ESPN has gotten itself all excited over the ten-year anniversary of the BCS, featuring dueling columns on the front page by Pat Forde and Ivan Maisel. Forde presents the always easy-to-formulate anti-BCS column, and Maisel plays Devil’s advocate literally by defending the money grubbing heads of the NCAA in Indianapolis (OK, that’s an unfair criticism, but it is not without some merit).
I agree with Forde on most points, including the general idea of an eight-team playoff. I’m into specifics though, and the playoff system I’ve formulated makes so much sense I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work. This one keeps the Bowl system intact, adds only two weeks of football to the schedule (over Christmas break where there isn’t football anyway), and gives college football a legit national champion.
The only criticism I can see with this system is that it only allows a maximum of one team from each conference to compete in the playoff: The conference champion. But doesn’t it make a whole heck of a lot of sense that you shouldn’t be allowed to win a national championship if you can’t win your own conference? Forget the pros where divisions change so frequently and the playoffs are such a change of pace that wild-card teams often end up with a title. In college, you can’t tell me that a non-championship Nebraska team deserved to be in the Rose Bowl playing Miami for a title in 2002 while the Pac-10 champion Ducks of Oregon were shelved in Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl. No more gray area. If you can’t win you’re conference, you can’t win a national championship. Simple as that.
Without further ado, let’s get to the system. Here’s who qualifies:
-The six BCS conference champions (Pac-10, Big XII, Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and SEC)
-The two highest ranked mid-major conference champions (or independents), based on an average of the coaches and media polls (tie goes to the computer, which in this case would be the Sagarin rankings, which I love and subsequently make more sense than the current BCS computer)
The teams are then seeded 1 through 8, based on the average of their rankings in the media and coaches poll (tie again to the computer). Let’s look at who would qualify last year:
1. Ohio State (Big Ten, ranking avg 1.00)
2. LSU (SEC, ranking avg 2.00)
3. Oklahoma (Big XII, ranking avg 3.50)
4. Virginia Tech (ACC, ranking avg 4.00)
5. USC (Pac-10, ranking avg 6.50)
6. West Virginia (Big East, ranking avg 10.00 )
7. Hawai’i (Mid-major/WAC, avg 10.00)
8. Brigham Young (Mid-major/Mountain West, avg 18.00)
A quick note: I can’t see the Sagarin rankings at the end of the regular season from 2007, so I’ll assume West Virginia had the higher ranking based on their schedule strength.
Now, a casual fan might say, “Shouldn’t Georgia be there? Or Missouri? Or Kansas?” My response is too bad, because none of those three won their conference. Yes, BYU isn’t nearly the team those others are, but they won their conference and also provide an “easier” matchup for the team that earned the #1 seed. Speaking of seeding, here’s how it would play out. The first two rounds would be hosted by the higher ranked team, and the national championship would be done the same way it is now, in the same city as one of the four BCS bowls.
1 Ohio State
4 Virginia Tech
6 West Virginia
This home-field advantage concept is one I love. Can you imagine Death Valley in a playoff atmosphere? Or Virginia Tech hosting a first round game last season? It would be incredible, and easy to facilitate.
Now, there is one very valid criticism of this system that should be made. The regular season still matters quite a lot with this system, but only in conference. Games played out of conference don’t really influence anything but seeding. But isn’t that how the basketball regular season works? I don’t find that any less exciting. Also, with one and two-loss teams in the BCS title game now, do those big non-conference games matter a whole lot anyway? If you lose one it doesn’t necessarily eliminate you from a championship.
Also, it eliminates the current system where teams in a conference can wuss out of their non-conference schedule by stacking teams like ITT Tech or University of Phoenix Online at home. Now, if a team like Alabama travels to Michigan, it knows that a loss won’t kill their season. It will, however, amp up ticket sales and TV ratings.
Now, the part of this system that should appeal to the traditional side of college football: Keep the bowls. Not only that, the bowls are more traditional in that they can keep their traditional conference alignments and choose any team they want as long as they aren’t in the title game or have already played in the playoffs.
Let’s say all the seeds hold and #1 Ohio State and #2 LSU meet in the title game. The other bowls hold matchups that are almost exactly the same as the ones they held last year with the BCS system. In fact, only last year’s Fiesta Bowl wouldn’t work in this system, because it put together Oklahoma and West Virginia (a first-round playoff matchup). Here’s how I would matchup the bowls:
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Illionis
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Hawai’i
Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs. Kansas
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Virginia Tech
Two of the bowls are exactly the same as the ones we saw last year, and the other two just flipped an opponent to prevent a playoff rematch. Everybody wins. We get a clear-cut, deserving national champion every single year, and all the regular Bowl games at their regularly scheduled time. No pushing playoff games to Bowl cities and calling them “bowls”. Not one single bowl game is eliminated, not one dollar of the NCAA’s precious, precious money is lost.
In fact this system means more money for NCAA football. Can you envision the ratings the playoff games would bring? The ticket sales for the home teams in the playoffs? Plus, people already go to BCS bowl games between two teams that can’t win the national championship game. Just because their team lost in the playoffs doesn’t mean they won’t show up for a Rose Bowl in droves.
I don’t see any reason why this playoff system wouldn’t work. It even appeases one particular “powerhouse” of college football, Notre Dame, who could easily find themselves as a #1 or #2 mid-major/independent on a yearly basis. Maybe it just makes too much sense. In fact, the maximum number of games a team could play in a season (12 regular season games plus up to three playoff games) would be 15, still one less than a traditional NFL regular season. It can be done.
The only problem is the old guard of college football who is too stubborn to understand why this system would work or risk anything that could end up costing them a dime of their precious money. Among them is Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen, who won’t even support a plus-one BCS system, which many other conference leaders believe is a reasonable compromise.
It’s time for change. If not now, this will happen someday. My generation overwhelmingly supports a playoff system in college football, and the FBS level of college football is the only division of the game that doesn’t have one. The question is: can money made by common sense outweigh money fueled by controversy?