Georgia and Alabama will square off Monday night in the College Football Playoff title game, which will be very exciting for fans of those teams and much less exciting for just about everyone else.

For the first time since 2012, the national championship will feature two teams from one conference (the SEC), and analysts are predicting low ratings because of it. And if viewership is bad enough, as some experts are speculating, the College Football Playoff could face pressure to expand from four teams to eight.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd quotes multiple TV consultants, including former CBS president Neal Pilson, as projecting low ratings for the Alabama-Georgia title game on ESPN, relative to past matchups.

“I think, from a television point of view, any sports executive would tell you he would prefer a team from the different part of the country,” said Pilson, now a longtime sports media consultant.

“The best would be a Big Ten team in terms of the size of market.”

One consultant told Dodd he thinks the game could be the lowest-rated College Football Playoff championship yet. The last time two SEC teams faced off in a college football title game, LSU and Alabama drew the third lowest rating of the BCS era, a result that, per CBS Sports, helped inspire the new College Football Playoff paradigm.

Poor viewership for this year’s championship game would surely embolden calls for an expanded playoff that would afford more teams from more regions a shot at reaching the season’s biggest game. In the four-year history of the College Football Playoff, the Big 12 and Pac-12 have missed out twice apiece, with the Big Ten excluded this year for the first time. Those conferences are obviously never happy about being left out, and ESPN is presumably less than thrilled when its marquee event winds up largely confined to one region. The four schools in this year’s playoffs all stand within about 1,000 miles of each other. You could pretty easily road trip to all four by driving a straight line across the southeastern quadrant of the country.

A more inclusive playoff could function in a number of ways. College football could ditch the often-underwhelming conference championship games for an eight-team tournament, or it could leave the conference title matchups and institute a six-team playoff with byes for the two best teams. The new, larger event could assure a slot for every conference champion, or it could simply reward the eight best teams and assume regional diversity will follow. No matter how exactly the event would work, it’s clear that it could work, if ESPN and the conference commissioners are interested.

Of course, concern about engaging different regions could easily dissipate next year if, say, Ohio State and USC make the Playoff. On the other hand, if all-SEC title games become somewhat of a norm, momentum for an expanded playoff could only continue to grow.

[CBS Sports]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • There could just be a rule to not have two teams from the same conference in the semis. But we are headed to eight.

    Hopefully, we can kill off some of the stupider bowls along the way.

    • shkirkpat12

      I would love to see all those donkey money grab bowls disappear.

      • Walt_Gekko

        Tell that to New Mexico State, which this year got to a bowl game (Arizona Bowl) for the first time in 57 years. For them, that’s like the big schools winning it all. Just getting to a bowl game for them is a big deal.

        • how cute. What I really mean is how dumb. Lower-tier bowls are stupid.

    • alonzo

      @ Simon…I thought the reason you have a playoff is to find the best teams and duke it out. If the two best teams are Ohio State and Nebraska – then so be it. Conference affiliation should not matter. Alabama was rated #1 for 11 weeks and lost a game to Auburn (ranked top 5 tat the time). Ohio State got blown out by an unranked opponent and lost to a top ranked opponent in OK. Regular season matters. I would like to see an 8 team with 3 at large (without regard to conf…just pick the best 3) and power 5 conference champs. Do away with the 12 reg. Season game.

      • Walt_Gekko

        Also, Alabama and Georgia are in different divisions of the SEC and did not meet in the regular season I believe.

        • David Craft

          But they both lost to Auburn and Auburn got beat by an undefeated UCF. This whole things rigged for SECPN. That’s why Bama got a second chance they didn’t deserve. I love listing to ESPNU Radio show hosts panicking and justifying this farce. 8 Team Playoff is the only way with some tweaks.

          • Walt_Gekko

            Or as I would do it, a 32-team playoff where Auburn AND UCF AND Ohio State AND USC AND even Memphis, the only “Group of 5” school that would have gotten an at-large berth this year in the format I’d be using to select the field of 32 (that also would have included Army as an automatic qualifier with nine wins as an Independent that would have been at Clemson for the first round).

