When the Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA), Division II and Division III can all do it, there is no excuse that the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) cannot. The excuses are just that, excuses, as a Division I playoff is just too simple to ignore.
This playoff can be instituted while keeping the lower level bowls intact for teams that do not qualify for the tournament. The lower divisions of college football have a few bowl games in addition to their playoff and there is no reason that the FBS Division I cannot do it either.
Heck, even NCAA basketball has the NIT for teams that were not quite good enough for the NCAA tournament but still had good season regardless.
The higher-tier bowls could rotate on a yearly basis and be used as the host sites for the latter rounds of the tournament. Please spare me the travel arrangement and class schedule arguments. Once again, if the lower level divisions can make it work, so can the bigger-budget Division I.
Many have suggested it before, but in order to make it fair, keep it interesting and give everyone a chance, the play-off has to include 16 teams. This would include the 11 conference champions and five “at-large” selections.
How the “at-large” selections are made could be via the polls, some sort of comprehensive ranking like the BCS or via a committee like the NCAA basketball tournament uses. For this argument, we will use the BCS rankings.
These 16 teams would then be ranked from one to 16 and an be matched up in a single elimination tournament with the first round at the higher seed’s home field with the next three rounds at the corresponding bowl sites that rotate on a yearly basis:
First Round – Lower Seed’s Home Field
Second Round – Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Orange Bowl
Semi-Finals – Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl
Championship Game – Fiesta Bowl
This would not diminish the regular season or make it less exciting. Tell that to Oregon State, who would have blown an automatic bid because of losing to state rival Oregon. Or to Ball State and Tulsa who blew their only chance to qualify by losing to Buffalo and ECU in the MAC and Conference USA Championships Game, respectively.
Win your conference and you are in. Play well at the end of the year and you have a change for an at-large spot, something the 2007 Georgia Bulldogs could have used to prove their doubters wrong.
So in 2008, here is how your NCAA Division I Football Play-Off would lay out:
11 Conference Champions – Automatic Qualifier
ACC – Virginia Tech Hokies
Big East – Cincinnati Bearcats
Big 10 – Penn State Nittany Lions
Big 12 – Oklahoma Sooners
Conference USA – East Carolina Pirates
MAC – Buffalo Bulls
Mountain West – Utah Utes
Pacific 10 – USC Trojans
SEC – Florida Gators
Sun Belt – Troy Trojans
WAC – Boise State Broncos
5 At-Large Bids (highest BCS ranking of non-conference champions)
Alabama Crimson Tide
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Ohio State Buckeyes
TCU Horned Frogs
The little guys like TCU, Utah and Boise State get a chance to prove that they can play with the big boys. The Big 12 three-way tie debacle still existing but all three teams; Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech; get into the play-offs.
And of the six “BCS” conferences, only the ACC sends a representative with more than two losses. Only the crème de la crème, gentlemen.
So (again using the BCS rankings) the following first round match-ups would occur.
#16 Troy at #1 Florida
#9 Boise State at #8 Penn State
#12 Cincinnati at #5 USC
#13 Virginia Tech at #4 Alabama
#11 TCU at #6 Utah
#14 East Carolina at #3 Texas
#10 Ohio State at #7 Texas Tech
#15 Buffalo at #2 Oklahoma
Other than the 1/16 and maybe the 2/15 match-up, is there a game that isn’t interesting?
Boise State leaving the “smurf turf” to face a “white out” in Happy Valley. Beamer Ball vs. the Florida spread offense. A Mountain West rematch between TCU and Utah. A Southern shoot-out with East Carolina facing Texas. A contrast in styles as Ohio State takes on Texas Tech.
The second round would be just as interesting. Possible second round match-ups of Florida/Penn State, USC/Alabama, Utah/Texas, and Ohio State/Oklahoma. Who wouldn’t want to see any of those games instead of two 6-6 teams matching up in a low budget bowl?
It is just too easy and too incredible to ignore. So grow a pair and get on board, Big Ten and PAC 10. Stop holding things up, BCS Bowl chairmen.
Stop trying to sell me a Clemson vs. Notre Dame Gator Bowl as something I want to see. In a time of change, it’s time for a change in Division I college football. The fans are too smart to think what we have now is legit.