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Episode 144 – Stewart Mandel’s Guide to the College Football Playoff

It is finally here! After years of saying college football needs to use some sort of playoff format, those who have been clamoring for it will finally be rewarded with one in the 2014 season. I have been a part of those hoping for a playoff for a long time now, yet I am now wondering if this was as good an idea as I thought it would be in the beginning.

The College Football Playoff seems simple in philosophy. The four top teams are determined by a selection committee and pit in a paid of traditional bowl games, with the winners advancing to a national championship game that is settled on the field without any controversy. Except at some point there will be a controversy, because there are only four teams invited and some major conference champion is going to be left out and an undefeated Boise State team is going to not get in and, well, you know how this goes. No postseason format is perfect. Is this the closest we can get to let the teams settle things on the field, or will future tweaks be made to the system to allow for more teams to be invited to the bracket? I have my suspicions about the future of the playoff (eight teams, maybe 12 at some point), but for now I choose to sit back and allow this season to play out.

The Thinking Fan's Guide to the College Football Playoff, available on Amazon.

The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the College Football Playoff, available on Amazon.

There are many unknowns about the College Football Playoff that we just will not be able to answer until we see how it really works. Nobody knows juts how the selection committee will view and rank and select teams when it comes time to do their jobs. Just how much time will the members of the committee invest in putting together their best opinions? How much will each member spend time debating Wisconsin over LSU or Virginia Tech over Kansas State? We do not know, and that is one of the reasons this is one of the most interesting seasons in college football in a long time.

In an effort to try and educate the masses on the inner workings of the College Football Playoff, at least with what we know for now, Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports (previously of Sports Illustrated), has released a new book titled The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the College Football Playoff. It is a quick read and is probably best as a good reference guide for the casual college football fan just now trying to figure out how this all works. Mandel was kind enough to share some time with me for the podcast to discuss the new book and the College Football Playoff. One fo the key topics of discussion is the role strength of schedule will play in the new playoff model, as well as how this impacts the debate over eight-game or nine-game schedules in conference play. Just for good measure, I tap into Mandel’s podcasting roots a bit and throw him a quick LOST question.

The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the College Football Playoff is available on Amazon in paperback as well as for Kindle and the Kindle app.

Follow Stewart Mandel on Twitter @slmandel and read his college football coverage on You can also see Mandel every Friday night at midnight eastern (so technically Saturday) during the college football season on FOX Sports 1’s new college football show with Bruce Feldman, FOX Sports Live: Countdown to Kickoff. The announcement for this new show came after I had originally recorded this podcast conversation.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.