Its that time of year again. You see it each year on ESPN, message boards, blogs, newspapers, etc. What the hell would college football look like if like EVERY OTHER sport, even its smaller divisions, it had a playoff system intact? Who gets invited? How many teams? How is the bracket setup? As half of your College Football tandem here at The Sports Headquarters, I’m giving you my take on what the ideal system for a College Football Playoff would be, including this year’s bracket. Who would win? Well that’s for you to decide. K.M and I already do enough predicting around these parts so I’ll leave that up to you. But first off, lets get the most ridiculous excuses out of the way:
1) It would kill the regular season
Not at all. Because this isn’t a March Madness bracket. There’s not 64 teams in this playoff system. What are we going with? 16 teams. That’s it. And there’s restrictions. But I’ll get to that in a bit when I lay out a few of the rules for potential participants. First off, I understand this argument. College Football is a great sport (the best IMO) because of how important its regular season is. You can’t limp through the season and win a title like you can in some other sports. The NFC West is going to get a playoff team in the NFL this year, that’s inexcusable. Here at The Sports Headquarters, we aren’t handing out charity spots. You need to earn it. In my system, you would struggle mightily to make the playoffs with multiple losses, or via a terrible conference. These things are accounted for. At the same time, I don’t demand perfection and I think its somewhat silly to do so. How many of the “best” teams didn’t win the title because of one bad Saturday. In my opinion, its getting to the point in most years where you have to go unbeaten to ensure your in the discussion. Lose once, and you might not get a shot, and realistically I think that’s extreme. So while a playoff might cut teams some slack, it certainly won’t excuse them from having to play well, or ruin late season games. Those #1 vs. #2 SEC title games we had with Bama and Florida the last two seasons that were huge, well I’ll concede we’ll lose the significance of those, but those aren’t an every year thing anyways.
2) It ruins the Bowl Experience
Not true. The NCAA can still have bowls for all of the teams who aren’t in the playoffs. And in fact, with the time-frame the playoff would take, if its a must, you could have first-round losers get an additional bowl game. End of the day whether its a playoff game or a Bowl game, a team gets their bonus game at the end of the year. These are college kids, not professionals. Yes, they may like their week in Hawaii if they end up in the Sheraton Bowl, but you can’t tell me a kid who plays in the Humanitarian Bowl in Idaho is going to be upset he misses that week. And in most cases, the teams who make the playoffs, will be playing at nice establishments anyways. A playoff isn’t taking Bowls away, it just gives the teams who don’t play a “Bowl”, an opportunity to play more games than they would if the BCS bowl system stayed intact.
3) These are students, not professionals, they have class
So college basketball players don’t have class? There’s ONE WEEK of Spring break that generally is in effect during March Madness, so that week they’re out of classes, but otherwise school is in session. You can’t tell me the players in March Madness during their class weeks are actually getting a ton of work done while they’re prepping for a tournament game. I just can’t buy that. Plus, by the time the CFB playoffs would start, IT’S WINTER BREAK. If that’s suppose to be their time off, well then don’t play football. These kids aren’t getting 3 weeks off and then coming back for a week of practice before their bowl game. They’re practicing most of the 3-4 weeks anyways, so why not make more games. You could have the whole thing done before the Spring semester starts. So of the 3 excuses that are most common that I’ve attempted to refute, this one holds the least validity.
Ok, well now that we’ve gotten most of those out of the way, let me start with the few rules I would have for my College Football Playoffs.
Rule #1: 3 Teams Per Conference
Slightly more than the BCS Bowls allow, in a 16 team field, as strong as I believe the SEC and Big 12 are most years, if you can’t finish in the Top 3 of your conference, then you should have no chance to claim your the best team in the country. The top 3 teams would be determined by the BCS standings. So though South Carolina made the SECCG and lost, they don’t go as the #2 SEC team. Doesn’t work that way. Its ONE conference, not two. Nobody gets a free pass for playing in a weak division.
