It’s that time of year where everyone hates the BCS for screwing over their team or conference. You know, the time when we all talk about how awesome a playoff would be and then can’t agree on the format of a playoff. It’s pathetic. It is the bedrock argument the BCS uses against playoff proponents. Since we can’t agree on a format, we obviously don’t have a viable solution. Well, that is all about to change, and it couldn’t be more simple.
First of all, it should be abundantly clear at this point that a playoff is necessary. No sport should determine who plays for the championship by a handful of people voting it. And no sport should determine its champion based on how a handful of people vote. Keep in mind, the result of the supposed championship game does not even ensure winning the championship. Even during the BCS we have had split championships. The coaches voted one champion, the AP voted another. Isn’t that the most idiotic thing conceivable? That the participants in the championship game aren’t even guaranteed the winner receiving the actual championship? Pathetic.
So we need a serious way to determine the champion each year. And a playoff is the best way to do this. The essence of a playoff is to take the top teams in the country and play a tournament. Whoever wins the tournament is crowned the champion, the best team in the country. Does that necessarily mean they are the best? No. The Patriots had the best season by far when they went 16-0, but they lost to an inferior team in the championship. So they weren’t champions even though they were the best team. Even the best team would lose 1 out of a 100 to the worst team. It can happen. That’s what makes sports interesting.
If we were really all about making the best team the champion, we should forgo the supposed championship game this year. After all, this game was played already, LSU won. In fact, no one else in the FBS can lay claim to being unbeatable this year. So why play the game? Just give LSU the championship now. We already know they are better than Alabama. Obviously the purpose of the BCS is not to find the best team in the country and make them the champion. The purpose of the BCS is to create a 2 team playoff. It is to find the two best teams in the country and have them play each other. Winner takes all.
So you see, the premise of a playoff is supported by the BCS. It’s the number of teams participating where things run in to a snag. And so I unveil to you the best college football playoff to date. First important note, this does not dictate anything to the conferences. They are still free to determine their champions through championship games, tie breakers or whatever means they deem necessary.
So as it stands, the BCS has a series of rules regarding automatic berths in BCS bowl games. They also have rules regarding at large selections. In order to be an at large selection, you must meet three eligibility requirements:
1. Be bowl eligible
2. Win at least 9 games
3. Be ranked No. 14 or better in the final BCS rankings
Following this same pattern, we will form an 8 team playoff. We take 8 teams unlike the BCS which selects 10 teams. We’re basically changing how they select the teams, who they play and where. Here is how:
1. An automatic playoff berth is given to any conference champion that finishes among the top 14 teams in the final BCS standings.
2. Any independent that finishes in the top 8 will receive an automatic playoff berth.
3. If under provisions 1 and 2 more than 8 teams qualify for automatic berths, the highest ranked 8 teams receive the playoff berths.
4. If under provisions 1 and 2 there are less than 8 teams that qualify for automatic berths, the remaining spots will be filled by the highest ranked teams that did not receive automatic berths, regardless of conference affiliation.
That’s it, pretty simple. Now, the 8 teams are seeded 1-8 by the BCS rankings. The #8 team plays at #1. The #7 teams plays at #2. The #6 team plays at #3. The #5 team plays at #4. This happens the weekend after the Navy-Army game, which would have been this past Saturday when we had 3 bowls that no one watched.
The bowl season still goes along as normal. The bowls may select any bowl eligible team they would like except for the eight playoff teams. Bowls can start at the same time the playoffs do. Bowls can be played at any time they want. Probably unwise to play during the playoff, but they can go at it any time. The bowls are completely untouched and operate however they would like.
The semi-finals of the playoff take place the last weekend of December. The lowest remaining seed plays at the highest remaining seed. The second lowest remaining seed plays at the second highest remaining seed.
The championship game is then played between the winners of these games. It will still be played the second Monday of January. It will still be at a neutral site, which can be a bowl or anywhere else. An NFL stadium can bid on the game. Any stadium that wants to host it is free to bid on it. The winner of that game is the champion. No votes necessary.
How would this affect things? Well, that adds 3 games instead of 1 for the two championship game participants. Currently the most any team can play is 15 games in a season. If you play Hawaii you can play 13 games for some reason. You can also play in a conference championship which would make it 14. You can also play in a bowl which would make it 15. This changes that number to 17. And even then, it is only for 2 teams.
In reality, this requires two teams to play one more game than they currently do and two other teams to play two more games than they currently do. That’s it. You see, the teams that play in the first round of the playoff, that’s one postseason game, the same number of postseason games they would play under our current system.
The four teams in the semi-finals each play one more game. Two of them win and play one more additional game. So the truth is only four teams will play more games under the playoff than they currently do. Not taxing by any means. And probably safer than taking over a month off.