        • alonzo

          Well stated Walt. If Bama and UGA had met in regular season the one of these teams may not have made the playoff.

          • Walt_Gekko

            Right. If Alabama and Georgia had met in the regular season, the winner likely would have been in the playoff (assuming in Alabama’s case they beat Auburn in a rematch in the SEC Championship) while the loser would most certainly have been out. Sure, you had two SEC teams in the playoff BUT they play in different divisions.

      • Another Hurricanes Goal

        No, it’s not. And here is why: even though two teams from the same division or conference may be the best team, we already know who is better. We do not have a way to compare team from different divisions and conferences because they play different schedules.

        Here is an example using the NFL: it is completely unnecessary, for a purely competitive standpoint, to have three NFC South teams in the playoffs, we already know who is the best of those three teams based on their head to head and common opponent schedule. We do not know, however, whether the NFC South champ is better than the NFC West champ because they have at least 14 uncommon opponents.

        In the Ohio State/Nebraska scenario, they have many common opponents OR would meet in the conference championship, that would negate them having to play later. If one team was not the best team in their division, then they would be disqualified from being in the playoff for best team in the nation (logically following if you are not the best in a regional division, you are not the best in the country). We have no idea if Ohio State (or Nebraska) is better than an SEC or ACC Champ because they would have 11-13 uncommon opponents. Therefore a playoff is the only reasonable way to solve the dispute.

        Do away with subjective ranking and have an objective standard: the conference championship standard

        • the way the NFL does it is so much better. When it came to grabbing a wild card playoff berth, the Falcons were better than all other contenders for the spot. They determined their fate ON THE FIELD. That’s how sports are supposed to work. Selection committees are silly.

      • journeyman22

        The reason you have a playoff is to find the team that wins games on the field. Best teams often win, but sometimes they lose. Oh well, the team that wins is the champion. At least that’s how it works in every other sport. But the college football “playoff” selects its participants — leaving teams that maybe could win without a shot at winning.

    • if implemented, the 8 teams should be the power 5 conference champions, one group of 5 conference champion, the best independent team, and an extra group of 5 or independent team .

      • There are four independent teams: Notre Dame, BYU, Army and UMass. It’s ridiculous to guarantee one of them a top-8 spot.

        • Ok, give them a spot only if they have 2 losses at most.

  • Dan

    I’ve read takes like this one from several corners of the web over the past week and I keep coming back to how is Alabama-Georgia this year much different than Alabama-Clemson the two years prior? Yes Alabama and Clemson are not in the same conference but they’re both from the same quadrant of the country. Makes no sense to bash an all-SEC title game when the last two years have been all-Southeastern affairs.

    • shkirkpat12

      College football fans could portray Alabama villian in the game thus rooting against them.

      • David Craft

        Lol. Nobody cares except the SEC. Their going to lose a ton of money. Next round of ESPN Layoffs coming soon.

        • I won’t be watching. One team got the easiest road and didn’t even participate in the conference championship. Clemson played like crap the other night and any top team, given the opportunity, could have beat them. Garbage! I hope the network loses their ass on this one….

    • QED – quod erat demonstrandum

      UDAMAN DAN.

      Any college football fan worth his salt should be champing at the bit to see these two Goliaths (GA starting this year) face off.

      Not sure the matchup could approach the quality of the back and forth of OK vs. GA game but I’m sure as heck not going to miss it.

      Take it from me, I went to a football powerhouse. The Big Red.

      (of Cornell). HA

  • There’s still another eight years to go under the CFP contract, so don’t expect any change until 2026. And conferences aren’t going to give up the cash cow that is their Championship Game.

    Besides which, it’s not clear how much better four quarterfinal games would be for anyone involved. Leaving aside the question of the student-athletes playing a 16th game and their exam schedules, how many fans can realistically book four separate trips to neutral-site games on short notice, especially right before Christmas? Those stadiums are going to look like the March Madness first-round matchups: empty seats everywhere.