Rule #2: Non-AQ’s conference champs get an Auto-Bid ONLY if they finish the season in the Top 35 AND have 2 teams from their conference in the Top 50. (Which includes the conference champ)
What does this all mean you ask? For example, this year TCU would make the field because Utah is also a Top 50 team. Miami of Ohio would make the field because Northern Illinois is a Top 50 team as well. UCF goes because Tulsa is a Top 50 team. Florida International? Sorry. Your a conference champ and ranked 81st in the nation. Why should you get a spot? Now obviously the numbers are clearly debateable. Top 25 is certainly a respectable qualification for a conference champ but I went to 35 because of the at times bias to BCS conferences. Really all I’m asking from my conference champs outside the BCS leagues is you earn enough respect to be a Top 35 team and you had one respectable opponent in your conference. I’m not handing out playoff berths to teams who never play a challenge or lose their only challenges. You want to dominate a bad league with no quality opponents, well then enjoy your bowl games and forgive me for not welcoming you to a playoff.
Rule #3. First round games played on the campus of the higher seed, neutral fields starting in the Quaterfinals.
Ideally this is the playoffs and all games would be on neutral fields, but given the limited stadiums, and the budgets of schools, I can’t ask schools to fly around the country for 4 games. Especially if you earned a high seed. If a lower-seeded team makes a cinderella run and has to travel a ton, well then that’s what you have to do to win a title. Any football game that’s played involves traveling for one team (unless its same-state schools located near one another) so its impossible to eliminate traveling fares. Also, I think this is a reward to teams who earn it to give their fans an additional home game.
Rule #4: The 16 teams will be selected using the BCS Standings, but ranked in order regardless of conference champs or not.
What this means is if 9 of the 11 conference champs make the playoffs, then those are your 9 automatic bids. After that, however many teams need to be picked to fill out the 16 will be done in order, following rule #1 of only 3 teams per conference. This leaves any doubt as to who gets in and who doesn’t. No tie-breakers. Unless we form a selection committee than the BCS is the one thing we can use to pick teams. Also, Im not going to seed UCF as a conference champ higher than say Stanford who was #2 in the PAC-10 this year. That would only hurt the top seeds if they had to play the #2 PAC-10 team for example, over a Sun Belt qualifying champ. Fair right?
Rule #5: No referees from a conference affiliated in the game will be allowed to ref that game.
All that nonsense with SEC refs in the last few years, or the refs in the Big 12 title game last year, not in my playoffs. If they screw up their own conference races, well that’s on their league to fix. But in my playoffs, nope, not happening. If an SEC team is playing someone from the ACC, well hello teams, here is your PAC-10 officiating crew. If a game is called poorly and the public wants to argue conspiracy between other conferences, well that’s a battle I’ll live with. But I’m not having an ACC crew influence a game positively for an ACC team over a Big 12 team in the playoffs. Neutral referee crews will be used.
How would this play out?
The playoffs would begin the week after the Conference Championship games with the Round of 16. So this year that would be the 11th, Quaterfinals on the 18th, bye week before the National Semi-Finals, Semi’s on the New Year’s Day, and the title on the 8th, a few days before the season actually ends this year. Wouldn’t push any schedules back, would provide ample time to finish, and most importantly would crown a champion free of controversy (beyond any questionable game outcomes). Each year there would be a bye week before the Semi-Finals. Games in the Quarters would be played at the 4 major BCS Bowl locations. The Semi’s would play at two of the 4 locations with each year alternating which two bowls get two games, and the national championship played at an NFL stadium predetermined before the playoffs started to coincide with an NFL team who is on the road that week. (That last part might be tricky, but Im sure they could make it work.)
What would this year’s bracket look like?
Great question. Using this year’s BCS standings, here’s what the bracket would look like:
16. Miami, OH
9. Michigan St.
12. Virginia Tech
6. Ohio St.
10. Boise St.
As you can see, the SEC, and Big Ten got their max 3 teams in. The PAC-10 got two and even the WAC got 2 with Boise getting an at-large. Every other conference was given one. Nevada was given the WAC title because of a 3-way tie with Boise and Hawaii. Under WAC tie-breaker policies, the first element is overall record which eliminated Hawaii from contention. Once Hawaii was out, it went to H2H play which gave the conference title to Nevada.
Its not a perfect science. I expect a lot of suggestions and complaints (mostly when I post it on CBS). But I think its fair to all conferences, fair to the top teams, and would give us a much more exciting and true national championship race. As always, I welcome any comments, criticisms, etc.
And be on the lookout for an upcoming TSHQ Bowl Game Special featuring myself and K.M breaking down the 15 biggest games of the College Football Bowl Season.