Don’t throw in the towel yet, Sloppy!! Your original playoff proposal is still the best out there and is still worth fighting for! I recognize that any type of playoff format is better than the trash we have now. I can understand that Sloppy would want to come up with a version that’s a bit less revolutionary, and thus a bit more practical. However, my philosophy is that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Any change to this system is going to be like pulling teeth, so we might as well go for the gusto. Once the doors are finally opened to change, we should do our best to get the best change put in place possible before they close again. Instead of swinging for a single, let’s go for the fence. Forgive me for using an analogy from the most boring sport ever invented, but it’s all that came to mind.
Sloppy’s original playoff proposal is still, in my mind, the most equitable and well-thought-out playoff proposal that I’ve seen. It maintains the bowl games as they are, so those lazy-sauce players and coaches who think that a week-long vacation is more important than competing for a National Championship, still get what they want (even though, in my opinion, if that’s what matters most to them, all they deserve a swift kick in the pants). It gives everyone access if they play well enough. It minimizes controversy. It increases revenue and distributes it more fairly. This is what we should be pushing for, not a compromise. When you’re negotiating, you don’t start out with your middle-ground offer. You start with the offer that benefits you the most. Then, if you find that that offer is unachievable, you work towards the middle ground. As the young Elijah Wood was once told, you’ve got to “Go for the glory, Huck!” You never know there’s a chance of getting it until you try.
If colleges start breaking off and forming mini-conferences, if you ever got to more than 15 conferences (there has to be at least 1 at-large spot in the playoffs for independents), start having the conference champions of the smaller, lower-quality conferences play each other for a playoff spot. That way, you’re still basing playoff admittance completely on on-the-field performance, not biased polls or defunct computer rankings. After that, everything works as Sloppy originally laid it out.
Speaking of rankings, I agree that the current rankings need to be changed. However, I would be hesitant to base the entire system on just one ranking formula, however accurate it may be. Then you may get a situation like Cincinnati being ranked higher than TCU, when even those with an IQ as low as BCS supporters knew that TCU was leaps and bounds better. Granted, that was using the pathetic computer systems that are still in place, but still, there has to be at least some human involvement to make sure that the computer results are reasonable based on those “X”-factors that can’t possibly be included in the formula(s). My suggestion in this regard would be twofold: 1) Get rid of the coaches poll given the fact that coaches are inherently biased, as Sloppy explained. Include one poll when figuring rankings. As long as the members of the poll are geographically diversified and are proven to be experts in college football, we should be good. At least 100 people should be included, perhaps 2 from each state. This will be the “human” side of the rankings formula. (2) As the season progresses and more data is collected (thus making the data used in the computer formulas more credible), the weighting should shift more to the computer formula. In other words, the preseason rankings are 100% human/0% computer, but then by midseason they would be 50/50, and then to 25/75 by the last game of the season. This hinges entirely on the computer rankings being completely upheaved and replaced by something accurate. At the end of the day, the only rankings that really matter are those at the end of the season, so the impact that the human poll has on the results is less than what it is today.
This brings me to my next point — the rankings formula itself. I would gear rankings toward record (obviously) and margin of victory in conjunction with strength of schedule. Strength of schedule would take into account if the game is home or away, the opponent’s strength of conference, and the opponent’s current record. No matter how sophisticated the formula is, there will be some need for human involvement even in the computer rankings. In Sloppy’s example, someone needs to determine what is expected in order to compare expected to actual. In my example, someone needs to determine the strength of conference as well as how much weight is given to home vs. away (which can, in part be assigned based on historical data). The goal would be to rank a team like TCU, which absolutely demolished good BYU and Utah teams on the road, higher than a Cincinnati team that barely squeaked by mediocre teams like UConn, West Virginia, and Pitt. I’ll pursue this further, trust me. More to come in the future.
So, in a nutshell. You had the right idea to begin with, Slop. Don’t give it up.