Four is flawed.
But eight is enough.
At least that's this humble scribe's take on the College Football Playoff format. Not that I see anything wrong with the fortunate four who were selected to compete for this year's national championship. Alabama, defending national champ Clemson, Georgia and Oklahoma each has one blemish on an otherwise sparkling resume, but only one.
And for those who think The Ohio State University got The Shaft of the CFP's four years in existence, well, where was that mindset a year ago when Penn State was left out in favor of the Buckeyes despite the Nittany Lions not only winning the head-to-head between the two, but also the Big Ten championship?
OSU coach Urban Meyer was nowhere to be found offering to give his team's bid to PSU last season. The biggest difference between this year and last year is simply that no teams from either the Big Ten or the Pac-12 made the field.
Heck, because the Rose Bowl is a national semifinal site this year, those two conferences can't even stage their typical Pasadena party in the San Gabriel Mountains.
And that's one very big problem with the current format. If you're in a Power Five conference and you win that conference, you should have a chance to play for a national championship if there's going to be a true college football playoff.
Yes, I know there are all these metrics out there — as well as that completely objective "eye test" — that make it easy to see which conferences are deserving and which aren't.
Nor does anyone want to see a slightly muscled-up version of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, where teams that fared no better than .500 in their conferences (and sometimes below that) are competing for a national championship.facebook
But looks can be deceiving, too. Most folks probably thought the Southeastern Conference was better than the Atlantic Coast Conference during much of the 2016 regular season, but look which conference counts Clemson as a member.
Everyone thought Penn State was more fortunate than good last season until the Nittany Lions barely lost the non-CFP bowl game of the year against Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.
Had the selection committee been able to know that Ohio State would get embarrassed by Clemson in their national semi while Penn State looked like a national championship contender against the Trojans, it surely would have seeded the field differently.
With eight entries instead of four, that problem would have solved itself. Same thing this year. Were there eight entries instead of four, all the Power Five conference champs — Clemson (ACC), Georgia (SEC), Ohio State (Big 10), Oklahoma (Big 12) and Southern Cal (Pac 12) could have gone — along with three at-large teams, including undefeated though largely untested Central Florida.
Throw in one-loss Wisconsin and Alabama and you've got a pretty fair tournament.
(Side note: If the committee really wanted to pick the eight best teams with a caveat to UCF for going undefeated, it might take Auburn over the Badgers, though one can only imagine the public outcry if a three-loss SEC team was chosen ahead of a one-loss Big Ten squad. If President Trump thought it would help him carry the Rust Belt again, he'd order the FBI to drop all this Russian intrigue in favor of finding out what the CFP has against the Big Ten.)
But perhaps we digress.
The harsh reality is that you will never make everybody happy. Pick eight schools and the ninth and 10th will complain. Pick 16 and the 17th and 18th will whine. Every system for these things is imperfect, whether concocted by man or machine.
And on at least one front — consistency — the committee did remain true to last year regarding Ohio State. Convinced that the Buckeyes were better than the Nittany Lions a year ago, despite losing to them, the committee took OSU at least partly because PSU had been crushed 49-10 by Michigan.
This time is was OSU falling by 31 at Iowa, as well as losing at home to Oklahoma. Given that Bama's lone defeat was at a red-hot Auburn, choosing the Crimson Tide to remain the only school to play in every CFP to date ruffled feathers only among Buckeyes backers and Bama haters.
So what to do to improve a pretty good process? One, stage a Power Five/Next Five weekend that would strongly encourage — if not outright force — the Central Floridas of the world to play a Power Five opponent. The series would be home-and-home with the previous year's conference standings used to make the initial pairings.
Call it Bracket Busters weekend for football.
Beyond that, the rules are simple: Power Five conference champs earn automatic bids. Three at-larges. Non-Power Five Conference schools must finish in the top 12 of final CFP rankings (UCF was 12th) to be considered.
This isn't to say the current system is awful unless you're a Power Five conference champ that gets left out.
But eight is also enough to let everyone in who deserves to be there without watering down the field with those who don't.
Now if someone could just convince the NCAA to follow a similar philosophy with its basketball tournament.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.