Welcome to one of the most unique things you’ll find on the Penn State football beat — our point-counterpoint columns. This weekly component, which is not done by any other outlet, started a few years ago at the Altoona Mirror with Cory Giger and Neil Rudel, who has covered the Nittany Lions for more than 40 years. We’re happy to say that the point-counterpoint will continue, thanks to an agreement between Nittany Sports Now and the Altoona Mirror to share the content.
This week’s question: Should the College Football Playoff field be expanded?
Giger: Let’s not ruin the one sport that actually does it right
Do not ruin the greatest regular season we have in American sports!
I have long preached, in print and on the radio, that very few things are black and white or cut and dried. There is always a middle ground.
Not on this subject, however.
Not for me.
The College Football Playoff absolutely, unequivocally should not be expanded to the point where it waters down the regular season.
To me, four is a very good number. Not necessarily the perfect number, but far, far better than just about any other possibility.
With the number at four, you’re guaranteed to get four really good teams.
You’re also guaranteed to get some really good debate most years from the No. 5 or 6 teams stating their case about being in. And you know what? That debate is very good and healthy for college football.
We love to debate which teams should be in or out, both in the College Football Playoff and the NCAA Tournament with bracketology last four in and first four out stuff.
It creates drama and intrigue, and at the end of the day, the No. 5 and 6 teams in the football discussion usually have flaws on their resumes that make it easy to see why they got left out.
Now, I am willing to budge a bit if, for the good of the order, the playoff number went as high as six teams. I could live with that.
With six, you give the two best teams a bye, then have the other four play in the first week. That would get the number down to four.
Do not, however, make it that with six teams, all five power conferences automatically get their champion in the field. That would be awful.
Just because there are five power leagues doesn’t mean that the champion of, say, the Big 12 in a given year deserves to have a team in the field. Or if, say, Clemson loses to some weak team in the ACC title game.
The reason I am so adamant against having more than six teams is because the field would get terribly watered down if you go past that number. Even with eight, you’d probably have numerous two-loss teams all vying for the last 2-3 spots, and maybe even — GASP! — a three-loss team.
For decades, the college football regular season has been far superior to that of other leagues because: Every. Game. Matters.
Lose once, hey, you had your shot.
Lose twice, hey, you blew it.
Win your games and you’ll get in.
Let’s stop complaining about making the field bigger and enjoy the fact that college football is really the only sport that actually does it right.
Cory Giger is editor of NittanySportsNow.com and host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 3-4 on WRTA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rudel: Eight-team field would add competitive balance
I’ve been against the idea of expanding the College Football Playoff in the past, feeling a 16-game season is too long for the players, and a four-team field is enough and rewards the most deserving teams.
I’m changing my mind and now favor an eight-team bracket.
I don’t raise this today because Penn State sits at 0-5 with no light at the end of its dark 2020 tunnel.
With where the Nittany Lions are now and how far they appear to be away from even their teams of 2016-18, it could be a 64-team field, and they would be on the outside looking in.
James Franklin has been calling the four-team playoff an “all or nothing” mentality, and he’s right. (And he’s also coached like it.)
Penn State began the season with CFP dreams. Obviously, the Lions were vastly overrated, and the glass slipper was going to be shattered along the way.
But maybe if PSU had more to play for in terms of how to recover from its first loss, knowing it eliminated the team’s biggest dreams, it would help them and the rest of the sport.
Allowing eight teams in wouldn’t shut out a Power-5 champion and it would include the best of the Power-5 runnerups along with a Cinderella, a Cincinnati, BYU or Coastal Carolina, which would be fun.
So would an 8-1 Indiana or Northwestern.
That would send a positive message and build hope to many in college football as everybody chases the Alabamas, Clemsons and Ohio States.
Here’s another reason to make changes:
When you mix in the money available to the players today, that they can talk with agents from the minute they’re on campus — and presumably be paid as it’s nearly impossible to police — to the looming NIL (Name and Image Likeness) free-for-all to the NCAA transfer portal, where players upset with playing time can flee at any time, this is clearly not the same sport many of us grew up with.
Micah Parsons was a one-year starter and the minute he got the opportunity to get out of town, he jumped.
There are more internal distractions and less focus on the team than ever — obviously exacerbated this year.
To make sweeping changes during a pandemic may not be the right time, but it ought to be a time to examine how to improve the game.
I propose the elimination of a 12th regular-season game, go with 11, play the quarterfinals at the home of the higher seed and proceed with neutral-site semifinals.
An eight-team field would boost incentive and benefit the vast majority.
As you digest this with your turkey, here’s hoping for a Happy Thanksgiving.
Neil Rudel can be reached at email@example.com.