As the college football season nears its end, we are about to encounter the same heated debates that we do every single year. Which coaches deserve to go? Did so and so deserve the Heisman? And of course, did they get the National Title game right? Do the two teams deserve to battle for the crown as college footballs best team? This year, Alabama and Texas have that distinction, and while many agree that these two are worthy selections, there are folks in Cincinnati that would argue they are equally deserving of that opportunity. In fact, with 5 college teams going unbeaten (Bama, Texas, Cincy, TCU, and Boise) it’s easy for any of them to argue, “Why don’t we get a shot?”
So the screams for a college football playoff system return once again, but still, no playoffs will be granted. With it seemingly being the best way to find out who the top team is, why are some people so against it? There are a few main arguments.
1. 1. A playoff system would devalue what is “the most exciting regular season in sports”
2. 2. A playoff system would be too much of a time commitment for the student athletes.
3. 3. Conferences don’t want to lose out on that guaranteed money from the BCS bowl games.
So are we doomed to endure this horrid system forever? No, for I have created a system that address’s these three main complaints, yet still grants the fans the playoff system we’ve been demanding for years. It is relatively similar to the way that the NFL does their playoffs, but integrates the complications of college football along with it.
The system would include 8 teams. You keep the BCS rankings and the 4 main BCS bowl games as they are. The Rose Bowl , The Orange Bowl, The Fiesta Bowl, and The Sugar Bowl. The champion of the Pac 10 and Big Ten meet in the Rose Bowl. The champion of the ACC and SEC will meet in Orange Bowl. The champion of the Big 12 and Big East will meet in the Fiesta Bowl. That gives us 6 of the 8 playoff teams. The next two teams will be the two highest ranked BCS teams that were not champions of their BCS conference. Those two teams would meet in the Sugar Bowl. For example, this year it would Florida (#5) and TCU (#4) because they are the two highest ranked teams in the BCS who weren’t the champions of a BCS conference (TCU plays in the Mountain West Conference which is not a BCS conference). So TCU and Florida would play each other in the first round of the playoffs. This gives a team with an impressive record who didn’t win their conference another shot, and also a team like TCU an opportunity to compete with the big boys.
7 games, 8 teams, the 6 BCS conference champions and 2 “wild cards” chosen from the BCS rankings. After that first round, the highest ranked team still around will play the lowest ranked team still alive. The other two teams will play each other. For example, if the remaining teams BCS rankings are 1, 4, 6, and 7,….. 1 and 7 would play each other, and 4 and 6 would play eachother. The last remaining teams would meet for the National Championship. Only two extra games are added, the location of those games can be decided by the BCS committee.
So there is the system. You keep all the rest of the bowl games the way they are, you just don’t include them as part of the playoffs. Now it’s perfectly clear what you as a team must do to make it to the playoffs. Either win your conference, or be ranked high enough in the BCS to make the dance. If a team is left off that list of 8, chances are they don’t deserve the right to be crowned the nations best team.
Now as to how this system would solve the statements listed above.
1. 1.The regular season would be as exciting as ever because every game still matters. It isn’t like this system is accepting half the nations teams into the playoffs, it only accepts 8. So every single game still matters. Infact, the conference match ups would be more interesting than ever. You drop two games in your division, your chances of making the playoffs are drastically hurt. This system would also create more exciting out of conference match ups as well. Right now, nobody wants to play anyone good outside of their conference because they are afraid it will hurt there chances of going undefeated and reaching the title game. The mindset right now is play the weakest teams you can, go undefeated, because that’s the only way to ensure a trip to the title game. But with the new system, it actually is smarter for teams to schedule a more difficult out of conference schedule because it will help with their BCS ranking. If you schedule weak OOC opponents and then go on to lose your conference, your BCS ranking most likely wont put you into one of those wild card spots. But if you schedule harder opponents and raise your BCS ranking, your team will be in better shape to make a wild card spot if they aren’t able to win their conference. And even if they lose a game or two out of conference, they’ll still be able to make the playoffs by winning their conference. So really there aren’t any negatives to scheduling tougher OOC opponents. You’ll sell more tickets; you’ll raise your wild card chances with a win, and still will be in all right shape for the playoffs even if you lose. Think of some of the awesome match ups we could be treated with?
2. 2. Personally I think this argument is simply a copout for Universities that need a reason to appose the idea of a playoff system. This system would add only 2 possible extra games to a team’s season. You cannot say they’re worried about the players academics because A. it would be during the Holiday break and B. college hoops teams miss far more schooling than football would and you never hear any complaining about that. I realize that adding more games increases these kid’s chances of getting hurt, but that’s football for ya. If they really want to play at the next level they need to get used to playing a season that is even longer than this. Perhaps this would even help rookies from hitting that dreaded “rookie wall” at the next level.
3. 3.This is the real reason why people are against a playoff system, the money. For the Universities and the BCS, it’s all about the revenue they can bring in. With the current BCS system, each BCS conference is guaranteed a large sum of cash because each one has a tie in for its champion. So the commissioners of these conferences don’t want to mess with a system that guarantees its teams make money. But with this new system, each conference is still guaranteed to make money. On top of that, the intrigue of each BCS game as part of a playoff system will send ratings through the roof. Right now if USC and Iowa play in the Rose bowl and I’m a casual fan of LSU, I’m not compelled to watch that game. But if I know that game is part of a system that chooses the national champion, of course I’m going to watch it. I believe having a playoff system like this would also draw in more casual fans of college football to watch because they know what’s at stake in each game.
Just like every system, there are going to be some negatives to this as well. If the champion of the ACC is ranked #15, they are going to make it to the playoffs over other teams ranked far better than they are. It also doesn’t solve the problems for a team like Boise this year that would be left out of the playoffs in this new system. But hey, that’s the breaks. Every year there are teams left out of playoffs that probably deserved to be there. Look at the Patriots from 2008 that went 11-5 and missed the playoffs, or the Warriors from 2007 that went 48-34 and were left out. Things like this are going to happen in sports. What this system will do is inadvertently bring more parody to College football. Recruits want to play for NFL scouts and for championships, so if they think they have an easier chance making the playoffs by playing for a team in a weaker conference; they are gong to go there. So the champion of the ACC might be #15 one year, but after an influx of new recruits the ACC champ could be #1 very soon. So there wont be a dominant conference for years like we have right now with the SEC.
At the end of the day, no system will ever be perfect. People are going to find faults in any way a champion is chosen. But with this new system, college football can take a tremendous step forward and actually create a college football postseason that is both exciting for the fans and profitable for the teams.