College football fans have long clamored for a playoff system. Be careful what you wish for, however, because what we will see is going to create far more problems than solutions.
Don't get me wrong. A playoff system is the right direction for college football to go—but we need a real playoff system, not a four-team hybrid.
There are two major issues at hand. The first, and obvious one, is which four teams are selected. No matter what the sport or tournament, any time there is a selection process involved, there will be bubble teams and controversy. That can't be avoided.
However, with only four teams receiving playoff bids, the amount of deserving teams left on the outside looking in is far beyond reason.
The NCAA basketball tournament always has controversy with teams that are excluded come tournament time. But if you're a fan of, say, an 18-win Purdue team that finishes sixth in the Big Ten and doesn't make the cut, you're upset, but you know your team should have had a better season.
That's a little different than a one-loss Kansas State football team that had a stellar season and misses the cut. You know your team was one loss away from perfection, and it's a very bitter pill to swallow to watch a playoff commence without your team in it.
Which brings us to the second major problem of a four-team tournament. For the teams that don't make the cut, the bowl games they now will play are absolutely meaningless. Under the current system, while the BCS championship game is the main focus, the other major bowls still generate interest and excitement.
How do you think fans of teams such as Georgia, Stanford and Kansas State will feel about playing a bowl game that isn't part of the playoff? After tremendous years, their fanbases won't give a frog's fat behind about whatever watered down bowl they land in. If their fans don't care, do you think anyone else will?
Is the four-team playoff the best solution for college football?
Yes, the playoff with whatever four teams are chosen would be exciting, but it would be at the expense of every other team that had notable seasons. This is not the answer for college football.
The real solution is a 32-team playoff. It sounds extreme, but it would work—and it would rival the NFL playoffs as the most exciting sport platform in America.
You begin by awarding all conference winners an automatic qualifying spot in the tournament. There currently stand 11 conferences, so that still leaves 21 at-large bids. While some teams will be left out, if you can't manage to post a strong-enough resume to crack a 32-team field, you don't have a lot of room to cry in your beer.
This system would create 31 games, which is roughly the amount of bowl games we have scheduled this season. You take your minor bowls—yes, I'm talking about you, Beef O'Grady Bowl—and award them the first-round games. As the playoff progresses, the more renowned bowls get the bigger games, all the way down to the big daddies who get the final four, which would rotate around.
There would be some hopeless blow outs—I wouldn't want to be the winner of the WAC matched up against a team like Alabama in the first round. But, hey, that is what tournament sports are all about.
It would also extend the seasons by up to five weeks for certain teams, but the money that would be generated from this tournament would surely outweigh whatever complaints detractors might have.
This tournament will never happen, but it certainly would be amazing if it ever did.