    • Walt_Gekko

      That’s now why it won’t change. It’s way more likely because the College Presidents know there are a very small but extremely vocal group of professors who would protest such along with others in academia who are completely anti-sports in some cases.

    • TheOriginalDonald

      Like most bowl games are now? #UCF #WELOSTLESS

      • Exactly. It’s not bringing in any extra money. Is it more profitable for ESPN to air four bowl games that they own versus paying double to cover four extra playoff games? Probably not.
        I suppose they could make the New Year’s Day games the quarterfinals and move the semis and finals to later in January, but then you’ve either got to schedule around the NFL playoffs and hold the games on weeknights, which again is going to effect the price TV will pay.

        • Walt_Gekko

          As I would do it, the semifinals would be in most years the Monday and Tuesday after the Wild Card round while the Championship Game would be the Saturday before or Monday after the NFL Conference Championship Games. You would have to work around the Screen Actors Guild Awards I believe as January is the start of Hollywood Awards Season and you also have to schedule around such awards ceremonies (especially this year since the Grammy Awards have to be moved up due to the Olympics).

    • the FCS seems to make it work.

      • FCS doesn’t have to worry about TV ratings, and the games are played at home campuses (except the championship game). They also end their seasons before Thanksgiving and play an 11-game season, and it’s unlikely the Power 5 are interested in giving up two weeks worth of TV contracts.

        • so, let the higher seed host the games. Screw the bowls, in essence. I don’t care about them.

          • journeyman22

            Bowl games are to ESPN what “House Hunters” is to HGTV. They are programming, and that’s why there are so many. A college football tourney would be better programming; the over abundance of bowls would not be missed.

  • nbtx27

    It’s the two best teams in the country. That is what people want to see, it doesn’t matter where they are from.
    Why would anyone want to watch an inferior team, just because the school is located in a different region.

    • Alabama didn’t win their conference. Therefore, they shouldn’t have qualified to the playoffs, much less the national championship.

      • nbtx27

        They lost one game, as did Georgia, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Ohio State!
        They proved in their game against Clemson that they deserved to be there. I don’t see a problem, it should be a good game Monday.

        • Ohio State lost two games. A one-loss Big Ten Conference Champion almost certainly would have received the nod over Alabama.

          • nbtx27

            Ok, sorry about that. But it turned out well anyway, and I don’t even like football, though I do find the college game watchable, unlike the NFL.

          • Agreed. Once again, the committee’s “controversial” pick for the four seed won the National Championship. Ohio State fans seem to forget they were the beneficiary when they won in 2015.

        • Wisconsin had 1 loss and participated in a championship (which was their loss) by committee “logic”, they should have gotten in. At least they won their f-ing division…. To hell with the NCG

        • It doesn’t matter that Alabama is a good team. They didn’t qualify to the conference championship game, therefore they should have been eliminated from the playoffs.

          • nbtx27

            Are you talking about the National Champions ? I guess they proved they should be there.

          • Alabama didn’t win the conference. They shouldn’t have been allowed into the playoffs.

          • nbtx27

            But they were, and they won, with some of the highest Tv ratings in years. I guess the country liked seeing them there.
            And, you know the NCAA cares nothing about fairness, it’s only about the money. If the situation arises again, Alabama will be selected again.
            I don’t believe any rules dictact you need to win the conference, so “allowed” doesn’t apply. It’s the NCAA’s choice.
            Who cares, it’s just college kids playing a game and making their University millions of dollars.

          • nbtx27

            Is that the rule? Do they have voting parameters? Do you trust anything the NCAA does? That being said, it was a good game, and the Tv rating shows the country agreed.

          • Italy played poorly at the UEFA qualifiers, therefore they won’t play the Fifa World Cup.

