As the NCAA Tournament is drawing to a close, we have reached the point in the offseason where there will be innumerable debates over the College Football Playoff to fill air time and blog space. Most of them will be the same tired 8- and 16-team formats talking about how the Group of Five needs a team and so on and so forth.
But I just read an idea that is so radical and seemingly insane that I actually love it: let's turn college football into soccer.
About a year ago, I got into soccer by virtue of buying and playing FIFA when I had played every other video game I owned during quarantine. Now, I consider myself a big fan of the game and go to the local pub with the rest of my local NYC Man City supporters to watch the matches on the weekend — the tequila sunrise kit was my favorite when I started playing FIFA so I picked them as my team. I know the haters are upset because we're a wagon and I do not care.
Anyway, as I've become accustomed to how the soccer schedule works, I'm very intrigued by it. there's a lot to take in and learn when you first start following the game, but once you get a handle on how everything works, it makes a ton of sense. And so after I read this piece about turning the college football season into an American version of the Champions League, I'm all in.
There's a lot of words in there and you have to really follow what's going on, but if you have a working knowledge of how Champions League works, it's pretty easy to catch on. Every argument I've heard for expanding the CFP to this point — I'm generally against the idea — has been tired and generally lacking any actual reason for change. But this? This is just insane enough to work.
Change the conferences around a little bit and essentially keep the distinction we currently have between Power Five and Group of Five. Then we'll have a 32-team Champions League and what Justin Ferguson calls the America League, the equivalent of soccer's Europa League. The top two teams from each group advance to the 16-team knockout rounds and there's your expanded College Football Playoff. Ferguson goes into far more detail that I'd encourage you to read, but essentially, this creates a 32-team Playoff with infinitely more intrigue than anything college football has had in my lifetime. If you think the four-team CFP reveal is at all entertaining television, can you even imagine what a 32-team group draw would look like? People would be losing their minds waiting to see what opponents they get.
I've generally been against the narrative that we have to expand the College Football Playoff because it lacks excitement with the same teams in it every year and we need to give a chance to the Cincinnatis and UCFs of the world, but for the people who make those arguments, this would do both. Everybody has a real chance to win this thing. And if a team like one of those was good enough to win a championship, they'd be able to prove it and leave no doubt.
And even for the schools who aren't competing for a title in any given year, this puts a premium on every game, because you'd be fighting for a spot in the America League for the next season — which would give you a chance to get into the following year's Champions League if you win that trophy.
I'm not crazy enough to think this would ever happen, because the decision makers in college football generally oppose anything that could reasonably be perceived as "fun." But for everybody who claims to want college football to be more equitable and meaningful for the most teams possible, let's put your money where your mouth is.
Give me the CFB Champions League. I'd never get to see the Vols play in it, but it would sure be fun as hell to watch everybody else.