Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

We Need Playoffs in College Football!!!

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 3, 2008

I have so much to say on this topic that I’m not sure where to begin.  The current college football system to determine a champion is so absurd that no words I can use to describe it would do it justice.  Imagine for a moment if the NFL has a BCS type of system instead of its current playoff setup.  Each of the past three seasons would have turned out radically different if you had simply selected the top two teams and automatically advanced them to the Super Bowl without a playoff tournament.  Here what would have resulted with a “BCS” type system and what actually transpired:

2005: hypothetical “BCS” matchup: Indianapolis (No. 1 AFC) vs. Seattle (No. 1 NFC)                

          reality: Pittsburgh (No. 6 AFC) vs. Seattle

2006:  hypothetical “BCS” matchup: San Diego (No. 1 AFC) vs. Chicago (No. 1. NFC)

           reality: Indianapolis (No. 3 AFC) vs. Chicago

2007:  hypothetical “BCS” matchup: New England (No. 1 AFC) vs. Dallas (No. 1 NFC)

           reality: New England vs. NY Giants (No. 5 NFC)

The point of this is to illustrate that the Super Bowl hardly ever ends up actually matching the top two teams from each conference during the regular season, so why should it be assumed that the BCS Championship game wouldn’t be different after a playoff?  This year’s setup for starters has all kinds of red flags, not the least of which is Oklahoma leapfrogging Texas for a spot in the Big 12 title game on Saturday, and thus an inside track to the title game.  Of course, the other absurdity here is that Texas could end up benefiting by not playing if Mizzou upsets the Sooners, which is possible but not likely.  That argument aside, Texas Tech deserves to gripe as well, being that they beat Texas and sport the same record as Texas and OU at 11-1.  How about the other one loss teams?  Florida is considered the front runner if they beat undefeated Alabama on Saturday, but why should the Tide necessarily fall behind say Texas or OU?  What about USC?  Or Penn State?   Those teams have one loss too.  This doesn’t even take into account Utah and Boise State, both of whom are undefeated, and in Utah’s case having beaten several quality opponents.  Because these teams were ranked low to start the season and don’t play in power conferences, they are automatically ineligible for a national title.  In basketball, every team can win the national championship.  Granted it’s unlikely, but last year Davidson was one shot away from making the Final Four, and of course George Mason made the Final Four a few years ago.  The mid-majors have a chance in basketball, but are given no chance in football.  For me the biggest BCS farce of all-time was in 2004, when Auburn went undefeated, beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, and still didn’t get a shot at the national title because USC also went undefeated.  Or how about 2001, when a one loss Oregon team was left out of the title game in favor of one loss Nebraska, who didn’t win its own conference or even make it to the Big 12 title game? 

The current system essentially rewards team for losing early in the season, which is why Oklahoma and Florida are in the driver’s seat so to speak.  Because Texas Tech lost recently (granted by a lot) they slipped too far in the BCS standings to catch up.   A championship game matchup shouldn’t strictly be based on who is hot at the end of the season.  Sure, that can allow a team to run through a playoff, but at least then they are earning it on the field, not getting rewarded by voters or computers.  I realize playoff proposals are the rage these days, and we know that ESPN has signed up for the tv rights for the BCS until 2014.  Knowing this, it appears we are stuck with this system until at least that time.  Let’s also be frank here, money has been the driving factor for the college presidents wanting to keep the status quo.  They also don’t want to wreck the tradition of the bowls, but haven’t they already done that by playing the national title game on Jan. 8?  Or playing the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5 instead of New Year’s Day? 

My plan involves  the best of both worlds, involving a 16-team playoff while preserving the bowls, sort of.  Here’s how it works:

1. Shorten the regular season: I say let’s eliminate one of the four non-conference games at the start of the season, which all they are is a power team beating up on little sisters of the poor in a no tv game.  Dropping the regular season back to 11 games from 12 would counter the argument that the season would be too long with a playoff.  If that really is their reasoning for not having a playoff, why did they add a 12th regular season game and drag out the bowls past New Years Day?  It makes no sense. 

2. Eliminate the conference championship games: I realize this will never happen because it is too much of a moneymaker, but if a playoff is to be possible, cutting out these games and staging the first round of the playoffs in the first weekend of December would make sense.  That way a full playoff could be staged, but it wouldn’t completely drag out the season.  Conference tournaments are easier to stage in basketball while preserving a tournament because they play so many more games anyway.  As far as the money argument goes, I argue that the tvcontract and ticket revenue streams from a playoff would more than make up for lost revenue from eliminating the conference championships.  Down the road, if there is a way to preserve these games while still going through with a playoff, I’m all for that, but that wouldn’t be realistic.