            Could they win the World Cup? Yes. But it would be unfair, because they didn’t qualify in the first place.

            Likewise, Alabama didn’t win their conference, therefore they shouldn’t have qualified to the playoffs.

          • nbtx27

            Soccer– use a real sport for comparison! But FIFA – NCAA what’s the difference? Do you think either is a non-corrupt sports organization?
            Same question though, is not winning the conference a disqualifier ? I guess not in the NCAA’s eyes, or rules.

      • nbtx27

        One of the best teams in the country, maybe number one, we’ll know soon.

      • Walt_Gekko

        This is where the CFP should petition the NCAA to allow for extra games in certain cases. In this case, the CFP could have set up where Alabama would have had to play AT Ohio State the Friday after the Big 10 & SEC Championship games (Friday to avoid a conflict with the Heisman Ceremony) for the final berth in the playoff.

    • horse bleep.

  • JOhn

    just make the football athletes employees of the university at this point, it’s all about money, what’s next a 12 team playoff, east & west conferences?

  • Bscotch Bscotch

    Pilson…..unreal. The guy signed the worst MLB deal in history and then lost the NFL for CBS….then got fired. And he’s the expert? No, he’s a press whore who will talk to anyone. It’s like asking Pete Best his opinion of Taylor Hawkins.

  • Pingback: Kirk Herbstreit calls Nick Saban his favorite coach to talk with during game prep()

  • bibliomaine

    Enough with the anti-southern bias and I grew up in Connecticut. What do we have to do to make the Northeast based writers happy? Guarantee ND a place in the playoffs? Wasn’t Jim Harbaugh supposed to save the Big Ten. He’d be good for ratings. The two best teams of this season are about to play. Enjoy.

    • Another Hurricanes Goal

      ND is located in Northwest Indiana.

      • bibliomaine

        ND has been the darling of the “subway alumni” in NYC and other NE markets for-ever.

    • David Craft

      I’m not so sure. I think the things rigged. I hope the AP or Coaches give UCF a share of the Crown.

  • Walt_Gekko

    The one reason you likely won’t see the playoffs expand (for now) is many college Presidents have to worry about a very small, but extremely vocal group of professors who’d likely would very angry as well as others in academia who are in some cases completely anti-sports that have to be pandered to in some cases.

    That said, what College Football really needs is a 32-team playoff. It could be done where the regular season begins and ends one week earlier (in most years) with two rounds of playoffs: The first round the week where all of the conference title games currently take place (with the Army-Navy game moved up to Thanksgiving Weekend, when it used to ALWAYS be or if necessary the week before Thanksgiving) and the second round two weeks later (allowing for most schools to complete finals before second round games would take place and first-round losers playing in some of the lower-tier bowl games along with schools that did not make the field of 32).

    Winners of those games would then play in four of the “New Year’s Six” Bowl Games (with the other two for the top second round losers on a rotating basis with the two hosting consolation games also hosting the semifinals), with the semifinals on usually the Monday and Tuesday after the NFL Wild Card games and the Championship game on either the Saturday before or Monday after the NFL Conference Championship games. That would be how it would work.

    • Only conference champions and independent teams should qualify to the playoffs. More than 8 teams is wrong.

      • Walt_Gekko

        And why not? Not only does a UCF make it, so does Boise State and so does Army (an automatic qualifier in the format I would have with nine wins as an independent). This would be “Holiday Madness” during December with the first two rounds at home sites then.

    • Christopher Bates

      Speaking as a professor at a power 5 conference university, I can assure you the chancellor (in my case) does not give two craps about what we think when it comes to athletics.

      • Walt_Gekko

        Maybe in your case that is true, but I lived and worked next to an Ivy League university for over 20 years and dealt with many in academia, many of whom were completely anti-sports. Maybe its different in the Power 5 but I’m sure there are a lot in academia who would raise a massive stink if the CFP were expanded even to eight.

