This is the final part of my six-part series about how to legitimize the national championship in college football by turning the regular season into a long playoff. For more details about the format on a national scale, check out the first article by clicking here or my bleacher report archive.
After explaining how the "playoff system" would work and how the Division I FBS schools need to be realigned to make it work in previous articles, here are the reason why I think that the Playoff System is a better alternative to the BCS or simply tacking on an eight team playoff after the regular season.
1. More Games with Good Teams Playing Each Other
What the pool system does is knock the bad teams out of the picture by the sixth game of the season. As a result, the second half of the season will consist of advanced rounds of the playoffs instead of national powers beating up on weaker members of their conferences. Fans would appreciate seeing more Auburn-Alabama type of games instead of Oregon vs. Washington State type of matchups.
Also, with no threat of elimination in nonconference play, teams will not be afraid of scheduling good teams early in the season. In fact with consolation bowl selection based partially on strength of schedule, teams will be encouraged to challenge each other for better bowl placement and/or to prepare themselves for late round battles.
2. Maintain (if not enhance) Importance of Regular Season
The regular season will matter more because any loss in the pool round can knock you out of a chance of a title. Since the season is transformed into a massive playoff, a playoff atmosphere will last throughout the whole four month season. Rivalry games will knock teams out of the playoff in addition to being battles for bragging rights.
3. The Current Bowl System Remains Intact
The "playoff season" format does not jeopardize the current bowl system or length of the season. The maximum length of the season under this system is thirteen games for the final four teams. Every team eliminate between the regional round and the final four will play in a consolation bowl game which will have the same role as the current bowl games do now.
BCS bowl games will become Final Four and Elite Eight matchups. As a result none of the profiteers from the BCS system loses out from switching to the playoff system while fans can still enjoy the holiday tradition of watching bowl games. Another positive is bad teams play only a nine game schedule and so fans will not need to watch boring or agonizing (if you happen to be a fan of one of them) games of weak teams.
4. Every Team Has a Fair Shot of Competing For a National Title
All 120 current FBS teams plus eight FCS callups will be placed in the draw, so all teams championship fate will be decided on the field. Polls, computers, or lack of style point will not prevent any team from a chance at a national title. At the end one team will stand as the national champion. Whether its USC, Alabama, or Central Michigan, whoever wins the tournament will be the undisputed national champion.
5. No Need to Schedule Cupcakes in Non-Conference Play
With no elimination risk from out of conference play and higher bowl payouts to teams who play tougher schedules, fans can expect to see more high profile out of league games in college football as they do in college basketball. Also season ticket holders can avoid being stuck paying for seeing Penn State-New Hampshire type of snoozers.
6. More Money for Schools Involved (Most Important Reason for University Presidents):
All of the revenue channels of the BCS system will remain in addition to more valuable TV contracts and increased ticket revenue arising from more high profile games. Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four games will blow out the ratings and national attention of current January 1 bowl games and the risk of a school's elimination on any given day will drive up attendance of schools with fair weather fans such as Miami.
Nothing is perfect in the world of sports and the playoff season does have some flaws. The traditional conference season model will have to be eliminated to be replaced by the extended pool play bracket (conference play in the current sense would remain for all non football sports).
The structure is similar to the UEFA Champions League or an expanded World Cup. It is a radical difference from the past form of a season, but I think it would provide a March Madness like sense of urgency to every game making the season more entertaining.
Also, some old conference rivalries will be ended or be played infrequently (Georgia-Auburn, Penn State-Iowa, USC-Washington, etc.) However, when these games ever are matched up again, there will be a significant amount more on the line when it comes to a national title. Another disadvantage is that the out of league games meaning are reduced to bowl game positioning for higher payout and more prestigious bowl games.
Overall, the "playoff season" is a better alternative to the current BCS system and possibly the traditional sense of a post season playoff. The "playoff season" preserves the importance of the regular season that college football fans value while providing for more stakes on the line with every conference game.
More high-profile games will also come from this system instead of top ranked teams trying to pad their win totals and point differentials through weak out of league scheduling.
Also, losing teams who maybe losing money would cut costs with less games played. It also may be more feasible for college footballs power brokers as it does not risk any member of the current system's revenues and most likely make more money for all parties.
Bonus: Predicted National Title Winner under Playoff Season System:
Rose Bowl: Boise State defeats Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Alabama defeats Nebraska
National Title Game: Boise State defeats Alabama
For more of Nick's writing on sports, the financial markets, and travel check out his online magazine Contrarian Lifestyle.