After the unveiling of the first College Football Playoff rankings came and went without the reveal of Michigan in the top 25 (not a surprise to many), Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh is talking about the playoff and what he feels the best format for the system going forward is.
Specifically, Harbaugh would prefer a 16-team field, which sure would help Michigan a fair bit.
“I would change it to 16 teams,” Harbaugh told “Jamie and Stoney.” “FCS, they’ve got a great system. It’s been in place for many years. My dad won the national championship at Western Kentucky when they were I-AA in 2002. I think that’s the best system.
“If you look at every other sport, they have a playoff at every level and every other college sport does as well. It’s not a four-team. Basketball goes from 64 to the Final Four. I think that’s the way it should be done to have a national champion like they do in gymnastics, like they do in basketball, men’s and women’s, lacrosse, every other sport you can think of. And you already have the format with the FCS.”
He also (unsurprisingly) beat the drum for conferences having multiple teams make the playoff, which would conceivably allow three or four teams from a particularly deep conference (like say…oh, I don’t know, Harbaugh’s Big Ten) to take part.
“Some of these conferences that are 14 and 16 teams, and you win your conference and only one team goes, one team may not have played the other good teams in the conference,” he said. “We see that already in the Big Ten. Strength of schedule is a big determination of what your record is going to be.
“You see that at the NFL level. That is the biggest predictor of who makes the playoffs is the strength of schedule. It doesn’t have to be one team from each conference. You could have 16 teams. They vote them in in the FCS, I think you could do that in the (FBS).”
With two losses already, and just four conference games left, Michigan sits fourth in the Big Ten East behind arch-rivals Ohio State and a pair of teams that beat them – Penn State and in-state rival Michigan State. But they’ll get some help this weekend, because the Spartans host the Nittany Lions in East Lansing and one of those teams will fall to two losses. All Michigan needs to do is win out (which includes games against the Buckeyes and 8-0 Wisconsin), hopes Ohio State loses a second conference game, and prays that the Michigan State-Penn State winner loses another game and they’ll be right back in contention for a spot in the expanded 16-team playoff that isn’t happening this season!
All kidding aside, the four-team playoff is a recipe for controversial decisions…like this year, where two unbeaten teams from the SEC top the rankings following the first week, joined in the top four by a pair of 7-1 teams with three unbeatens (two from Power 5 conferences) on the outside looking in. Imagine the reaction from a 12-1 Ohio State or a 13-0 Wisconsin if either is shut out of the playoff in favor of a 12-1 Alabama or Georgia, or an 11-1 Notre Dame.
Huh. Maybe Harbaugh isn’t completely off-base here.