Now, how would this have played out this year? Good question. Here are the automatic qualifiers this year:
That is only 4 teams. The remaining four spots would go to the highest ranked remaining teams, which would be:
Here would be the first round matchups:
#8 Wisconsin at #1 LSU
#7 Boise State at #2 Alabama
#6 Arkansas at #3 Oklahoma State
#5 Oregon at #4 Stanford
All great games, even the rematch. Going with how the season went, let’s suppose LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Oregon move on. Next round:
Oregon at LSU
Oklahoma State at Alabama
LSU already beat Oregon so lets say they do it again. I would love to watch the Oklahoma State/Alabama game. Who knows, maybe Alabama would win and the championship would be a rematch. The playoff would have featured three rematches. It is ok to rematch. I am not opposed to the LSU/Alabama rematch. I am opposed to the rematch being determined because people voted for it. Alabama hasn’t done a darn thing to prove they are any better or any more deserving to be in that game than Oklahoma State, Stanford or Boise State. Make them earn it. If they earn it, great, a rematch it is.
Now how would this have played out last year? Well, here were the automatic qualifiers:
So the two at large bids would have gone to:
Our first round matchups would have been:
#8 Virginia Tech at #1 Auburn
#7 Oklahoma at #2 Oregon
#6 Ohio State at #3 TCU
#5 Wisconsin at #4 Stanford
Man, could you imagine? This is fun, let’s go back another year. Here would have been the automatic qualifiers in 2009:
That would have made the first round matchups look like this:
#8 Georgia Tech at #1 Alabama
#7 Ohio State at #2 Texas
#6 Oregon at #3 Cincinnati
#5 Boise State at #4 TCU
That would have been fantastic! Now I know what you are thinking. But it we take the top teams in a playoff, the bowls will die! Not so. Just look at 2009. The Rose Bowl could have taken Iowa and Oregon State. The Sugar Bowl could have taken Florida and Penn State. The Orange Bowl could have taken Virginia Tech and West Virginia. The Fiesta Bowl could have taken Oklahoma State and BYU. The top teams would still be competing in these bowl games. The top bowls would still get top 25 teams no question.
Still don’t believe me? In 2010 the Rose Bowl could have taken Michigan State and Boise State, two one-loss teams. The Sugar Bowl could have taken Arkansas and Missouri. The Orange Bowl could have taken West Virginia and Florida State. The Fiesta Bowl could have taken Missouri and LSU.
Still unsure? How about this season? The Rose Bowl could be Michigan and USC if they were not banned. The Sugar Bowl could be South Carolina and Baylor. The Orange Bowl could be Virginia Tech or Clemson and West Virginia. The Fiesta Bowl could be Kansas State and TCU. There are still all kinds of great matchups in the bowl games. Since it is rare for 8 conference champions to finish in the top 14, many bowls would still feature their tie-in conference champion. It would hardly change.
Here’s why this system works. First, it rewards you for winning your conference, but it doesn’t just reward every conference champion equally. Not only do you have to win your conference, you actually have to be good. UCLA could have won the Pac-12 this year. That doesn’t meant they deserved to be automatically in anything.
This also allows for top teams to still get a chance at the championship even if they falter once. Alabama this year is a great example. Turns out people think they are the second best team in the land. In a system where only conference champions are in, Alabama is out. Doesn’t make sense. So this is a hybrid. It allows for anyone who wins their conference and has an outstanding year to participate in the playoff. If the conference champions happen to not be spectacular in any given year, it allows an opportunity for teams that don’t win their conference but have great years to get in. The genius is you can never actually clinch a playoff berth. Even if you have your conference all locked up, you have to finish strong or you risk dropping out of the top 14.
It also preserves home field advantage. Bowl games bring all the money to bowl executives. In a home field, the school first of all gets the revenue, not the bowl executives. Second of all, it is an actual advantage in the game. Home teams win more because home field is an advantage. That makes the seeding very important. The difference between #2 and #3 means a home or away game in the semi-finals. That is huge.
Finally, it gives everyone equal access and fairly determines the national champion while still maintaining the bowl tradition in college football. After all, the bowl games are nothing more than trivial exhibition games right now. This playoff format does nothing to change that. Bowls are still meaningless and most will not be watched. Nothing changes. Top bowls still get top teams from top conferences. Bowls can play any day or time they want.
There is literally no downside to this. The playoff goes at the same time as the bowl season, so you can’t say finals are a problem or missing school is troublesome. There is a grand total of 3 more games added to the schedule. That’s the two semi-final games and the championship game. That means only 2 teams will play one additional game and 2 teams will play two additional games. If schools are afraid of the injuries this could cause, then don’t play one of your non-conference games each season and take an extra bye during the regular schedule. Two off weeks would go a long way in helping them make it those additional games. Also, what do we gain from Alabama pounding Georgia Southern in November? What does that do for Alabama? Just play 11 games if those extra couple really are so difficult.
What are your thoughts? Is this a fair way to let people in to a playoff? This way conference championships mean something but no one can clinch a spot until those final BCS standings come out. Sound off in the comments below!