As the NBA and NHL seasons move closer toward their playoffs, I started to think more and more about how ludicrous it is that Division I college football does not have one.
Every other division in college football, from the Football Championship Subdivision to the NAIA, has playoffs that decide the national champion.
Moving further out, every other college team sport has a championship system where the best teams play in a playoff-type format to determine a champion.
Even broader, every major professional sports organization in the United States has a playoff system that determines a champion.
So why does college football not? It’s a question that has lingered for many years now and seemingly will never be answered fully. I am not trying to denigrate the BCS Champion, who many times is likely the best college football team in the country, but what I am championing is that we don’t know for sure.
Last year, Alabama certainly looked the part of a national champion by crushing Florida in the SEC Championship Game and then doing the same to Texas in the BCS Championship Game. But how do we know for certain that they would have beat Boise State?
To the people who will inevitably argue that after crushing Florida and Texas, and with all the future NFL players Alabama has, there is no way they would lose to Boise State: Well, in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State beat a powerful Oklahoma team with all-world talent, which included Adrian Peterson, Curtis Lofton, Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias, and more.
Very rarely is there a year when the national champion is undisputed where that team is the only unbeaten team in the country, or the only one-loss team in the country. Every year, there is some doubt that the team holding the AFCA National Championship Trophy is, in fact, the best team in the country.
Last year, many thought Boise State, who had beaten No. 11-ranked Oregon earlier in the year, could have dethroned Alabama. In the 2008 season, some thought undefeated Utah could have knocked off top-ranked Florida. In 2007, six two-loss teams finished atop the AP poll, undoubtedly suggesting any one of them could lay claim to a national championship.
In 2006, Boise State was unbeaten at the end of the year after knocking off Oklahoma, leaving many to believe that they could have beaten an elite Florida squad. On and on these hypotheticals go.
Because this doubt is ubiquitous in the college football world, and so rarely is there a team that is unanimously ranked No. 1 in the country, a playoff system is the most logical way to remove the doubt and give college football a clear, undisputed national champion.
While most fans detest the BCS standings, the standings actually could prove to be very useful in a playoff system. They could determine who gets invited to the playoff and who is left out. I am not going to suggest a 16-team playoff because that would cause far too many scheduling headaches. However, an eight-team playoff is justifiable.
If universities are concerned about the college football season becoming too lengthy with a playoff, then remove one non-conference game per season. I am not talking about the one where USC plays Ohio State; I am talking about the one where Ohio State plays Youngstown State and wins by 50.
No one cares about most of those games, and they do nothing to help a team’s reputation. All those games do is pad the statistics of the big schools.
By removing one “cupcake” game, the season really only becomes longer for two teams, the last two remaining who will play in the BCS National Championship Game—a reward no school would criticize.
To overcome the bowl-games-have-history argument, you utilize these bigger bowl games as part of the playoff. The championship game still remains the BCS National Championship Game, so then only six games remain to assign bowls to.
Thus, you take the four existing BCS bowls (Orange, Sugar, Rose, and Fiesta) and then add two other big bowls (for example, the Citrus Bowl and the Cotton Bowl) and use those bowls as playoff games.
In every English class throughout school, there is the old adage to show, not tell in your writing. The same thing goes for college football. I don’t want people to tell me who the national champion should be—I want it to be shown to me through a playoff.