3. Play the round of 16 in the first weekend of December at home sites:

Start with automatic bids for the champions of the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big East, Pac 10 and Mountain West conferences.  That leaves nine available at-large spots, leaving room for the Boise State’s of the world and other top teams.  Since Notre Dame is not in a conference, they would fall in the at-large category.  In the round of 16, the top 8 would have home field advantage.  I would suggest using a committee similar to basketball to decide the at-large teams and to seed everyone, but another option would be to use the BCS to seed the teams.  Using that, here’s how the round 16 could potentially look this year:

      – No. 16 Georgia at No. 1 Alabama 

      – No. 15 Georgia Tech  at No. 2 Oklahoma

      – No. 14 Oklahoma State at No. 3 Texas

      – No. 13 Cincinnati at No. 4 Florida

      – No. 12 Ball State at No. 5 USC

      – No. 11 TCU at No. 6 Utah

      – No. 10 Ohio State at No. 7 Texas Tech

      – No. 9 Boise State at No. 8 Penn State

Obviously this is a very rough outline, and these pairings result in a lot of conference rematches, but that could be cleaned up by the committee similar to they way they do it in basketball.  In this setup, undefeated Utah, Boise State, and Ball State would have a chance to join the fray.  Think of the excitement a Utah home game against say, Ohio State, would generate.  A school like Boise State finishes unbeaten, let’s see how they do in Happy Valley.  The conference breakdown in this setup of eligible teams is much better than the current setup:

        – Big 12: 4 teams

        – SEC: 3 teams

        – Big 10: 2 teams

        – Mountain West: 2 teams

        – ACC, Big East, Pac 10, MAC, WAC: 1 team each

In some years, the Big 10 may have 4 teams and the Big 12 two teams, or whatever the breakdown would be in most years.  This year, the SEC and Big 12 are by far the best conferences, so they would get more teams in the party this year.  The point is each of these teams (especially Utah and Boise State) would have a shot at a national title, which they are essentially not eligible for right now.

4. Play the quarterfinals, semifinals, and title game as part of the existing bowls:

For arguments sake of this year, let’s say the higher seeded teams in our first round example were to advance.  I say let’s pick some of the best bowl games and incorporate them into our tournament, starting with the quarterfinals.  These bowls would benefit because their games would become meaningful again, and fans might actually be more inclined to watch.  You could have in the quarterfinals in the second weekend of December looking this way:

        – Gator Bowl: Alabama vs. Penn State

        – Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech

        – Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Utah

        – Holiday Bowl: Florida vs. USC

Your semifinals could be matched in the Fiesta and Orange Bowls on Dec. 20, and then stage your national title game on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl.   I picked the Rose Bowl to host the national title game because that way it could stay on New Year’s Day.  I think it’s safe to say the Rose Bowl still is the one with most tradition left, and it seems like the perfect annual host for the national title game.  I thought about rotating the national title game, but the Rose Bowl seems perfect for the national title game.  Imagine 100,000 people in one of the most special places in sports actually seeing a national champion crowned the right way in college football.   Sure beats teams running up scores to impress pollsters doesn’t it?

I know this proposal is not perfect by any means, but is playing the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 20 in a national semifinal any worse than playing it on Jan. 5 when it is completely meaningless?  I argue that playing it in a semifinal context is infinitely better in every way.  Sure, in a 16-team playoff there would still be teams that feel they would be left out, such as Missouri, BYU, Boston College, Oregon, and Michigan State this season.  That argument would exist no matter how many teams you allowed in, and to me 16 seems like the perfect number.  In the short term, I would settle for 8 or even 4, for even that would be better than the current system.  Hell, in the short term I’d even settle for a plus 1 after the bowl games.  As for the rest of the bowls, such as the extremely prestigious Bowl, let’s keep those and allow teams that didn’t make the playoffs to compete there a la the NIT in basketball.  Regardless of what it would ultimately look like, a playoff system of some kind in college football is obviously long overdue, and it seems like the only people who can’t see that are the ones in charge.  I have not met a single person who actually thinks the current setup is a good idea, so let’s get on with it and get it changed. 

I welcome your feedback and suggestions for a playoff as well.  Any idea is a good one that would bounce the farce that is the BCS and get a playoff system going.  In the meantime, just about every team will have an argument that they should be in the title game, while having no true way to settle this.


4 Responses to “We Need Playoffs in College Football!!!”

  1. You make a very interesting comparison between the NFL and College Football. Some of your changes will never happen like getting rid of league championship games. I don’t mind the BCS system myself. When the current contract ends we will have to see what changes are made.

  2. afrankangle said

    Interesting post. I’m not a BCS fan, so I’ll be the contrarian here.

    1) Schools don’t want a shorter season because of the effect of revenue, thus budgets.

    2) Conferences don’t want to eliminate their championship game because of the revenue.

    3) Oh my … can you envision the whining about selecting the 16?

    4) The BSC format is all about revenue for the BCS Conferences.

  3. mizzou1028 said

    Good comments by both of you. I do realize that much of this never has a chance to happen because of the revenue factor. Of course the reason the system exists this way is because of money. I’m certainly not naive enough to think that there is any other reason. I do however think that a playoff has the potential to generate as much or more revenue as the current setup. Of course there would also be debate about the 16 teams selected, but there is debate now over the current setup. It is impossible to have any kind of system and not have a debate over it.

    It also looks like there might have been another comment that caught in my spam filter and accidently lost. Apologies for that, and if that person is out there you are more than welcome to resubmit your comment.

  4. Doug Baker said

    At least with a debate over 16 teams, who would really care if the 17th team might have been worhty of being the playoff? Now we have a system where the two TOP teams are in dispute, which is a travesty.

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