How Division 1 Football Could (& Should) Have A Football Playoff - Part Two

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How Division 1 Football Could (& Should) Have A Football Playoff - Part Two
In Part One of my proposal, I discussed how an eight team playoff tournament could work. In Part Two, we will look at a hypothetical setup, based on last year’s results. Before I proceed too much further, a quick apology - I was not able to get a brackets graphic imported adequately enough that it was easy to see. My apologies on that one.

Eight teams would begin the tournament. Traditionally, the conference bowl relationships will be intact, for at least the higher seeded teams in the tournament. In my example, LSU as the SEC champion would automatically go to The Sugar Bowl, Pac-10 champion USC would go to The Rose Bowl, and ACC champion Virginia Tech would go The Orange Bowl. Even though Florida is ranked # 1 (due to strength of schedule), LSU gets the Sugar Bowl bid as SEC champion. In my scenario, The Fiesta Bowl gets the last selection (as they hosted the national championship in 2007, remember?) and gets # 1 seeded Florida. The other teams in the tournament are matched up with their opponents, similarly to the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
January 1st

The Fiesta Bowl: # 1 Florida (At-Large Selection) vs # 8 BYU (Mountain West Champion)
The Rose Bowl # 3 Southern Cal (Pac-10 Champion) vs # 6 Oklahoma (Big XII Champion)
The Sugar Bowl: # 2 LSU (SEC Champion) vs # 7 Ohio State (Big Ten Champion)
The Orange Bowl: # 4 Virginia Tech (ACC Champion) vs # 5 West Virginia (Big East Champion)


Once the tournament begins, the winners will move on to the next round of the tournament – in this hypothetical scenario, The Cotton Bowl in Dallas. On January 8th, game 1 could feature the winner of The Fiesta Bowl (ex: Florida) versus the winner of The Rose Bowl (ex: USC). In game two, the winner of The Sugar Bowl (ex: LSU) would play the winner of The Orange Bowl (ex: West Virginia).

January 15th would again be played in Dallas at The Cotton Bowl. The week between the semi-finals and the national championship would truly rival The Super Bowl for media scrutiny and fan enthusiasm.

What are the benefits to my system? Let us count the ways amidst the traditional arguments against a college football playoff:
What about "The Plus One" idea that was shot down recently? While I truly believe that The Plus One will be the first playoff concept to be eventually used, I do not believe it is the best. The reason why? You are still relying on the human element of rankings by the coaches and media. With my system, all 6 BCS conferences get an automatic shot, the best of the non-BCS conferences gets an automatic berth, and a wild card/At-Large team also gets a shot if they played a tough schedule.
What about a 16 team tournament so all conferences could be included? If I could do that, I would. The problem is it would dramatically increase the number of games in the season, which the university presidents are vehemently opposed to doing. I do believe having all eleven conference champions, plus five At-Large teams chosen by strength of schedule, would be ideal but unrealistic.

The regular season would be rendered meaningless with a playoff system: If the only sure way to get in to the playoffs was winning your conference, that makes those regular season games very meaningful, wouldn’t you say? And it would also behoove schools to beef up their schedules, not load up on creampuff schools, in the event that they did not win their conferences outright.

The bowls would suffer: How? The bowl system is still intact, with traditional conference tie-ins. And the other bowl games would still be determined in the manner that they are now – for those who get excited about The Papajohns.com Bowl or the New Orleans Bowl, rest assured, I have not affected that game or any similar to it. And as for the communities involved in the tournament, especially the national championship host city, can you imagine the economic windfall associated with having thousands of fans visiting the city for a week?

There is too much emphasis with the computers and the strength of schedule component: Strength of schedule would merely determine the seeding of the playoffs, as well as the non-BCS conference team and the one wild card/At-Large team. Again, if you win a major conference, you are guaranteed a spot.

The season would be too long – By one week? And the NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament goes on for several weeks in March. Even the university presidents, the biggest obstacle to a playoff system, would have a tough time answering this one with a straight face. Next question.

What about the non-BCS conferences?– Again, the non-BCS conferences are guaranteed one spot of the eight in the tournament. In the current BCS system, the non-BCS conferences are only guaranteed if they are ranked in the top twelve teams. An important thing to remember – the fifth bowl game, and the non-BCS conference clause (have to be ranked in the top 12 teams) that is presently constituted in the BCS program today, are a result of a potential lawsuit threatened by Tulane in 2003. Under my system, the non-BCS conferences are being represented but this time it has nothing to do with rankings arbitrarily assigned by coaches or the media.

What about Notre Dame and its BCS exception? – See argument # 1. While Notre Dame had a major clunker season last year (3-9), traditionally Notre Dame has played a tough schedule. All that being said, Notre Dame would need to still play a tough schedule to get one of the coveted wild card berths. Last season, Notre Dame’s schedule ranked # 24. No more special rules based on poll rankings for the Irish under my system.

Fans won’t travel to all of these games – Probably the most valid argument of all. Then again, look at the loyalty fans display today when there is no playoff system. Look at the loyalty displayed by basketball fans during the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament. And look at the loyalty some fans have when it comes to their teams for spring football – do you truly feel that the fans will not want to participate in a playoff tournament?

Just think about all of the issues associated with the BCS that would never have come to pass with a system such as this in place:
  • 1998 - Ohio State has the same record as Florida State, yet Florida State gets the title shot against Tennessee. Yes, I know - Ohio State lost late in the year to an unranked Michigan State team, while Florida State lost early in the year to an unranked North Carolina State team. Under my system, all three teams would have had a chance with a playoff tournament like this one. And we haven't even discussed the plights of UCLA or Kansas State in this scenario.
  • 2000 - Miami (FL) has the same record as Florida State and had defeated Florida State head to head that season, yet Florida State gets the title shot against Oklahoma. Why not a playoff tournament?
  • 2001 - Nebraska gets a title shot against Miami (FL), despite being crushed by Colorado in the last game of the season and Oregon had the same record as the Huskers.
  • 2003 - USC, LSU, and Oklahoma all finish with the same record, yet USC does not get a title shot, and the college football fans get a split championship with LSU and USC.
  • 2004 - Auburn, USC, and Oklahoma all finish undefeated. Auburn does not get a title shot.
  • 2006 - Michigan and Florida both finish with one loss. Florida earns a BCS title shot against Ohio State and wins, yet Michigan was ranked ahead of Florida in the polls before USC lost on the last weekend to UCLA. If USC had won the game as expected, USC would have had the title shot against Ohio State and Florida would never have won the 2006 national championship.

As the eloquent Stewart Mandel wrote in his book Bowls, Polls, & Tarnished Souls, "Rightly or wrongly, college football will turn to a playoff one day." (page 34 of hardcover version). After the 2006 season, Florida president Bernie Machen was quoted, "A playoff is inevitable".

If a playoff is inevitable, wouldn't it be nice getting a system in place like mine sooner rather than later? As always, I am anxious for your comments, and look forward to hearing from hopefully as many of you as possible.

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