UM's Harbaugh prefers 16-team playoff format

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, given the opportunity to reshape the college football playoff format, would expand the field to 16 teams.

Harbaugh, appearing Wednesday morning on the “Jamie and Stoney” show with hosts Mike Stone and Jamie Samuelsen on 97.1 The Ticket, was asked, in light of the first College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, if he would keep the field at four.

“I would change it to 16 teams,” Harbaugh told “Jamie and Stoney.” “FCS, they’ve got a great system. It’s been in place for many years. My dad won the national championship at Western Kentucky when they were I-AA in 2002. I think that’s the best system.

“If you look at every other sport, they have a playoff at every level and every other college sport does as well. It’s not a four-team. Basketball goes from 64 to the Final Four. I think that’s the way it should be done to have a national champion like they do in gymnastics, like they do in basketball, men’s and women’s, lacrosse, every other sport you can think of. And you already have the format with the FCS.”

Harbaugh disagrees with the argument against expansion because it extends the season.

“If not 16, then 12. It makes all sense in the world,” Harbaugh said. “You’ve got the best way to do it, a playoff. The argument against is, well they would have to play 15 games. There’s teams playing 15, 16 games already and that’s only if you’re in the championship. Our regular season right now is 12 games. You go to the Big Ten championship, that’s 13 games. You go to the playoffs, semifinals, there’s 14. Play in the national championship, that’s 15.”


While the conference champion should earn a spot, a league should not be limited to one playoff team, Harbaugh said.

“Some of these conferences that are 14 and 16 teams, and you win your conference and only one team goes, one team may not have played the other good teams in the conference,” he said. “We see that already in the Big Ten. Strength of schedule is a big determination of what your record is going to be.

“You see that at the NFL level. That is the biggest predictor of who makes the playoffs is the strength of schedule. It doesn’t have to be one team from each conference. You could have 16 teams. They vote them in in the FCS, I think you could do that in the (FBS).”

Here are some highlights from Harbaugh’s appearance on the “Jamie and Stoney” show:

On quarterback Brandon Peters’ performance against Rutgers: “Thought he did well, thought he acquitted himself very well. Completed balls, moved the chains and offense scored touchdowns.”

On what took so long got get Peters on the field: “I think they said the same about some other positions, even John O’Korn a few weeks back. Just the process of being in a ballgame, it’s a meritocracy for our team. Those positions are earned, they’re not given, and they’re not given by default. They have to be earned. You have to beat somebody out. Not the easiest thing to do at quarterback because there’s only one ball and one quarterback plays at a time. That being said, we felt it was time for Brandon to be in the game and given a chance to earn that job. I thought he acquitted himself very well as we said. Best players play and it’s by merit, by talent, effort. I would say that about every position.”

On whether it’s his job to lose? “I’m not making any statements like that. We’re going back this week of practice and want him to put a stamp, an exclamation mark on the job he did Saturday, put an exclamation mark on that in practice. He will play and it’s very likely he will start the game, because I believe he will put an exclamation on that in practice this week.”

On how they’ve worked on helping Peters get louder: “We started as a freshman, talked to a few professionals on campus and then just finally, ‘You’ve got to be a lot louder here. You’ve got to be real loud. This is how loud it’s going to be.’ He had a big inflection point during training camp where, that’s good, now, let’s get a little better. It’s been a process. I think he’s really at a good level, cadence-wise, etc. Communication is key in football, did well Saturday, let’s come back and put an exclamation on it in practice this week and look forward to the ballgame Saturday.”

On how happy he is with the program in Year 3: “The thing I’m really happy about with this ballclub is the way they work. They grind. Been at this now nine weeks going on 10 of the football season and then there’s another five weeks August training camp. It’s end of July to January. That’s a hard, tough road for a football player. I mean, it’s daily, it’s hourly, it’s weekly, it’s monthly. For them to work it requires having a passion to want to be good and have a love for the game of football, and I see that. I appreciate that in our ballclub. It’s a grind of prep. Your preparation during the week, every single day, the practice every single day, the training, the field study, and I like that about our football team that they grind and they work at it. There are some improvements to make, want to make them daily. That’s where we’re at. I like our football team, the way they work.”

On the offensive line’s play against Rutgers: “The offensive line played extremely well. Not just blocking two people and getting on a man but blocking through them, creating inches, creating feet, sometimes even yards where the holes were easy to find and easy to run through. Backs got up on the second level and made some people miss and had some long runs and a lot of yards in the running game. I thought the schemes were good and our offensive line played well. And not just the offensive line. The fullbacks had a day, too. (Henry) Poggi, Khalid Hill, Ben Mason had some great blocks. My favorite was Ben Mason on Karan Higdon’s 10-yard touchdown run. Blocked his man at the 8-yard line and then blocked him all the way to the end zone. Ben Mason scored with his man and then Karan scored right in behind him. Tight ends did extremely well. Sean McKeon had a good day, two really contested, tough catches and then another catch and blocked well. Wide receivers got into the game. The offensive line, fullbacks, the tight ends had a good day.”

On how they decide who goes in when at running back: “By merit, who you’re feeling is practicing well that week, and then you get into the game there’s a tendency to go with the hot hand, there’s a tendency to one guy runs one play maybe a little better than another guy. We want the best guy possible whether it’s the counter scheme, whether it’s a gap scheme, whether it’s a zone scheme, toss scheme, pass protection, a route, so there’s putting the pieces in that will help the ballclub as much as possible. We also felt it was Kareem Walker’s chance, and it was time for him to get in the ballgame. We got him in early and then he produced. Karan Higdon has been running exceptionally well, Ty Isaac has been running very well. The fumble hasn’t showed up in some weeks now and we’re very encouraged by that. The guy who is going to hold onto the ball and get the most yards and block the best, backs that block, that’s a factor. We want the best guy in there to do that when that’s required. That’s really what it comes down — who’s the best guy to execute on that particular down.”

On Minnesota being a run-heavy team, and whether it’s a similar challenge that Rutgers was for the defense: “Two really good backs. I thought Rutgers had two really good backs. They had four explosive plays and the other 43 plays we did a real job on. The practice starts today, the film study comes after that, training, get guys healthy. Maybe somebody misses the ballgame this week and the next guy has to step up. We’re in that weekly process of getting ready for, as we said, good players. We’re playing tough schemes.”