College Football: Another Four-Team Playoff Proposal

Schmolik@@Schmolik64Correspondent IIApril 29, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 09:  Dre Kirkpatrick #21 and Darius Hanks #15 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate after defeating Louisiana State University Tigers in the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Alabama  won the game by a score of 21-0.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Hello, college football fans!

It looks more and more like a four-team "playoff" is coming to FBS football.

There are plenty of details to be determined with the biggest concerns being...

1) How do you choose the four teams and how will they be ranked?

2) When should the games be played?

3) Where should the games be played?

Here are my answers to those questions.

1) How do you choose the four teams and how will they be ranked?

SEC commissioner Mike Slive wants the top four teams in the rankings, while Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott wants only conference champions.

First, I say it should be the four best teams regardless of conference. If Alabama and LSU are two of the top four teams, you don't leave LSU out.

On the other hand, I have a little bit of a problem if a Stanford gets in as an at-large team over Oregon, the Pac-12 champ which won at Stanford last year.

How about an at-large team can only get in if the conference champion gets in as well? So Stanford would not be eligible unless Oregon makes it.

As for how to pick the teams, the BCS standings would be a good starting point. But I would get rid of the computer rankings and replace them with the old "strength of schedule" formula that used to be part of the BCS.

The old BCS strength of schedule component was two-thirds opponents' record and one-third the record of the opponents' opponents, if that makes sense. It is similar to the RPI except that it doesn't account for overall record.

Even though the RPI and the old BCS strength of schedule component were hard to calculate by hand, it is easy to understand the criteria. You want to play a tough schedule.

Meanwhile, many of the computer ranking formulas are very complex. Of the six rankings that were  used for the BCS rankings in the 2010-11 season, only one (Wes Colley's) had a formula that was public. The other formulas were private.

I say just replace these ridiculous computer rankings with the old BCS strength-of-schedule formula (or create an RPI formula for football and apply it as part of the criteria).

2) When should the games be played?

My proposal is that the semifinal games be scheduled two weeks after the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 title games. The championship game should be played in prime time on New Year's Day (January 2nd in some years, depending on the calendar).

New Year's Day is supposed to be the big football day. The BCS diminished January 1st's importance and I would like to see the tradition restored. It also prevents the championship game from creeping into the spring semester at some schools.

This schedule also takes away the one-month layoff between conference championship games and the first postseason games for the national semifinalists.

Had this schedule been in effect for the 2011-12 season...

Dec. 3: Conference Championship Weekend

Dec. 17: National Semifinals Weekend

Jan. 2 (Jan. 1 was a Sunday): National Championship

Another benefit of this schedule is that it will enable the two national semifinal losers to play in "bowl games." So the only teams that would not play in bowls would be the two teams in the championship game (just like now).

I think it is a good consolation gift for the teams involved. Let them still have their "vacation" and "bowl experience."

You can argue that the teams will be demoralized after losing a semifinal game and their fans would be less likely to travel. However, you can say the same about teams that lose in their conference championship games.

One drawback would be that bowl teams would not be determined until after the national semifinals have been played, reducing the time schools and fans have to make travel plans. I would be willing to move the national semifinals up to the week after the conference championships if this is too much of an issue.

Another problem I can hear is that the national semifinals weekend would be around the final exam period for many schools.

Then again, the women's volleyball national championship was scheduled last year for December 17th, the date I am proposing. The FCS national semifinals were scheduled for Dec. 16th and 17th. I'm not buying the academics' excuse.

Bowls can be scheduled any time except the time of the national championship game, although practically no game should be scheduled after the championship game. I am all for multiple bowl games on New Year's Day in the early (1 p.m. ET) and late afternoon slots.

Bowl matchups will all be determined by conference agreements (I proposed this in a previous article). The current BCS bowls will get to determine who plays in their bowl rather than have the BCS determine who plays. Automatic-qualifier conference bids would be eliminated.

To recap some of my proposed matchups:

Rose Bowl: Big Ten No. 1 vs. Pac 12 No. 1

Sugar Bowl: SEC No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 2

Orange Bowl: ACC No. 1 vs. SEC No. 2/3 (shared with Cotton)

Cotton Bowl: Big 12 No. 1 vs. SEC No. 2/3 (shared with Orange)

Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 No. 2 vs. Pac 12 No. 2

Capital One Bowl: ACC No. 2 vs. Big Ten No. 3

Should a team make the championship game, the bowl replaces the team lost with another team from the same conference. This format will reward the conference(s) of the two national championship game participants.

Should the Big Ten champion make the title game, the second-place Big Ten team will likely go to the Rose Bowl and every other Big Ten team moves up one place. Should one conference get both championship participants, every other conference team would move up two places.

Assuming this format was in place last season and LSU and Alabama won the semifinal games, here is what the bowl schedule would have looked like:

Rose: Wisconsin vs. Oregon (same)

Sugar: Arkansas (next eligible SEC) vs. Michigan (assume chosen over Michigan State)

Orange: Clemson vs. Georgia

Cotton: Oklahoma State vs. South Carolina

Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Stanford

Capital One: Virginia Tech vs. Michigan State

National Championship: LSU vs. Alabama

3) Where should the games be played?

I would open both the semifinals and championship to the highest bidder. Current bowl sites may bid, but games will not be limited to current bowl sites.

Current bowl sites can bid to be semifinal sites and then host a regular bowl around January 1st without a problem.

However, there could be an issue if a bowl site wishes to host a national championship.

Should this happen, there are two alternatives.

No. 1: The regular bowl that season is canceled with the championship serving as that year's bowl.


The 2015 national championship game is held in the Rose Bowl. The regular 2015 Rose Bowl would not be held and the championship game would be considered the 2015 Rose Bowl.

In this instance, the Big Ten champion (assuming it does not play in the championship) goes to the next bowl in the Big Ten lineup (the Sugar Bowl in my proposal), and the Pac-12 champion (assuming they don't play in the championship) goes to the next bowl in the Pac-12 lineup (the Fiesta Bowl in my proposal). All of the other teams in the conference(s) involved drop one place.

No. 2: The regular bowl that season is moved to around Christmas with its conference tie-ins intact, allowing the bowl site to still keep the regular bowl and host the championship on January 1st or 2nd.


The 2015 national championship game is held in the Rose Bowl. The regular 2015 Rose Bowl would be held around Christmas in 2014 instead of being played on New Year's Day.

In this case, the national championship would not be branded as a bowl game.

It would probably be weird to see the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl on Christmas instead of New Year's and for the Big Ten or SEC champion to play in December while the second- and third-place teams play on New Year's Day.

How would this effect the Rose Bowl and the traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup?

Under my proposal, the Big Ten and Pac 12 champions would meet in the Rose Bowl unless one or both teams make the national championship game.

Even if one or both lose in the semifinals, they will still be able to play in the Rose Bowl after they lose (I am assuming that wouldn't be the case with other formats).

In the event the Rose Bowl loses one of its champions, it is guaranteed a replacement from the same conference. It won't matter if no team from the conference it loses qualifies for a BCS bowl, another BCS bowl steals them, or the Rose Bowl will have to take a non-automatic qualifier team (all possible in the current format).

This guarantees the Big Ten and Pac-12 will play every Rose Bowl, unless the Rose Bowl is the championship game and they don't hold another Rose Bowl a week earlier.

I think the Rose Bowl and the other two leagues should support my proposal.

I think my ideas allow for the proposed four-team playoff and maintains the current bowl system to some degree, while getting rid of some of the worst parts of the current BCS system.


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