We've yet to crown a national champion in the first year of the four-team College Football Playoff, but it already seems that expansion of the playoff field is inevitable.
Based on the incredible ratings, interest and excitement the playoff generated this season, it all screams that fans want more, and I won't be surprised if we're talking about an eight-team playoff field within the next few years.
What expansion means, however, is that the season grows longer, and at the same time as the calls for an expanded field ring out, there are also some, including Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who have expressed concern about the length of the season.
For OSU and Oregon, the teams that will play for the national title Jan. 12, their season will stretch to 15 games upon playing for the championship.
Now, I don't think the college football season is too long as currently constituted, but it's right on the edge. Expanding to an eight-team playoff field would mean that teams that advance to the title game would play 16 games. To me, if the decision-makers in college football want to go to eight teams in the playoff, they need to consider shortening the regular season.
There could be reluctance about expanding the college football season for a variety of reasons, but the primary one is player safety. Sure, it's true that an injury could happen anywhere and at any time, but another opportunity for an injury to occur is created every time a game is added.
And what's at stake for those playing in these games? For some, an NFL career, and the teams playing this late into the season tend to have a wealth of NFL-caliber talent. We see more teams in the playoff field for lower levels of college football, but when you talk to FBS head coaches, they're concerned that there's a different toll on their players. The biggest, strongest and fastest typically are in the FBS ranks, and a longer season creates another chance for a player with an NFL dream to have his career derailed.
There might not be a perfect solution to this quandary. Fans seem to be making it clear that they want more playoff football, and while I think shortening the regular season by a game should be part of any plan to expand the playoff field, I don't anticipate the college football decision-makers will agree with me on that. More games mean more money, and no one wants to give up on the financial benefit of a regular-season game they're so accustomed to counting on.
So, I won't be totally on board with the decision to expand unless it comes with a shortened regular season. I expect that a serious conversation about expansion is on the way, and it's my hope that trimming the regular season is just as seriously considered.
That's the way it should be. I'm worried that things won't play out that way, though.