Dooley: Don’t count on college football playoff expansion

In this Dec. 2, 2017, file photo, Central Florida head coach Scott Frost holds the winning trophy after defeating Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship NCAA college football game, in Orlando. Scott Frost is The Associated Press coach of the year after leading UCF to an unbeaten season and a spot in the Peach Bowl. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

So we got what we wanted.

We wanted chaos. We wanted a playoff with two teams from one conference so two conferences would be left out. We really wanted those two teams to win so we’d have only one conference represented in Atlanta.

We wanted everyone to freak out and take a step toward a six-team or an eight-team playoff.

But I’m not feeling it.

I’m not getting a sense that it’s any closer than it was before Georgia and Alabama made it an All-SEC final.

Sure, there have been those who have questioned whether it’s good for the sport and the ratings Monday night will probably show that it isn’t. The lowest rated championship game this decade came when Alabama faced LSU.

But expanding the playoffs is only going to make it more possible for this to happen again, which is why you’re not going to see any expansion of the playoff any time soon.

Chaos isn’t the answer.

I’m not sure there is one.

We all know that the Alabama-LSU final after the 2011 season was the biggest reason the commissioners finally agreed to go to a four-team playoff.

The theory was that two teams from the same conference wouldn’t get in because conference championships were supposed to matter. But Alabama is a different animal that gets the benefit of the doubt. The Tide will be playing for the title for the second time in seven years without winning its conference.

This has caused an outcry from a lot of people who pay minimal attention to college football. Forget that it’s possible to have two teams from the same city play in the Super Bowl or that two teams from the same conference played for the national championship in baseball or that it’s certainly possible for it to happen every time March Madness rolls around.

Because this wasn’t supposed to happen.

But it did because Georgia and Alabama were two of the best four teams at the end of the season who won their golden tickets on the field.

I’m not going to lie, I wish Oklahoma would have won Monday night because I’d rather watch the Sooners play with their tremendous offense and awful defense. The chances of a great game are always increased when Baker Mayfield is on the field.

But this is what we have, a Southern-fried finale.

You can complain about UCF not getting a chance, but the Knights are a product of the college football environment. Everyone wants to be like Alabama and UCF has succeeded by claiming a national title that doesn’t really exist (check out the 1941 Alabama “title” when it finished with two losses and was ranked 20th).

They’re going to have a parade and raise a banner, but there will only be one true champion when this is all over and the confetti falls in Atlanta.

So who are you rooting for?

I can’t think it would be good for Florida to have a rival claiming a national crown, but it would be good for the downtrodden East to finally have something to hang its hat on.

Either way, the SEC will still rule college football.

And the best football players are still going to favor playing in this conference.

The most interesting fallout from this year’s developments will be to see whether the conferences that wanted only conference champions in the playoff — a battle the Pac-12 and Big Ten lost when the system was put into place — can convince enough of the other Power 5 conferences to make it a rule rather than a tiebreaker.

I’m guessing I know which way the SEC will vote. It just means more, right?

Never as much as this year.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. I beg to differ, Pat. I love college football, and I ”pay attention”. But it’s just a matter of time before it’s NOT the S.E.C. that benefits, like now. It’s only a matter of time before a Florida losing late in the season keeps them out of the ”playoffs.” Just ask the Ambassador, Steve Spurrier, who lost to U.T. late in his career (’01), and was kept out of a possible ”Rose Bowl National Championship game.”
    In fact, it was his last game as the FLORIDA H.B.C. in ”The Swamp”. Just saying!

  2. Yes, it might still happen with an 8 team playoff, but fans up north and out west wold be less likely to tune out an all-SEC final if they knew their favorites at least had a chance to play for the thing, instead of being left out by committee.

  3. The solution is incredibly easy and obvious – Conference Champions only in the CFP. Expand to however many conferences you like. Mix in a bye for the highest seeds. Add in (1) “wild card” if you absolutely have to. But the major conferences should all be represented. Or do away with the conference championship game altogether. Without it, Auburn stands having beaten both Georgia and Alabama head-to-head. Who are you putting in the playoff? Instead, Auburn is punished by having to beat Georgia a second time and Alabama puts it’s feet up and rests and gets an invite anyway? How is that right? What about merit? UCF earned a chance to be included. The argument against goes something like: “Well, they played a weak schedule and with seeding they’d end up playing Alabama and Alabama would KILL them.” Yeah, that’s what Auburn thought. How’d that work out? The most compelling argument I can think of though for having conference champs only is that it preserves the BEST regular season in any sport. Every game counts. Even if the Iron Bowl isn’t already the best rivalry game, the “play in” aspect increases the value of that game (and every conference game). Why is this so hard?

  4. Pat, college football is in bizarro world without CONFERENCE-against-CONFERENCE playoff to the actual NC game. In fact, it is beyond that and then some. If you’re not getting my point, what I’m trying to say that it is downright stupid not to play conference champions against conference champions to determine a national champion. Idiotic, ignorant, and unfair. Why even have conferences if they mean so little?

