Atomic City Update: College football should aim to be more like high school football

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By Phil Scherer

Recently, there has been much discussion about what to do about the college football playoff system, and what the best way to improve it would be. I don’t know exactly what the best solution is, but I do know something needs to be done. 

The playoff system is exactly why I have a hard time getting into college football, because it seems like as soon as a team loses a game, the chance of that team getting an opportunity to compete for a championship nearly disappears.  

I think about it from the point of view of watching so much high school football recently, and so much professional football as long as I can remember. At those levels of competition, one loss in the regular season does not signal the end of the season. A loss offers a chance to learn and grow, and the best teams still rise to the top. 

In college football, though, one loss makes it almost impossible to win a championship, and two losses completely takes a team out of the running. For some fans, this makes the game more exciting, because they feel like every game matters. For me, it does the exact opposite. Teams are being punished too heavily for having one bad game, and that destroys the excitement of the sport for me. 

The best example this year is a team like Ohio State, which lost to Purdue during the regular season, but dominated against every other team on its schedule. That one loss proved to be the only nail necessary in the team’s coffin, as it was left out of the four-team playoff. 

Just imagine if a high school team lost one game and was told it was no longer eligible for the state championship. There would be no end to the rioting that would take place. Yes, wins matter more than anything, but I don’t think any team at any level of competition is perfect every time they take the field. 

My idea for the college football playoff would be to make conference championships matter more than anything else. There are five major conferences in college football (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC). All of the regular season conference champions should be given a berth in an eight-team playoff. Whether it requires going undefeated to win the conference, or if it requires two losses does not matter. Then, I would give a spot to the highest-ranked non-Power Five team, which would give a true underdog team a chance at a title. Then, the final two spots would be given to the best two teams that did not win their conference. 

Under that system, bids would have gone to Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Washington, Alabama, Central Florida, Notre Dame and Georgia this year. 

I think fans would be satisfied with that compromise and more teams would have a reason to pay attention throughout the regular season. It makes conference play more important and the small schools are given a chance to really compete. 

No system will ever be perfect. Everyone thought the problem was solved five years ago when college football went to a four-team playoff, but it was not. I do believe college football will soon move to an eight-team playoff and that will be for the best. There is nothing more exciting than playoff games. So bring it on, whatever the format ends up being. This is something that almost every sports fan can agree on.