ESPN analyst says conference-only schedules could lead to 2020 College Football Playoff expansion
Two Power 5 conferences, the Big Ten and Pac-12, have already announced moves to conference-only schedules for the fall 2020 sports season, and other conferences could follow suit. While the conference-only model would reduce the number of regular-season games, it could lead to an expanded College Football Playoff field in the opinion of one ESPN college football analyst.
“First of all, you have the factor of a reduced number of games,” Brad Edwards recently told Paul Finebaum. “If you’re only playing nine games, and right now I’m making the assumption that everyone in the Power Five leagues would play only nine games … If it’s a reduced number of games, the more you reduce the sample size, the more difficult it is to draw any firm conclusions based on that sample. In a way, it’s hard enough for the selection committee, with 12 to 13 games per team, to feel really really confident that team four is better than team five.
“If you’re to play nine games, or maybe some teams play 10, it’s even more difficult at that point to say that not is team four better than team five but that three is better than five or three is better than six. It seems like if there was ever a year where you should give an automatic berth to the conference champion, this would be it.”
Since the 2014 season, the CFP Selection Committee has picked 4 teams to compete in the playoff. The model has always left at least one Power 5 conference champion as an “odd man out.” Edwards pointed out that a lack of out-of-conference play could make it more difficult for the committee to determine which conference champions belong.
“Look, we’re all going to assume that the SEC is better than the ACC, but when you have no non-conference games to back up something like that with evidence, to assume the SEC is better than the Pac-12, then I think it’s more difficult to differentiate between one-loss teams or even undefeated teams if it were to come to that,” Edwards said.
The committee could also face the uncomfortable situation of denying an undefeated Power 5 champion a Playoff bid.
“The more games that you take off the schedule, the greater the chance that you could have an undefeated team in every league,” Edwards said.