The best Christmas gift the SEC can receive is Playoff expansion
Don’t fight it, SEC fans.
I get why you might want to. After all, the SEC is 1 of 2 conferences to have made the Playoff in each of its first 5 seasons. And frankly, it’s never really been in serious jeopardy of missing the field.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?
But don’t be silly and fight the idea that Playoff expansion is suddenly going to put a curb on the SEC’s dominance. In fact, that would be the best gift that could show up under the SEC’s Christmas tree.
Why? It’s simple really.
While the belief is that the current system rewards the SEC for always seemingly having an elite team — usually Alabama — an expanded field would actually capitalize on how much depth the conference has.
Anybody who has actually sat down and watched games without screaming chants of “SEC bias” can tell it’s no longer Alabama and the Alabama-ettes. Everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that it’s the SEC who has 4 teams in New Year’s 6 Bowls. No other conference has more than 2.
Will an expanded field suddenly change that? I don’t believe it would. In fact, I wouldn’t rule out a scenario in which the SEC became the first conference to put 3 teams in the 8-team Playoff.
It’s ironic because the 2011 BCS National Championship was what put the wheels in motion for change. A system that put 2 teams from the same conference in the national championship wasn’t fair, many argued. Those same people cried foul in 2017 when the SEC became the first conference to put 2 teams in the Playoff, which was magnified when they played in a thrilling national championship.
In other words, get ready for more cries of an unjust system when the SEC makes up 3 of the 8 Playoff teams in a given year.
Expansion, however, won’t change the following things. For starters, the ACC and SEC aren’t being forced to change their 8-game conference schedule. As long as that’s in place, those conferences will indeed have a slight advantage based on that principle alone (though it’s worth pointing out the SEC went 9-4 vs. Power 5 teams in nonconference play).
But expansion won’t change the SEC just being better at football than everyone. Whether the skeptics want to admit it or not, that simple element is how we got to where we are now. That is, with conference commissioners saying that we’re in need of expansion and with selection committee members apparently undecided about expansion.
These discussions are gaining momentum because the SEC nearly put 2 teams into the field for the second year in a row while the Big Ten is again on the outside looking in. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who is one of the most powerful people in the sport, probably didn’t sleep well knowing that his 1-loss conference championship finished ranked behind not 1, but 2 SEC teams.
Other conferences are tired of not getting a chance after underperforming in the regular season. That’s at the root of this. Apparently they want a system that rewards a team for getting its teeth kicked in by Iowa or Purdue. Or they want to send their 2- or 3-loss conference champ to the Playoff in hopes that they’ll pull off an upset.
Basically, they want a system that looks past their flaws and doesn’t have them become the butt of the joke every December.
Fine. If that’s what they want, let’s have at it. It’ll be entertaining. Well, at least the lead-up will be until a team like Georgia beats Washington by 3 touchdowns. But on the bright side, the Pac-12 would delay being the butt of the joke until January. So that’s cool!
An 8-team field would work in the SEC’s favor because it would essentially squash the bias arguments. Let everyone have a bid and nobody can claim of SEC bias from the selection committee anymore. Instead, they’ll be out of excuses if and when the SEC still puts multiple teams in the field and wins a national championship.
Then what’ll they do? Bump it out to 16 like Jim Harbaugh wants? Sure. Why not. In fact, let’s just bump it out to 65 teams like basketball. Maybe then we can settle the argument once and for all.
For now, though, I guess we’ll have to settle for an 8-game field putting pause to the SEC bias crowd. It seems inevitable at this point. And yes, while it could jeopardize the greatest regular season in sports, crowning a champion in the most entertaining/fair way possible seems to be the main concern.
Whether expansion shows up under the SEC’s Christmas tree this year or next year, don’t be disappointed.
Smile, and know that more SEC joy is coming.