    • I concur. And mixing the “bowl system” into a playoff? Huh? What do teams play for in the NFL? Home field advantage for the playoff. There is ZERO reward for an SEC team to travel to the other side of the country to play in the Rose Bowl (with regard to a playoff). As a “bowl game”? Sure. As a stand-alone reward for a great season? Yes. The Granddaddy of Them All, right? Fun, Sun, pageantry, prestige, swag? You bet. But as a playoff? Punishment – NOT reward.

  5. There will be an expansion. The reason why is the same reason we are where we are today after years of everyone saying the bowls will never be replaced: the love of playoffs to determine a fair champ and the love of $$$. I think they should crown the conference champs of the power 5 with a playoff invite and then pick 3 at large teams to complete the playoff. 8 teams . No one can moan and groan any more with any real respectable reason. TV will get its way…again. Everyone gets paid.

  6. If you want to tie in the conference champs to the playoffs, fine. Just STOP calling it the national championship because it won’t be. Call it the conferences championship. That’s all it would be. Then go back to the AP crowning the national champs.

  7. Conference champs can be overrated, just look at Clemson this year, and USC as well. The CFP is for the 4 best teams not the 4 best conference champs. Those of you that keep yapping about the conference champs need an 8 team playoff at a minimum to allow for the best teams to be included regardless of conference titles like Bama this year. The CFP worked as it should this season.

    • I saw Clemson as over-rated all year, CO. But then I saw the two defensive TDs by Alabama in the playoff game, but for which the final score would have been 10-6, or who knows what. On top of that, 24-6 being touted by sports writers who couldn’t have actually watched the game as a “rout”. The best two teams I think I saw this year, week to week, were Oklahoma and Georgia. Both conference champions, by the way.

  8. six team playoff top two get a bye. play the four in lower tier early bowls which now will rake in big bigger bucks and viewership to get to the semifinal. yep its tough on the lower four but its a playoff cant complain about a chance. season still ends the same date as now.

  9. UCF had a great season but is it just me or does the hanging of a NC banner in Orlando look a lot like the UConn rivalry trophy ordeal that the UCF folks were making fun of a couple of months ago?

    Need to go to 8 teams. Not sure about the making the conference champions automatically in. I think the committee would have ranked UCF higher if it was an 8 team playoff just to get them in.

  10. Follow the money. College football’s NC will never make sense or be fair until they figure out how to make it pay. It is not about the game of football. It is about money, TV ratings, and “brands”. Not being cynical. I love it anyway!

    • We love it, Trooper, because it’s all we’ve got even if it doesn’t make any sense. The teams being left to a committee, subject to all manner of political whims and biases, versus those left standing after winning their own conference, is absurd. I don’t understand why “conference champions can be overrated”. Did they win their conference or not? Were they not supposed to win it but won it anyway? So what, it happens. Who has the damn trophy? Frankly, rankings are pretty damn silly too–but I suppose we’ll never lose them for one reason or another. Sure, it sucks to lose, but losing is part of the game too. Somebody has to, don’t they? If a team is hot all the way through the season, but fails to win their conference championship at the end, then so be it. Win them all next year! Life just doesn’t work like the playoffs do right now. Otherwise, I fail to see why we even have conferences at all, other than the fact that college football is and always has been traditionally geographic in nature….but with a team like West Virginia in the Big-12 even that is fading away. This isn’t rocket science, it can be done and the $’s will still be there.

  11. Those who argue for expansion because of UCF needs to put the onus on the UCF (or any aspiring playoff team) itself. If they would schedule to play a couple of traditional powers during the regular season (say those programs that regularly rank in the top 20 each year), I’m confident the committee would slate them in the playoffs if they could win those games. It’s not just about having an undefeated season or belonging to a Power 5 conference, it’s also about who they beat during the regular season. Beating Auburn in an exhibition bowl game doesn’t count, not to mention it’s obviously too late for the committee to include that game in their deliberations.

  12. 10 conference champions plus top 6 wildcards based on AP poll for a 16 team playoff. Easy solution. You get all the champs and if you can’t make it in the top 6 ranked excluding the champs then you just didn’t deserve it.

  13. the pressure for expansion might occur if Alabama and Georgia make the playoffs again next year, a possibility with the amount of talent both teams have returning. still, nobody seemed to mind Clemson Vs Alabama part three, as boring as that game turned out to be, so…

  14. Seems to me that most folks have forgotton that college athletics is supposed to be for STUDENT/athletes. I think it was just as much, if not more, fun when teams played schedules that included several rivalry games and if you finished the season on the winning side of the ledger, the student/athletes were rewarded with a bowl game. The stature of most bowl games has diminished because of the “play offs” and the amount of bickering and controversy has escalated because of this National Championship ballyhoo we hear that begins about 2 games into the season. I was 7 years old when I sat by the radio with my Dad and Grandad and listened to Gator games and I think I was just as excited listening to Otis Boggs getting tongue-tied describing those games as I do today. I’m not for expanding the play offs because I don’t think it would solve a thing. Someone is always going to feel left out Go Gators