TERRY COLUMN: College football needs a real playoff

August 6, 2018

Don’t look now, but it’s football season.

High school, college and pro football teams in Arizona have all started practices in earnest in the last few weeks. That start brings with it a lot of excitement for everything that is new, and a lot of ideas for the blank slate ahead of us.

Here in Havasu, we’ll be delving into the Knights’ potential for this season and their switch to a new conference and new region in the next few weeks. All that comes with a new football field that certainly is among the best in the state.

The Cardinals will be breaking in a new quarterback, whether that is Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen, and a new coaching staff. We’ll get to see all of that for the first time this weekend as the preseason gets started on Saturday night in Glendale.

Arizona and Arizona State football have new coaching staffs, too, and what exactly we’ll see out of Tempe and Tucson is mostly a mystery.

Yet, even as the teams enter their second week of camp, one thing is sure. Neither will get into the College Football Playoff.

That’s not me downplaying their chances of winning this season. I think the Wildcats could get to the Pac-12 title game if Khalil Tate lives up to his peaks from last season. I think ASU could even surprise under their new regime.

But neither will be starting the season in the top 10 nationally, and that by itself is almost enough for most people to write them off nationally.

If either wins big, and only loses one or two games on the way to a Pac-12 championship, it’ll be because of the weak conference and their wins will be discounted. No way the Pac-12 could be that hard when a team comes out of nowhere to win it all.

That inherent bias against surprise teams, or against teams without a traditional pedigree, is the problem with a playoff that has such a limited number of teams, selecting only four.

If you want to look for a better solution, look no further than the football team in the state with the least amount of turnover this offseason. Northern Arizona isn’t ranked in the preseason top 25, but if it runs through the Big Sky Conference it will be playing for the national title. It may even host a game in Flagstaff.

That’s because the Lumberjacks play in the FCS, where there is a 24-team playoff. NAU, which has one of the top QB-WR combos in the nation, enters the season with a legit shot at a national title.

That should be true for UA and ASU, too.

A 16-team playoff would allow all 10 conference champions a spot in the field and six at-larges a seat at the table. No more arguing if the Pac-12 champ is worthy, or if the second-best team in a given league could beat another conference’s title winner. Play it on the field.

Even an eight-team field would give teams like the two in state a better shot at glory, and let them settle arguments on the field.

It’s a new season with new possibilities for every team. It’d be nice if every team knew it had a chance to win it all when everything started.

Joseph Terry is the Assistant Editor for the Today’s News-Herald. He can be reached at jterry@havasunews.com.

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