The Ideal And Realistic Solution To The College Football Postseason

Everyone hates the BCS. This is just a fact of life. It has its few staunch supporters, but they are pretty rare. In a poll of players 62% wanted a playoff. In a fan poll by Quinnipiac University they found that 63% of fans want to scrap the system while 26% want to keep it. I think these numbers would be very different if there was a simple alternative to the BCS. Unfortunately, there are a million playoff proposals out there. Most are completely unrealistic. So what is a solution to the postseason that is both ideal and realistic at the same time?

I am a huge proponent of a 16-team playoff. This is the most fair and equitable way to run the postseason. All the other levels of college football do this. You simply have a traditional 16 team tournament with higher seeds having the home game. Plain and simple. You could even use a bowl location for the championship if you wanted. This is ideal.

Unfortunately, this is not at all realistic. The powers that be do not want a full fledged playoff. They don’t even want something that resembles a playoff, like the plus one model. They fear it could grow and expand to allow for more teams over time.

With one side fighting to overturn everything and the other side fighting to change nothing, its no wonder the postseason remains a controversial mess. We need to think of a compromise that both sides can accept so that we can improve the postseason already.

The first fact we have to recognize is that the bowls are not going anywhere. They lobby too hard, have too much money, too much influence and are held too sacred to just go away. College football has a proud bowl tradition and that’s just the way it is.

The second fact we have to face is that FCS teams will always play FBS teams. It is a requirement for an FCS team to move up to the FBS that they play at least 5 FBS teams each year. As long as that is a requirement, these games will happen, so we cannot do anything about the cupcake schedules.

With all this in mind, I have a plan that gives a little to both sides. I call it the untraditional plus one.

In a traditional plus one proposal, the top 4 teams are taken and 1 plays 4 and 2 plays 3. The winners play each other for the championship. This is essentially a playoff, just with 4 teams. It could work unless you have years like 2007 or 2009. Then there’s just more arguing about who gets in and who doesn’t. That and it is a playoff, something the BCS will avoid at all costs.

I believe the theory behind a plus one is a sound one. Currently the championship game takes place more than a month after the last regular season game for each team. I think this is crazy. The championship game should be two teams at their best, not two rusty teams.

Here is what I propose. First, we completely change the BCS ranking system. The first step is to make the computers count for 2/3 of the weight and the human polls count for 1/3. This puts more weight on the rankings that seem to show less bias. Second, we include all 6 of the computer rankings, not just the middle 4. No more dropping your highest and lowest computer ranking.

I would also create a seventh computer ranking. I would hire a statistician to write the formula that uses the chi-square statistic. This is a measure of how significant the differences are between expected outcomes and actual outcomes. What this does is it eliminates the strength of schedule bias. If you play a patsy, then you will be expected to pound them. Failure to do so means you aren’t meeting expectations, which can hurt you in the rankings. If you play a great team, you will be expected to maybe squeak by. If you do better than expected, that can help you in the rankings.

These seven formulas would be used to rank all the teams and count for 2/3 of the BCS ranking. The polls would both still be used and count for the other 1/3.

Another BCS bowl would be added to the existing four so that there were five BCS bowls at the end of the regular season. All other bowl remain as they are, free to do as they please. The fifth BCS bowl would probably be the Cotton Bowl.

The BCS would then select 10 teams to fill their five bowls. The six AQ-conference champions would all be in. The current criteria for Notre Dame would still apply, and it would be extended to the other independents as well. Basically, any independent finishing in the top 12 of the BCS rankings would be in. The non-AQ conference criteria would still apply as well.

This means each year, 6 out of the 10 spots would be guaranteed. One would go to an independent and another would go to a team form a non-AQ conference. The rest would be at large bids. The current format for at large bids in the BCS is that the bowls simply choose who they want from the top 12. In this format, the at large bids would automatically go to the highest ranked teams left in the BCS rankings not already in, regardless of conference affiliation. Some years this will be as many as four, some it will be as few as two or one.

The ten BCS teams would then be ranked according to their standing in the BCS. From here, teams would be assigned to their BCS bowls. This is where it gets a little complicated. Bowl tie ins would still exist in a way. The top 5 teams would be guaranteed not to play each other as they would get to go to their assigned bowl. For example, if your top 5 teams are (from conference) SEC, Pac 10, MWC, Pac 10, and Big Ten (like last year) you would assign them in the order they are ranked.

The no. 1 team from the SEC would go to the Sugar Bowl. The no. 2 team from the Pac 10 would go to the Rose Bowl. The no. 3 team from the MWC would go to the Fiesta Bowl. The no. 4 team from the Pac 10 would go to the Cotton Bowl. The no. 5 team from the Big Ten would go to the Orange Bowl. Here’s the bowl assignments:

Pac 10: Rose (primary), Fiesta (secondary)
SEC: Sugar (primary), Cotton (secondary)
Big XII: Fiesta (primary), Cotton (secondary)
Big Ten: Rose (primary), Cotton (secondary)
Big East: Orange (primary), Sugar (secondary)
ACC: Orange (primary), Sugar (secondary)
Non-AQ: Cotton (primary), Fiesta (secondary)

From there, the bowl executives get to choose their other team, starting with the bowl who has the no. 1 team and going down to the bowl with the no. 5 team. They will do this based on geography and ability to sell tickets much like they do now. They will not be allowed to have another team from the same conference. These will then be the BCS bowl matchups that happen in the same time frame they do now.

Once all the bowl games have concluded, the BCS will recalculate all of its rankings, with an extra 13th game of data now in the books. When the rankings are computed, the top two rated teams will play the following Monday night for the championship. The site of this championship can rotate as it does now.

This incorporates elements of a playoff and the current BCS model. It is more fair than the current BCS model. The bowls are preserved. Only two teams will be required to play one more game than they all do now. And we will get to see the top two teams prove themselves against excellent competition from other conferences. Here is how it would have played out last year:

1 Auburn
2 Oregon
4 Stanford
5 Wisconsin
6 Ohio State
7 Oklahoma
8 Arkansas
9 Virginia Tech
10 Connecticut

Now the bowl executives would have a little leeway in choosing the matchups, but likely matchups would have been:

Auburn vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl
Oregon vs. Ohio State in the Rose Bowl
TCU vs. Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl
Stanford vs. Virginia Tech in the Fiesta Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Connecticut in the Orange Bowl

These are great matchups that showcase great teams in the BCS. When all was said and done we would have had 5 winners and 5 losers. Don’t forget there were 29 other bowls being played as well. After they were all done, new rankings would be released and the top two would meet in the championship. Maybe it still would have been Auburn and Oregon. Maybe they both would have lost and TCU and Wisconsin could have played for the championship. We’ll never really know. Let’s look at another year, 2009:

1 Alabama
2 Texas
3 Cincinnati
5 Florida
6 Boise State
7 Oregon
8 Ohio State
9 Georgia Tech
10 Iowa

Sugar Bowl- Alabama vs. Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl- Texas vs. Boise State
Orange Bowl- Cincinnati vs. Georgia Tech
Cotton Bowl- TCU vs. Iowa
Rose Bowl- Florida vs. Oregon

As you can see all of these bowl matchups aren’t all that different from what actually took place. What this does is ensures the top 5 teams all get a BCS bowl game against a quality opponent from another conference but not against another top 5 team. This gives them all the best opportunity to win.

So it is kind of like the plus one but in a less traditional sense. It’s a more structured bowl season with an extra bowl at the end for the championship. This maintains the drama, controversy and debate we all enjoy now but makes a way for the championship game to be a bit more credible. I will admit this isn’t my ideal situation, but at least it is realistic and works within the current system.