By: Will Burchfield
Jim Harbaugh is not a fan of the four-team College Football Playoff.
“I would change it to 16 teams,” Harbaugh told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
He pointed to the FCS (also known as Division 1-AA) as a model for the FBS.
“They’ve got a great system, it’s been in place for many years. My dad won the national championship at Western Kentucky when they were 1-AA in 2002. I think that is the best system,” said Harbaugh.
The FCS, which consists of 124 schools, has held a 24-team postseason tournament since 2013, with the 11 conference champions receiving automatic bids and the top eight teams receiving a first-round bye. Harbaugh believes the FBS, which consists of 130 schools, should adopt something similar.
“I think that’s the way it should be done to have a national champion, like they do in gymnastics, basketball, lacrosse, every other spot that you can think of. You already have the format with the FCS. And if not 16 (teams), then 12. It makes all sense in the world. The best way to do it is a playoff,” Harbaugh said.
Those opposed to expanding the CFP, which was introduced in 2014, say it would extend the season to a detrimental length for the student athletes. Harbaugh suggests the FBS could trim the regular season to 11 games to balance things out.
“I think the argument against it is, ‘Well, they may have to play 15 games.’ There’s teams playing 15, 16 games already, and that’s only if you’re in the championship. Our regular season right now is 12 games. You go to the Big 10 championship, that’s 13 games; you go to the semifinals, that’s 14; play in the national championship, that’s 15. So an 11-game season with the teams that make the playoffs,” he said.
It’s fair to wonder if Harbaugh’s disapproval of the current system stems from the shortcomings of his own teams. He’s yet to appear in a national championship game in six full seasons as a college head coach, and he won’t break that trend this year. But he’s been close.
His 2010 Stanford team finished the regular season No. 5 in the AP Poll, his 2015 Michigan team finished No. 17 and his 2016 Michigan team finished No. 6. At least two of those squads would have made the playoffs in Harbaugh’s proposed format.
One of the knocks on the CFP is that it’s bound to neglect at least one of the five power conference champions each year. This year it may neglect three. The FBS consists of 10 conferences in total, with four independent teams, meaning every year at least six conference champions have no shot at the national title.
“Some of these conferences are 14 and 16 teams, and then you win your conference and only one team goes? One team may not have played the other good teams in the conference. We see that already in the Big 10. Strength of schedule is a big determination of what your record is going to be,” said Harbaugh, noting the same is true in the NFL.
“That is the biggest predictor of who makes the playoffs, is the strength of schedule. It doesn’t have to be just one team from each conference. You could have 16 teams. They vote them in in the FCS, I think you could do that in the (FBS) as well.”
Michigan did not crack the first round of the College Football Playoff rankings, which were released Tuesday night.