College Football Playoff: What the Format Should Have Looked Like

Dustin HullAnalyst IJune 29, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers pose with The Coaches' Trophy during the Allstate BCS Championship Press Conference on January 8, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The leaders of college football's biggest conferences finalized a deal this week to start a four-team playoff format that will begin in 2014.

While the proposal brings an end to the dreaded BCS and shifts over to a postseason as we've long awaited, the format that was decided upon is not the best situation for college football.

The fact that a system was finally accepted is an obvious step in the right direction, but committing to that format for the long haul would be a mistake on the NCAA's part.

The first point of discussion would be the number of teams selected for the playoff. While four teams is a decent starting point, eight teams would have been an even better conclusion.

To select these eight teams, a committee should be used, but only to a certain degree. That's where the idea of the "Front Four" conferences comes in.

The Front Four consists of the top four leagues in NCAA football: SEC, Big 10, Pac-12 and Big 12. The winners of these four leagues would automatically receive a spot in the eight-team playoff.

Why are these four conferences so worthy, yet the ACC and Big East (the other two BCS conferences) are not?

First off, the Big East, which might as well be called the Big Western Hemisphere these days, is clearly weaker than the other five BCS conferences.

And with the loss of West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the next couple of seasons, it's clear the league is desperate for new teams and has become less and less competitive against the other power conferences.

Current members, such as South Florida, Cincinnati and Louisville, mixed with future ones, like Central Florida, Houston and Navy, are not nearly enough to consider the Big East in the upper-echelon of football conferences.

Even if Boise State and BYU were to join the league, it would still lack the strength of the Front Four conferences.

Next is the ACC, a conference many believe to be at, if not above, the level of some of the Front Four members.

The truth is, whether the BCS rankings were accurate at all or not, the ACC was not as impressive in the polls as the other four leagues.

Since the BCS began in 1999, only three times has the top-ranked school from one of the Front Four conferences ever finished the regular season out of the Top 10.

Meanwhile, the ACC's top team has failed to finish the regular season in the Top 10 four times in just the past six seasons.

Basing on past performance, the Big East and ACC have not been up to the level of the other four BCS conferences.
Basing on past performance, the Big East and ACC have not been up to the level of the other four BCS conferences.J. Meric/Getty Images

Also, when pitted against competition from the other BCS conferences in bowl games, they have had limited success, finishing well under .500 over the past decade.

Even more important is their record in BCS bowls, where they have an extremely weak 2-13 record since the start of the Bowl Championship era.

So, with only four automatic bids, four remain to be decided by a selection committee. Rankings should not convince this group of voters in any direction.

That's why any poll of the best teams in the country should be kept for fans only (not factored in to any formula of selecting the remaining four teams), such as the Associated Press uses currently.

In making the decision on the other half of the playoff picture, the committee will choose 1-3 teams as at-large picks from the Front Four leagues, along with selecting 1-3 schools from outside the quad of major conferences, depending on how many spots remain.

After those spots are filled for what will essentially be quarterfinal matchups, the first round of the playoffs will consist of the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls.

These "bowl" games would be held after all other bowl games have finished, preferably on New Year's Day, considering the shortened schedule for those who fail to qualify for the playoffs.

With the teams that did not finish in the Top 8, having only 11 or 12 games in their season, conference championships would take place at the end of November, allowing the championship to be played only few days beyond where they're usually scheduled.

There would only be a week's preparation between quarter- and semifinals, as well as between the semis and the championship.

Problems between schools that play, say, 11 games in a season, and teams that play 14, could formulate when it comes to the amount of revenue the programs get from having those three extra games.

But overall, the formula would be a highly exciting, ultra-competitive formula, that would incorporate teams from the power conferences while still leaving room for a mid-major to fit the glass slipper and hold the glass football.

So while the current playoff will finally turn the page on the BCS, a chapter on building a better system should soon follow.