BCS Era Reaches Its End, but What Would Playoff Committee Have Done?

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BCS Era Reaches Its End, but What Would Playoff Committee Have Done?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Bowl Championship Series era unofficially ended Sunday night with the release of the final set of BCS standings. After 16 seasons, the much-maligned, unloved, yet surprisingly effective setup is giving way to the new College Football Playoff, set to debut next season.

The CFP is bound to be an improvement over the BCS, right? With a gang of 13 picking four teams to enter the playoff instead of a mishmash of polls and computer rankings deciding the top two teams, it must be less controversial, no?

It may very well be a case of "Be careful what you wish for."

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For all its flaws, the BCS at least had a reasonable degree of transparency as its standings actually were fairly predictable. Having been the self-anointed Guru since 2006, I had gotten so good at projecting the standings, that I was rarely surprised by anything, especially in the top of the standings. 

But I have only a vague clue as to what the committee might do next season. In fact, the 2014 playoff field might be the most difficult to handicap as there will be no precedent in the history of the sport to serve as a marker.

That's why I campaigned and genuinely hoped that the committee members would release their top four for this season. That way, at least we'd have an idea about how they might behave next season and what criteria would be of more importance to them.

Since that's not forthcoming, I've decided to do the job for them. Here's what my playoff pairings would be if I were a committee member:

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Michigan State (to be played at Sugar Bowl)

No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Stanford (to be played at Rose Bowl)

Major Playoff Contenders At a Glance
Team AP Sagarin SoS Top 10 Top 30 BCS Opp.
Florida St. 1 1 63 0-0 1-0 10-0
Auburn 2 6 20 2-0 4-1 9-1
Stanford 5 3 4 3-0 6-1 9-2
Michigan St. 4 7 56 0-0 2-1 10-1
Baylor 6 5 60 0-0 2-1 8-1
Alabama 3 2 45 0-1 2-1 8-1

Sagarin Rankings (non-BCS version)

Now, of course, you'll hear howls from Tuscaloosa protesting the exclusion of two-time defending champion Alabama. But the truth is that Baylor was the team that's narrowly nudged out of the playoffs, not the Crimson Tide.

Not only did the Tide fail to win their conference and division (as was the case in 2011), but they also didn't play a particularly tough schedule, either.

Their best wins were over three-loss LSU and four-loss Texas A&M. And without even appearing in a conference championship game, Alabama played a scant nine games against BCS conference opponents and had two FCS level games (Chattanooga and Georgia State, a transitional FBS team that's ineligible to play in postseason in 2013).

Contrast that to Stanford, which despite its two losses, played 11 BCS conference opponents, had by far the toughest schedule of any playoff contenders and won what's considered by many the toughest conference this season. 

Michigan State narrowly edged Baylor because it faced two more BCS conference opponents and had to win its conference title game. Granted, it wasn't the Bears' fault that the Big 12 did not have a conference championship game, but it absolutely was their fault that they scheduled FCS Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe for their three non-conference cakewalk.

Had the CFP started this year, accusations of favoritism would've surely been pointed at committee members Condi Rice, Tyrone Willingham and Oliver Luck had Stanford been included in the four-team field. But the Cardinal's selection would've been easily justifiable.

College Playoff Committee Members
Member Direct Ties
Barry Alvarez Wisconsin, Big Ten
Michael Gould Air Force, MWC
Pat Haden USC, Pac-12
Tom Jernstedt NCAA
Jeff Long* Arkansas, SEC
Oliver Luck West Virginia, Big 12
Archie Manning Ole Miss, SEC
Tom Osborne Nebraska, Big Ten
Dan Radokovich Clemson, ACC
Condoleezza Rice Stanford, Notre Dame, Pac-12
Mike Tranghese American Athletic (Big East)
Steve Wieberg (None)
Tyrone Willingham Stanford, Washington, Notre Dame, Pac-12

* Committee Chairman

From what little information was given during the committee's introduction press conference in October, conference championships and strength of schedule were particularly mentioned as major criteria for determining the playoff participants. Going by that logic—plus other considerations—my proposed playoff field would've been an entirely plausible outcome.

But it would've been much more instructive if the hypothetical field had come from the committee. The lack thereof is a huge missed opportunity and only helps to sow the seeds of future controversies.

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