NCAA Football: How to Have a Playoff Without Destroying College Football

Clint BryantCorrespondent IIDecember 31, 2010

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07:  The BCS National Championship trophy which was won by the Alabama Crimson Tide after winning the Citi BCS National Championship game over the Texas Longhorns at the Rose Bowl on January 7, 2010 in Pasadena, California. The Crimson Tide defeated the Longhorns 37-21.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It happens every year.

As NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision season comes to a close, the top teams are discussed and analyzed by poll voters who cast their votes that will ultimately determine who plays for the National Championship. 

Then it begins.

"We need a playoff!!!"

"The Football Championship Subdivision has a playoff, why don't we?"

Many believe that the colleges stand to lose too much money from the current and very profitable bowl game system.

It has been debated for years and will probably be discussed for many more. While many propose a playoff, how would it actually be implemented?  How would you choose the teams and how many teams would be included?

If there is a major change in determining the national champion of college football, one item that needs to be corrected is getting the poll voters out of the process. Nothing waters down a championship system than trusting the objectiveness of those who choose the No. 1 and No. 2 teams.

What possible system could be introduced that would remove polls from determining champions?

It all starts with a process that is already underway in college football:

Conference realignment—and I mean a big one.

The conferences have been teetering on the edge of a "team-invite war" for years. 

The ACC successfully captured the heart of the Big East's competitive force in 2004 when Virginia Tech and Miami made the move. Boston College followed a year later.

In 2010, the Big Ten and the Pac-10 made big moves to get to 12 teams in order to have a conference championship game, though bigger changes were rumored to have been proposed behind closed doors.

The NCAA has to recognize that the conferences are being forced into a self-preservation mode that will cause these types of invites—Grow or die.

The Big East has never been the same and the Big 12 nearly perished after the latest round of realignment.

In order to move to a playoff, the NCAA needs to broker the conference realignment to put all 120 FBS teams into eight conferences. It could look something like this.

ACCBig EastBig 16Big SouthWest
Boston CollegeBall StAkronArkansas St
DukeCincinnatiIndianiaIowa State
East CarolinaLouisvilleIowaKansas
Florida IntNavyKent StKansas State
Florida StNotre DameMichigan Louisiana Laf
Georgia TechPittsburghMichigan StateLouisiana Mon
MiamiTempleNorthwesternOklahoma St.
NC StateToledoOhioTCU
UNCUconnOhio StateTexas
USFW. KentuckyPenn StateTexas A&M
VirginiaWest VirginiaPurdueTexas Tech
Virginia Tech
W. Michigan
Wake Forest
Conference USAMountain WestPac 16SEC
ArmyAir ForceArizonaAlabama
Bowling GreenBoise StArizona St.Arkansas
Central MichiganBYUCalAuburn
Eastern MichiganColorado StColoradoFlorida
HoustonIdahoFresno StateFlorida Atl
MarshallN. IllinoisHawaiiGeorgia
Miami OHNevadaOregonKentucky
RiceNew MexicoOregon St.Louisiana Tech
SMUNew Mexico StSan Diego StLSU
Southern MissNorth TexasSan Jose StMiddle Tenn
TulaneUtah StUCLAMississippi St
TulsaUTEPUSCSouth Carolina


Washington St.Vanderbilt

This is just an example of course, and there would be some problems to work out, but how would this system become a playoff?

With eight major conferences, you would have an easy way to create a sixteen team playoff using the conference championship game as the first round.

The eight conference champions would move on.

This would introduce two extra football games to the season.  These games would be played at the stadiums of the participating schools by either rotating the host team each year or using the polls and making the highest ranked team the home team.

Many of the bowl games could still be held for the non-conference champion teams, which would keep the new playoff system from alienating bowl proponents.

Some problems that would have to be overcome would be deciding which teams land in which of the eight conferences and what would happen to current conferences that do not become one of the eight?—MAC, WAC, Sun Belt?

It may be a sad reality of growth, but only the strong survive, so these conferences would most likely be disbanded if a playoff system like the one above is introduced.

While this is a sad truth, we have many positives that we can take from such a system

—Finally, a system in which wins and losses alone determine the champion.

—New conferences that do not include traditional powers which will bring new faces to the national title picture.

—Bigger conferences allow new match-ups between teams that do not traditionally play each other.

So while it appears that the good would outweigh the bad, when or will this ever happen? 

Would there have to be a catalyst to get this system, or a similar one, moving? 

Only time will tell if the college football world ever grows so weary of the current system that it makes a dramatic move such as this. 

One thing is for sure, any system that allows the teams to decide the national champion without relying on voters or computers will be a better system than we have now.

Let's hope the decision makers of College Football agree.


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