BCS Playoff, Part One: The Formula, Making the Cut, Seeding and Matchups

Jerry BurnesAnalyst INovember 30, 2009

Converting the BCS to a playoff requires one to tread lightly, almost like walking on eggshells. Where you might win in one aspect, you'll lose in another.

Really, not all that different from the current setup.

The current BCS system is set up like this, according to the official BCS Web site: "The BCS standings formula consists three components, each weighted equally: the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings (Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe)."

That's some human error, some computer error, and a lot of different factors that quite frankly don't delve into the wins, losses, and schedules of the teams vying for spots.

We came to this system because we scoffed about human error determining our champion. That No. 1 and No. 2 don't have to meet to have a champion, and split titles were too common.

The BCS system was right on the spot with pitting the top two teams together. But how the commissioners put them there has been more controversial than the last system.

When I developed my idea of putting the BCS into a playoff format I took all of this into consideration when it came to a formula. Teams had to win but they also had to play quality teams. The goal, was to strengthen the schedules of top teams.

To use the 2009 Florida Gators as my example, a top-tier team would not benefit from playing Charleston Southern, Troy, and Florida International in the same season but would wins over FCS teams would not be discounted.

The other goal was to give all 119 FBS teams a legit title shot, as to avoid undefeated teams, such as the 2008 Boise State Broncos, from getting skipped over when it came to the title game. Or in their case last year, getting skipped in the BCS altogther.


The Formula

I decided on a 32-team playoff system after much debate. Sixteen was my other choice. To help enforce my strengthened schedules, the regular season would be reduced to 11 weeks, plus the conference championship games. This also comes in later when scheduling is involved.

I know, only 32 teams, doesn't the current bowl system allow for 68 teams to play?

Yes, it does. That's 34 bowl games. One of the biggest cons of the current bowl system is that over half of the college football teams in the FBS get a trip. This 32-team format reduces teams, but only reduces the number of games by three (16 first round + eight second round + four quarterfinals + two semifinals + one title game = 31 total games).

So how do you get a spot in this 32-team field?

That's the easiest part: no computers needed either.

There are 11 FBS conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-10, SEC, Sun Belt, and WAC). The winners of the 11 FBS conferences get an automatic spot, leaving 22 at-large bids for the remaining 108 FBS teams.

At-large bids will be determined by 1) total wins; 2) total number of wins by all opponents; 3) number of wins by defeated teams.

To illustrate this I provided a spreadsheet detailing the 2008 Top 25 after conference title week, along with the other teams that are conference champions and then teams with eight wins or more that were un-ranked. Teams with an asterisk represent a conference champion. 

BCS Formula 1 Spreadsheet

As you can see there are 41 available teams for the 32-team field. Eleven teams sit with eight wins, meaning teams with nine wins or more will make the field. The teams with eight wins will be decided by opponent wins and if needed the number of wins by defeated teams.

For example, Nebraska and West Virginia each finished with eight wins and 82 opponent wins. Of the four games WVU lost, those four opponents had a combined record of 48 wins, while Nebraska had just 41, putting WVU in for the final spot.

This left Ole Miss, Florida State, Nebraska, Iowa, California, Oregon State, Central Michigan, Air Force, and Navy out.



Seeding will be determined the same way by 1) total wins; 2) total number of wins by all opponents; 3) number of teams faced that made the playoffs; 4) number of wins over playoff teams.

If all four of those are identical, tie-breakers will be determined by 1) head-to-head competition (if available); 2) total number of wins by faced playoff teams; 3) total points allowed against playoff teams.

That is illustrated in the below spreadsheet, with teams in order from 1-32.

BCS Seeding Spreadsheet 1



Figuring out plays who once the seeding is determined is the typical 32-team format. One bracket, ranked 1-32, with the top seed playing the bottom seed, and so forth.

The below spreadsheet shows the seeds again with a team's 2008 BCS ranking in parentheses. It also shows the matchups, teams that did not make the cut along with a conference breakdown.

BCS Seeding Spreadsheet 2


The List


Part One: The Formula, Making the Cut, Seeding, and Matchups

Part Two: Round-by-Round Location and BCS Rotation (Still to come!)

Part Three: T.V. Contracts and Ratings (Still to come!)

Part Four: Ticketing and Attendance (Still to come!)

Part Five: Round-by-Round Payout System (Still to come!)

Part Six: A Look At the 2009 Bracket (Still to come!)