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Mazurek: Four teams enough for College Football Playoff

| Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I’m no marketing major, but if Hallmark wanted to make some money, they should start a line of cards targeted at grieving Penn State fans.

The front would read, “Sometimes you do all you can, but it’s not enough,” and you would open it to find the default message reads, “Sorry about you not making it into the College Football Playoff.”

Now, I could write a column arguing for Penn State’s inclusion in the four best teams in the country. But I could also write one for Michigan, Western Michigan and even Oklahoma.

The point is: this is the first year the College Football Playoff (CFP) committee dealt with some real drama in selecting the four playoff teams. The first year of the CFP’s existence, TCU got the short end of the stick, but No. 4 seed Ohio State bailed the committee out by winning the championship. And the second year was clear cut.

But here we are in Year Three, and already we’re hearing voices saying the playoff should be expanded to eight teams.

It shouldn’t.

“But it’ll work out so well,” they say. “Just put in the five Power Five conference winners, the top-ranked Group of Five team and then you get two wild card slots.”

That sounds like a lovely system, but it’s more watered down than a kiddie pool.

People can argue that Penn State or Western Michigan deserve a spot in the playoff ’till the cows come home, and that is precisely why the CFP shouldn’t — and won’t — be expanded to eight teams.

With eight teams, there’s less debate, less stakes. Even if two teams are fighting for a spot, it’ll be for the No. 8 and No. 9 slots, not the No. 4 and No. 5. This year, that would be the debate between Wisconsin and Colorado. Yawn.

Unlike any other system in American sports, college football — and basketball — decides its postseason participants based on subjective evaluation, and that’s why fans love it. Not only do you get to see the battle between Ohio State and Michigan on the field, you see their fans battle to sway the committee. If you expand the CFP, you take away one of the biggest advantages college football has over the NFL.

Another thing college has over the NFL? The fact that every game actually matters. As we speak, the Dallas Cowboys have clinched a spot in the NFL playoffs, and the Patriots, Raiders and Seahawks will clinch soon, essentially making their final regular season games pointless. In fact, NFL teams often rest star players to avoid the risk of injury in such meaningless games.

Yet in the NCAA, every game matters. Every. Single. One.

For some teams, even the “cupcake” matchups hold significance, because beating Montana State 50-10 and beating Montana State 28-21 could hypothetically be the difference in the eyes of the committee for a team like Boise State. If the playoff is expanded, the simple truth would be that not every game matters.

Alabama could have lost to Chattanooga, and they still would have made it in. Iowa’s last-second field goal against Michigan would be a ho-hum moment. The Game was phenomenal this year, but would it have had the same instant-classic status if both Ohio State and Michigan knew they’d make the CFP anyway?

As it stands, the CFP is about finding the best of the best, and it should be kept that way. Don’t dilute the postseason in the name of fairness. Keep the debate and make every game matter.

Besides, how many more games of Alabama blowing people out do we really need to see?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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