ESPN poll: 8-team playoff favored

ByBrett McMurphy ESPN logo
Friday, November 21, 2014

College football's inaugural four-team playoff is still weeks away, but the FBS head coaches already prefer an eight-team playoff.

Of the coaches who voted in ESPN's weekly poll, 44 percent want an eight-team playoff, compared with 29 percent for the current four-team playoff. Some 17 percent want a 16-team playoff.

Of the 128 FBS coaches, 103 participated in this week's poll.

Most of the coaches who want an eight-team playoff believe it should consist of the conference champions from the Power 5 leagues plus the next three highest-ranked at-large teams, or the top-ranked Group of 5 champion and the two highest-ranked at-large teams.

This week, ACC commissioner John Swofford said that in terms of the number of teams, an eight-team playoff "would probably be ideal."

This is the first year of a 12-year contract with ESPN to have the four-team College Football Playoff.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock said his group is committed to only four teams for the next 12 years, and "there has been no discussion of expanding."

Still, the coaches' voting shows they already want an eight-team playoff -- six weeks before the inaugural four-team playoff begins Jan. 1.

Nearly 20 percent of the coaches favored a 16-team playoff. One Group of 5 conference coach suggested taking the eight highest-ranked conference champions (from the 10 FBS leagues) and the next eight highest-ranked at-large teams.

This coach went as far to suggest the first- and second-round games could be played at neutral sites, including cold-weather sites, with cities bidding to host the games like the NCAA basketball tournament regional model.

Four percent of the coaches are not in favor of a playoff, while 2 percent voted for a six-team and a 12-team playoff. One coach each voted for a two-team playoff, a 32-team playoff and a 64-team playoff.

More than half of the coaches (53 percent) from the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) who voted chose an eight-team playoff, compared with 33 percent for the four-team model.

The coaches who voted from the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) preferred an eight-team playoff (39 percent). However, 25 percent of the Group of 5 coaches wanted a 16-team playoff, slightly below the 26 percent who voted for a four-team playoff.

One Power 5 conference coach said "four is good," but "eight would be perfect."

Swofford, who is a member of the CFP management committee, said he doesn't think "all the controversy [of the four-team field] is going to go away."

"You have four teams that get a chance to play for the national championship, which is twice as many as before," Swofford said. "But whoever's fifth or sixth is not going to be happy. There will be some [Power 5] conferences that won't have a team in the playoff."

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said an eight-team playoff "increasingly will be a topic of conversation. But each FBS conference would want to take the temperature of its membership on something as significant as this."

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