College Football Playoff -- As Easy as 1, 2, 3
Why we need one? For 80% this seems obvious, but let me break it down for the 20% who don’t seem to get it. As much as you think the system is working and fair, it’s not.
First of all, most of the teams don’t have any chance before they open fall camp. If you aren’t pre-season ranked Top 20, you are pretty much out of it already. What if you are Preseason #3, go undefeated, and don’t get a chance just because #1 and #2 never lose. Is that fair?
Secondly, schedules are not equal. Because you go undefeated in the WAC doesn’t mean you are better than someone who loses two games in the SEC. However just because you go undefeated in the SEC doesn’t mean you are better than someone undefeated in the WAC.
There is only one way to determine a true champion. Everyone comes in with a chance and you get to prove if you belong or don’t based on your play on the field, not what sports writers or computers think.
If college basketball had the BCS system, Butler wouldn’t have had a chance because they play in the Horizon League. Yet, they beat #1 Syracuse, #2 Kansas State, and fell two points short of the national championship. Is Boise State the best team in the country, or would they get killed by a two loss SEC team? I don’t know, but here is a crazy idea. Let’s find out.
Here is a system that debunks all the myths about creating a playoff system.
1. Copy the NFL Structure
The NFL playoff system works very well, and might be a better fit for college football.
12 teams are determined by the seven major conference winners (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 10, and Mountain West). Five wild card teams are picked by a committee (just like the basketball tournament.) Any team no matter what conference automatically gets in if undefeated. The committee puts them into two brackets, with seeds #1- #6, trying to split up conference opponents as much as possible to avoid rematches.
In the first round, the top two seeds in each bracket get byes. The middle two plays the lower two. Higher seeds get home games. 2nd and 3rd rounds are also played in the home stadiums of the higher seeds. The national championship game is played on a neutral site, just like it is now.
2. Keep the Bowl Games
Twelve teams make the playoffs, so they are out, but that is six or so bowl games impacted. Just move everyone up a position and eliminate the bottom bowls. You can’t tell me we can’t have a playoff because we might lose the Mienke Car Care Bowl or the St. Petersburg Bowl. And if we have to have them, keep them too. We are adding bowl games every year so it’s not like somebody doesn’t think they are profitable and worth having.
Sure, with eliminating the best 12 teams from the bowls, each bowl will take a little hit, but they will all survive. Kansas, TCU, Boise State, Hawaii, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech have all played in BCS bowl games in just the last few years. None of them are huge draws or stir up a ton of excitement, yet the Bowl Games survived and did just fine. Fans of those schools playing and college football in general will still go and watch. Having a playoff doesn’t change that.
3. Make the Regular Season MORE Exciting
Pundits on ESPN and others will tell you that a playoff hurts the regular season and that now every week is a playoff. The problem with that is most of us aren’t as interested in college football as whole as much as we are interested in our team. With one loss and you are out, your season can end pretty early. If you are a Texas or Florida fan, your dream is to win a National Championship. For Texas, that ended last week, and for Florida this week. Are those fans more excited now that they are eliminated? Sure, they will still go to and watch the games, but the interest will be down, the interest from their fans for the national scene is down and outsider’s interest in them is down because they are out. Look at baseball. The wild card boosted interest because it kept teams in the race longer. A playoff does the same for college football.
While one loss might not eliminate you, every game is still extremely important. Only 12 teams get in and they are seeded, with higher seeds getting byes and home games. The difference between #2 and #9 seed might be one loss, but that is the difference between having to win two home games and having to win three road games to get into the national championship game. If you are Florida, dropping a late season SEC game or the SEC title game could be the difference between going to Lincoln in December and getting to play the Big East winner at home. Big difference, so every game is still extremely important.
This in time can also solve what most of those ESPN pundits complain about most about the regular season, cupcake games. If you are in the SEC or Big 10, now you have to go undefeated to win the national championship, why would you add a Texas, when an Akron will play you? There is no incentive to play good teams in the non-conference. A playoff could do that. First it takes the fear of losing a game early ending your season, but also you can reward teams that play a tougher schedule. Have the committee give special attention to it in selecting the five wild cards. Say you have a two loss SEC team and a two loss Big 10 team as your last two “bubble” teams. One played a couple of road non-conference games or a Top 10 team. The committee would give them the advantage over a team that played four home games, couple of which against FCS teams.
Maybe I am dreaming here, but maybe we can even set up conference challenges each weekend of September, like in basketball. One week could be Big 12 vs. Pac 10, then SEC vs. Big 10, and ACC vs. Big East. The champions from the season before match up, #2’s, #3’s, and so on, match up. Everyone plays that game, plus a non-conference rivalry type game, and then they can fill in with a couple of mid majors.
There you go. Playoffs, everyone gets a chance, a real champion is decided, and there is more excitement for everyone for the entire season.