        • Christopher Bates

          Well, first of all, an Ivy is a bit of a different situation. The professors have more power at those schools than any other, while athletics aren’t quite as important as elsewhere.

          Second, I do not deny that many professors are strongly anti-sports. That is not what I said. What I said is that the chancellors/presidents/provosts don’t care what the professors think.

          • Walt_Gekko

            I know that in your case, but there are others where they likely do (especially at the Cals, Stanfords and so forth).

        • the Ivy isn’t even part of the FCS playoff. These situations are not remotely comparable.

          • Walt_Gekko

            Yes, but there are many who start at Ivy League schools who then go to the Power 5 schools and take their views with them. It’s a lot more than you would think.

  • Sam Eaton

    Agree with every word – another way to “improve” the current system would be to take geography more into account when matching the top 4 teams. For example, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was by far the biggest advantage ever for a 4 seed. Not only were they in their region, they were closer to the bowl location that their top-seeded opponent. Going back to the first year of the CFP, have Alabama and FSU play in the Sugar, and Oregon/OSU play a traditional Rose Bowl game. That year, the southeast US was completely left out of the title game, but could have been guaranteed a spot, had the initial match up been more regional. Plus, you’d make it easier on fans if semifinals were more likely to be close. Might be a stretch because college baseball doesn’t hold a candle to football, but in their NCAA tournament, both the regionals and super regionals rely heavily on geography, creating a system where the College World Series is very likely to have teams from conferences and regions nation-wide.

    • alonzo

      Agree Sam! FINALLY…people now understand it’s about the geographic diversity that is important and not potentially having the two best teams in the nation meet in the champioship game regardless of where they reside. The NCAA needs to “fix” the brackets to ensure teams from the southeast (where college football is a religion) knock each other out so this travesty of 2 teams from the same region don’t advance to the finals again. Although Alabama was ranked #1 for 11 weeks and lost to a top 5 Auburn team …and wound up destroying the current ranked #1, defending national champion and ACC champion (Clemson) is of no consequence…Bama should never have been in the playoff. Instead, the 4th spot should have gone to USC if we are keeping it real…or to THE Ohio State University (despite the blowout loss to an unranked team and being blown out by eventual B12 Champion, Oklahoma. In fact, the same should apply to the NCAA basketball tournament. All teams from the ACC and SEC need to be limited in how many get in and then thrown in the same bracket. Remember the Vilanova – Georgetown final?? Never should have happened as this was a travesty of sports geographic equality and diversity. How did the NCAA allow this to happen?

      • Not sure if serious or sarcasm.

        • alonzo

          Sarcasm!

      • So if both the SEC and ACC champions qualify to the playoffs, they should play each other at one of the semifinals? I would support that rule.

  • An all-SEC national championship game could have been avoided if four conference champions had been selected, instead of three conference champions and a conference non-finalist.

  • Sean Dixon

    Where do i start. The only logical plan for a proper playoff, is that all regular season conference winners have a chance. the logical thing to do is to have a 16 team playoff. the breakdown: Power 5 2 bids per conference. non power 5 1 bid per conference. then there is one bid left over for an at large.

    There will need to be concessions made on the part of the schools/ conferences. first, seasons must be over Thanksgiving weekend. (even Army- Navy). second a max of 12 games. conferences are going to have to pick 11 games and conf title or 12 games and no title. third a team has to have 9 wins to get in. if conf does not have 9 win team, they forfeit the bid. that bid the goes to at large team. all conferences will determine who fills the conferences slot. so if a team gets upset and has a better record that the team ahead, the better team can go.
    i know current contracts for the 4 team playoff go for many more years. this can be re negotiated.

    the current bowls will still remain for the other 60 or so teams. relax. we can still have many bowl games with teams no one cares about except their local fans.

    As far as how playoff works. teams seeded 1-16. these seedings are still done by the current committee. we could use current low tier bowls that happen before Christmas to play these games. my vote would be to play double headers and have 2 games per site. then the teams lay every week until we get to the final 2. then there is a week off before the championship game.

    under my plan, the UCF /TCU of the world would get their shot.

