The NCAA Football Playoff That Could Have Been...Madness Style

J.P. ScottSenior Analyst IJune 14, 2012

After much speculation, it looks as if the future of college football in regard to deciding a champion will boil down to four teams and a selection committee.

This is a far cry from what it could have been.

America loves a tournament, as evident with its infatuation with March Madness every year.  Imagine March Madness in December with America’s favorite sport substituting for basketball.

FCS, Division II and Division III all decide their championships with playoff tournaments consisting of over 16 teams, with the higher-seeded team hosting the games right up until the final.

The players seem to love it and all classwork still gets done.

So why can’t we implement this potential cash cow at the FCS level?

You have 11 conferences playing FCS football.  You give all 11 conference champions an automatic bid to the playoffs.  You round out a field of 16 by using the current BCS ranking system.  The Top Five teams according to the BCS ranking who did not win their conference tournament would be the five at-large teams.  This would allow Independents like Notre Dame to qualify.

Once you have a field of 16, you would seed them according to the final BCS ranking.  Will this create some mismatches?  Sure, on paper. 

Remember though, they still have to play the games.  We are not talking about sub-.500 teams playing the top one or two teams in round one.  You are talking about conference champions, the types of teams that BCS automatic qualifying schools often try to avoid on their non-conference schedule.  There wouldn’t be as many blowouts as one might expect.

Oklahoma State and Stanford could have met in the title game with a playoff in place.
Oklahoma State and Stanford could have met in the title game with a playoff in place.

If this system were in place in 2011, here is what the bracket could have looked like, according to the BCS standings at the completion of the conference championship games:

1.    LSU (SEC Champion) vs.   16. Louisiana Tech (WAC Champion)

8.    Kansas State (At-Large No. 5) vs.   9. Wisconsin (Big Ten Champion)

5.    Oregon (PAC 12 Champion) vs.   12. Southern Mississippi (CUSA Champion)

4.    Stanford (At-Large No. 2) vs.   13. West Virginia (Big East Champion)

3.    Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champion) vs.   14. Northern Illinois (MAC Champion)

6.    Arkansas (At-Large No. 3) vs.  11. Texas Christian (Mountain West Champion)

7.    Boise State (At-Large No. 4) vs.   10. Clemson (ACC Champion)

2.    Alabama (At-Large No. 1) vs.   15. Arkansas State (Sun Belt Champion)

A bracket like this would have featured some interesting first-round matchups like Boise State vs. Clemson and Kansas State vs. Wisconsin, as well as some potential second-round blockbusters like Arkansas vs. Oklahoma State and a Stanford vs. Oregon rematch.

If you started the playoffs in the second week of December, you could play the championship game on New Year’s Day, the way it was meant to be.

Everyone who didn't qualify for the playoffs would be eligible to be selected to play in whatever bowl games remain.

In the end, however, we college football fans will have to settle for a room full of old coaches, sportswriters, athletic directors and presidents deciding which four teams will play for the title.

Sorry, but I prefer a little Madness.