to seasons falling below expectations, thus we seem to be in a maddening cycle of management/coaching changes every 2-3 seasons. 
 
Do you get the feeling there will be massive clean house at season end involving GM and/or head coach, or perhaps partial?  Many fans now come to expect major changes and at mid-season there's talk of a Gruden return of all things on local sports radio, etc.  It's no wonder the Lightning have become the most respected pro sports team in Tampa Bay. They stuck by John Cooper after last season's disappointment and it's paying dividends this season (so far).
 
Bruce Brownlee

Bruce, let's be honest. It was easy to stand by Cooper after last year. He lost his leading scorer in Steven Stamkos, and his previous two seasons included a Stanley Cup appearance and an Eastern Conference finals. I like Cooper, and I like the organization, but it isn't quite the same thing. A team builds credit with the fans; they'll endure a bad year if it's surrounded by good ones.

 Will we have a massive turnover with the Bucs? I honestly think it matters how the Bucs finish. The Glazers seem to abhor losing in December. Gruden lost his last four. Raheem lost his last ten. Schiano lost four of his last five. Lovie lost his last four.
If the Bucs lose out, it would be hard to see both Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter back for any other reason than there has been too much change in the past. I think the Glazers like Koetter; I think they want him to succeed. But if this team suffers double-digit losses, I wouldn't want to be the guy arguing for his job.
If I had to draw a line in the dirt, I'd say he's back at 7-9. At 6-10, it's anyone's guess.

What are some obvious, and not obvious, differences between the way Malcolm Glazer ran the team vs the way the Glazers sons are running it since?

Nick Houllis

I think the major difference is in the men they hired. Under Malcolm Glazer, the team hired Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden as coach and Rich McKay as general manager. There seemed to be a chance for all three men to grow into their jobs. The franchise wasn't as reactionary, and it had a blueprint.

Now, let's be honest. Neither Malcolm nor Joel and Bryan were in the back offices helping scouts break down film. It isn't what owners do. I'd love for the Glazers to be more involved in the big decision, but neither father nor sons have the football expertise for it.

But the Bucs haven't stayed the course very often, have they? Raheem got three years. Schiano got two. Lovie got two. The Bucs need to hire better, and they need to give the guy they hire time.

I would like to see the Glazers challenge their g.m. more. What are we doing about a pass rusher? Where are we going to get a running back? What makes us think this team won't backslide? If nothing else, start a conversation. Be active.

What do you think the chances are of the Glazers rehiring Jon Gruden. Would Gruden do it?

Jim Willson

I'm told that, this time, Gruden has more interest in returning to the sideline. His kids are older, and if he's ever going to do it, this wouldn't be a bad fit.

But would he come back to Tampa Bay, a team that fired him? Who knows for sure?

Here's a question, though. Would you welcome Jon back? Remember, three of his last six teams had losing records. His front office -- and I blame Bruce Allen for this -- didn't draft stars with the same frequency the franchise was losing them. There was no young quarterback.

Granted, Jon had that one magicial season. And maybe that's enough for a second chance. He would certainly make things interesting. We'd all pay attention, wouldn't we?

Jared Goff. Carson Wentz. Dak Prescott. Jameis Winston. Marcus Mariota. Who do you predict will have the greatest career and who is is most likely to be Trent Dilfer?

Jim Willson

If you're betting now, I'd say Carson Wentz is going to have the best career of them all. The Eagles have built a pretty good team around him, and he's a dynamic player.

I've been surprised at how much better Goff has been. Coming into the season, a lot of people were ready to throw him on the trash pile and light a fire.

I may be in the minority, but I still like Winston more than Mariota. Maybe I'll be wrong on that one. But there is nothing fake about his competitivism.

The hardest guy for me to evaluate continues to be Prescott. He's just a different type of quarterback, and on a team that isn't as good across the offensive line as the Cowboys, I wonder about his staying power.

I don't know that I would suggest that any of these guys would be another Dilfer. Dilfer came into awful surroundings, and he's often said that he got zero coaching until he got to Seattle. Frankly, that's easy to believe.

Not trying to pop your balloon, but there is some bust factor to all of them. A lot of it depends on how a team surrounds them, and how much it leans on them.

Do you demand an answer? Ok. I'll say Wentz will be the best player of the bunch. I'll say Goff will be the worst.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Larry Beller November 12, 2017 at 8:40 am

I’d rather just argue with you. College football is all about arguments. Who has the better conference? Who has the easier schedule? And on and on. An 8 team playoff with power 5 conference champs + the next 3 best teams makes so much sense and it should stop most of the arguments. If you aren’t the best team in your conference how can you be considered the best team in the country? It makes so much sense that it will probably never be adopted. When the college presidents decide to expand to more teams they will most likely screw it up again. This is the nature of college football.

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