Why Are The College Football Playoffs Made Up Of Only 4 Teams?

Crowning a national champion in college football was a matter of great debate prior to 2014. That's because there was, in fact, no on-the-field playoff system in NCAA Division I college football, per Vegas Insider. These days, there is a college football national championship game, after only a two-game playoff between four teams. There have been national championship games in smaller NCAA divisions for quite some time, the next largest being an annual playoff with as many as 24 teams, as reported by NPR. Why, then, are the NCAA Division 1 college football playoffs made up of only four?

Before the Division I playoff system was instituted in 2014, a difficult-to-understand number system called the BCS — or the Bowl Championship Series — was used to rank teams and determine bowl eligibility. Prior to that, college football insiders simply picked. Compared to that, a number system felt more equitable, but still somewhat arbitrary. One traditional bowl was designated the championship, and the winner of that game would therefore be considered national champion of all Division 1 college football. With no actual playoff games, many felt the BCS was heavily biased toward the larger conferences. With no competition on the field, it also effectively appointed a champion, via NBCDFW. For this reason, the playoff system was established, but like everything else in college football — controversy remains. Most notably, why aren't more teams allowed to compete?

To make regular season games more meaningful

As reported by NPR, the rationale behind NCAA Division I college football playoffs being only four teams is that this limited field keeps regular season games important, rather than shifting all the attention to the playoff season. As it stands, teams with as few as one or two losses are bumped from eligibility, making most Saturday games must-win for college football programs large and small. Some also feel that expanding the playoffs would put even more pressure on student athletes, taking their attention even further away from schoolwork and academics in favor of football than it already is. Some simply feel it would simply make the regular season far too long.

For a better competitive balance, many support an eight-team college football playoff system, according to Bleacher Report. Using the old BCS system for eight rather than two teams, an eight game bracket would be seeded, using a standard playoff system from that point onward to determine the champion — one plays eight, two plays seven, and so on. At the time of this writing, there are no official plans to change or revise the four-team system.