A College Football Playoff Proposal That Uses Current Bowls

Bill HahnContributor IJanuary 23, 2010

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07:  Running back Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs with the ball against the Texas Longhorns during the Citi BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl on January 7, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

ESPN continues to promote the idea of a 16-team playoff.  They use BCS rankings to determine each team’s seeding.  Their bracket system is found at http:


The problem with using the BCS poll (or any poll for that matter) is that it is determined by so-called experts who may know x’s and o’s, but have consistently proven that they know little more about individual teams and conferences than a well-informed fan. 

For example, if the proposed ESPN poll-based playoff system had been in place this year, the Big 10 would have been underrated, and the PAC-10 and the SEC overrated for playoff development purposes.

This misplaced perception of team and conference strength would have impacted home field assignments inappropriately.

Further, poll participants are subject to ESPN generated group-think which builds bias into the rating system in favor of “pet” teams or conferences.

In an insightful article posted on Dec. 20 on the Bucknuts website, Mr. Bucknuts set forth a comprehensive analysis of a way to conduct a 16-team playoff and still maintain the current bowl system. 

This is found at:  http:


For those who would like to see a national champion determined on the playing field, this article is an informative read.

I like what Mr. Bucknuts has to say, but offer an alternative proposal. In this proposal, which was developed with my football buddies, the polls are not used to determine playoff participants. 

Since most of the top 16 ranked teams each year are either the conference champion or conference runner-up, we use conference play to populate a 16-team playoff.

Here's how it would work. (Note: The bracket design presented by ESPN was used to present our tournament bracketing.)

1      Boise State                            2  Alabama                                                  

16    Clemson                               15   Virginia Tech

8     TCU                                        7   Texas

9     Arizona                                 10   West Virginia


5    Cincinnati                               6   Oregon

12  Nebraska                               11   Iowa

4    Ohio State                              3   Georgia Tech

13  Florida                                  14   LSU

There are four brackets and they are numbered one through four based on the first four bracket numbers.

In other words, the upper left bracket is one, the upper right two, the lower right three, and the lower left four.  This is important for major bowl assignment as well as home play as discussed later.

The bracket assignments from one through eight consist of the champions of the eight major conferences (ACC, B-10, B-12, P-10, B-East, SEC, Mountain West, and WAC). They are positioned in the bracket (filling numbers 1-8) by a random draw. 

These teams play the second place team in the six major conferences (ACC, B-10, B-12, P-10, B-East, SEC) and two at-large teams selected by a selection committee (I picked V-Tech and LSU for illustration purposes).  

In retrospect, Penn State would have been a more deserving choice than LSU.

The second-place teams are assigned (at random) in brackets on the opposite side of their conference champion. 

For example, the SEC champion (Alabama) is in a right-hand bracket, so the second-place team (Florida) is assigned to the left-hand bracket to avoid conference teams meeting prior to the national championship game.

The only exception would occur if a third team from a conference is selected for one of the two at large positions.

The teams in positions 1-8 would play a home game in mid-December (Dec. 19 this year). 

Winners (Elite 8) would then play in the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange bowls on Jan. 1 as shown above.  The other bowls would continue to be played and teams losing in the round of 16 could play in one of the remaining 29 bowls.

The bowl assignment brackets would be pre-determined.  In this proposal, bracket one is the Fiesta, bracket two the Sugar, bracket three the Rose, and bracket four the Orange. 

Since teams are assigned to brackets randomly, the bowl assignments can remain fixed from year to year. 

The final four would play the following week at neutral sites and the final two would play the week after that.

These games should be somewhere other than traditional bowl game venues.  In 2010, these games would fall on Jan. 9 and 16.

If you don’t like the above approach to the final four and championship games, an alternative would be to have the bracket winners (bowl champions) play at home, with brackets one and three at home in odd years and brackets two and four at home in even years.  The home year would be the year in which the game is played. 

Since the championship game in this example would be played in 2010, under this alternative, if TCU (bracket 1: Fiesta) and Ohio State (bracket 4: Orange) win their brackets, TCU travels to Ohio State. 

Similarly, if Alabama (bracket 2: Sugar) and Oregon (bracket 3: Rose) win their brackets, Oregon visits Alabama. 

The national championship game would then be played at a neutral site in the middle of the country for ease of access.  For example, in St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, or Indianapolis, just to name a few.

Sooner or later college football will determine a champion through a playoff.  Hopefully, it will be constructed in a way that minimizes polls.

Even more importantly, it should be developed in a way that is fair to all of the college football players that work hard for an opportunity to pursue a national title.

P.S.:  I am not sure if the bracket I uploaded as the picture for this article is working.  It shows initially, but not on the final edit page.  Thus, the bracketing is reproduced within the article just in case the picture of the proposed playoff bracket does not appear properly or is incorrect.