Sunday, December 4, 2011

College Football Playoff

Now that the regular season and conference championship games are over, I once again came up with my ideal playoff scenario. I can't imagine anyone objectively defending the BCS system or even the existence of the BCS. Originally establishing itself ostensibly with the worthy goal of setting up a national championship game to determine a definitive number one team. Previously, the bowl games chose participating teams based on their own interests, plus there were conference affiliations that often prevented a number one versus number two game. You might remember that the Big 8 champion went to the Orange Bowl, Big 10 and Pac 10 to the Rose Bowl, Southwest Conference to the Cotton Bowl, Southeast to the Sugar Bowl. As a result, there wsa sometimes a controversy over who was number one at the end of the season, and sometimes the AP and UPI (later the coaches' poll) chose different champions.

So the BCS was supposed to end the controversy, but if anything the controversies have increased, over who should be chosen for the championship game. Sometimes, like this year, one team is a clear choice with several teams possible for the second spot, sometimes there is no clear choice at all, and sometimes the clear choice is left out entirely, like the example I always bring up, the 2008 Utah Utes. Utah and TCU were the only undefeated teams at the end of the regular season, but not being from one of the "BCS Conferences", neither one received any serious consideration for the championship game, the excuse being that since they were from "small conferences" they haven't played a strong enough schedule. But both teams' play, especially Utah's, throughout the season showed that they were as strong as any other team in the country. One-loss Ohio State and two-loss LSU went to the championship game that year. Utah beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl by two touchdowns.

There are many problems with the BCS, the most glaring being that it has chosen six conferences as members, supposedly the strongest conferences. Generally they are the stronger conferences, but in recent years no one can honestly say that the Big East or even the ACC are stronger than the Mountain West or the WAC (at least before the defection of Utah), or this year Conference USA. No matter how strong TCU or Houston or Boise State actually are, it's predetermined before the season even starts that they will have no chance of playing for a national championship. This is also the greatest hypocrisy of the BCS, that it purports to have the championship decided "on the field, not in the polls", but those who have displayed "on the field" that they have been better than their opponent every week are passed over for a team that has displayed "on the field" that another was better than them on at least one particular day. And then the undefeated team is supposed to get on their knees with thanks that they were selected to "a BCS bowl". I won't even get into the problems with the methodology of the BCS poll.

People have been proposing some changes that include a four or six team playoff system within the BCS. The only real choice is to totally dismantle the BCS. It serves no positive function, and only takes money from the bowl games and from tv advertisers, money that could go back to the universities. It has planted itself pretty securely and may be tough to dislodge, but maybe by pulling it up from its roots (the advertisers) it could be done.

So on to the good part - my playoff system. It would be a 16-team standard playoff that would automatically include ALL 11 conference champions and five at-large teams that would be chosen and seeded by a reliable and accountable independent commission. An independent team, such as Notre Dame, could be chosen as an at-large team. This system ensures that an undefeated team has a chance at a national championship. The games could be played at the higher-seeded team's stadium, except for the championship game, which could be a Super Bowl-like game. Teams not chosen for the playoffs could still play in bowl games.
The conference champions for 2011 are:
ACC - Clemson
Big East - West Virginia (actually a 3-way tie with Cincinnati and Louisville, but WVU is chosen by the BCS and for argument's sake is chosen here as well)
Big Ten - Wisconsin
Big 12 - Oklahoma State
Conference USA - Southern Miss
Mid-American - Northern Illinois
Mountain West - TCU
Pac-12 - Oregon
Southeastern - LSU
Sun Belt - Arkansas State
Western Athletic - Louisiana Tech

With no commission yet in place, I have chosen the five at-large teams: Alabama, Stanford, Boise State, Arkansas, Houston. (Note: USC is ineligible for postseason play.)

I have also seeded the teams as follows, based not only on record and conference standing but also to prevent rematches or postpone them as long as possible.
1. LSU, 2. Oklahoma State, 3. Alabama, 4. Wisconsin, 5. Oregon, 6. Stanford, 7. Arkansas, 8. Southern Miss, 9. TCU, 10. Boise State, 11. Houston, 12. Arkansas State, 13. Clemson, 14. Northern Illinois, 15. West Virginia, 16. Louisiana Tech.

If the higher-seeded teams each win the first two rounds, the semifinals would then include LSU against Wisconsin (or Oregon, close call there), and Oklahoma State against Alabama. Now that would be a championship!

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