I’ll preface my column this month with this warning: If you are a Penn State, Michigan, Oklahoma or Wisconsin fan, you may want to stop reading. I don’t want you to put the paper down with a bad taste in your mouth, and miss out on all the rest of the wonderful writing in this paper. Just move along; I won’t take it personally.
Still reading? Okay, I warned you.
I mention these teams because they are numbers five through eight, respectively, in the final College Football Playoff Committee rankings. Which sounds great, until you remember that the College Football Playoff only takes the top four teams in the nation. All of the teams mentioned above are extremely high-caliber teams, and all have a legitimate argument to be competing for the honor of “Best Team in the Nation.” But, it would seem that there’s an easy fix. Expand the playoff field to eight teams, and everyone benefits, right?
Now, there are a multitude of reasons why expansion could be opposed, ranging from the ratings shift that would occur in moving bowl games earlier to the fact that games would need to be played during college’s finals weeks. However, I’m going to focus on what is, to me, one of the most important issues with expansion, and one I don’t think has been discussed enough: player safety.
The college football season, as it is, is one of the most grueling seasons in all of sports. Teams that would be in contention for a national title (almost always, see Ohio State) already have their season extended in a conference championship game. Adding another game in general would put a greater stress on players, but expanding the college football playoff would mean an extra game against one of the eight best teams in the country. The risk of injury, overwork and exhaustion would be exponentially greater against another high-caliber team.
Are Penn State, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin great teams? Yes. Do they deserve recognition for their successes? Absolutely. But with a working bowl system in place, adding extra games, extra wear and tear, and extra room for injury is not the way to give them that recognition.