    • your plan is wise. I agree with it completely. Hear hear.

    • Walt_Gekko

      As I would do it, it would be 32 teams where all conference champions are guaranteed at least one home game (with the Power 5 conference champs in almost all cases getting two home games if they get to the second round) as there would be criteria set for seeding. Independents would be treated as conference champs if they meet certain criteria and would be in the playoffs automatically if they did (like Army this year being the lowest overall seed in the field on an automatic berth for winning nine games and having at least a .750 win percentage as an Independent). Four of the “New Year’s Six” bowls would serve as regional finals with the other two hosting the top four second round losers (first and second round losers would also play in a bowl game after a playoff loss along with schools that are bowl eligible that failed to make the playoff field of 32).

  • sportsfan365

    An eight team playoff won’t solve anything if your biased selection committee only invites teams from the big 5 conferences. The best solution is to automatically invite the best team from every conference (plus the best independent). Fill out the field with the best of the remaining AP poll teams.

    • Not that easy, since the CFP is essentially the Power 5’s baby. The only reason there’s a spot for others in the New Year’s Six at all is to avoid antitrust lawsuits (as was threatened in the old Bowl Alliance /Bowl Coalition days).
      And no broadcast partner is going to be particularly interested in paying top dollar for games involving (this year) Florida Atlantic, Toledo, Troy, Boise State and UCF.

      • journeyman22

        They already pay top dollar for NCAA tournament basketball games. It’s one game of the tournament; the networks will pay top dollar for the tournament in its entirety.

  • the best thing to do is have all conference champions from FBS conferences get an automatic bid. That’s how playoffs are supposed to work. Of course, college football is the mentally deficient kid in kindergarten eating paste in the back of the classroom.

    • journeyman22

      You have the right answer. College football is lacking the cinderella stories that we get in hoops. This year’s cinderella was UCF — a team that handled Auburn withoutntoo much trouble. And Auburn defeated BOTH of the participants in the “National Championship” final.eanwhile, the Big Ten went something 7-1 in bowl games and their conference champ was shut out of the “playoff.”

      A true playoff will give every team at the FBS level to sink or swim. I don’t disagree that Alabama clearly deserves a slot, but a 12-Team tournament allows all TEN conference champs, plus two wildcards. This year, one of them would have been Bama. Argue all you want about who is in and who isn’t at that point; but at that point, you simply point to the fact that every team had their chance to play had they simply won their conference. (Independents, join a conference and get over yourselves).

      Committee would mainly be for seeding and and determine wild cards. This is just an easy solution that would rarely add more games for the top teams. Right now, the two that go to the final play two extra. With 12 teams, it could be up to four games — but only if a 5 seed or worse plays for the title. So you would usually add just one game for the eventual finalists. And that could simply be a matter of going back to an 11-game season, or getting rid of the conference championships.

  • Pingback: ESPN bowl audience up 12% versus last year heading into championship game()

  • Mike Ward

    If we still had the old two team system, there wouldn’t even be one SEC team in the championship game this year. The four team system which was supposed to prevent this from happening again, caused it to happen again.
    Go to an 8 teams system and two SEC teams from the bottom half of the bracket are just going to win their way to the National game.

  • David

    There was a game on tonight?

  • redeemed626

    As a fan of an SEC team that hasn’t smelled the playoffs in over a decade, it is worth commenting just to emphasize how incredibly wrong this entire take was.

    The two best teams earned their way in, and they played a classic. If not for Auburn, Alabama and Georgia were both perfect until they played each other.

    Nobody gives a crap about two loss conference champions, or even one loss champions who played two or three ranked teams all season.

    I’ll wager the ratings were great.

  • Pingback: Burke Magnus says ESPN is "not at all" advocating for playoff expansion()

  • Pingback: Alabama-Georgia National Championship thriller draws 16.7 overnight rating, up from last two years()