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BCS No More: College Football Needs Playoffs to eliminate the BS

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For years there has been a need for a playoff system in Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) football. The creation of the BCS in 1999 was supposed to cure this ill, but it has only compounded the problem. An undefeated Auburn was shunned in 2004, Boise State’s undefeated 2006 season which included a win over heavily-favored Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl was not worthy of a chance at a National Championship and this season will see at least one one-loss team in the BCS Championship with other qualified one-loss conference champions on the outside looking in.

In the past few months the idea of a college football playoff has a renewed fire. When interviewed the night before his election win over John McCain, President-elect Barack Obama said that an 8-team playoff was a must. A few short weeks later, Obama told 60 Minutes that he would “throw his weight around” to see what he can do to get an 8-team college football playoff started. While I love Obama’s enthusiasm on the topic there is a lot more that needs to be ironed out.

Below you will find my plan for a 16-team college football playoff. I am certain that many will disagree with me on this topic and I expect it. If you have a better plan email it to me at admin@collegesports-fans.com and we’ll add it in our alternate plans & comments section (see college football playoff fan comments below).



Before getting into the details, the regular season needs to be cut back to 11 games for every team. Since Conference Championship Games are basically a must in today’s game, we need to require every conference to have a Championship Game. Also, no more 13th game of the season @ Hawaii to end the regular season for BCS Conference teams. Last season it was Washington, this year Cincinnati travels to face the Warriors despite having 12 games under their belts already and just a week ago Washington State fell to 2-11 with a loss @ Hawaii.

I have chosen the 16-team format for one reason and one reason alone. FAIRNESS, something that has long been neglected by the NCAA for Division I-A Football Bowl Subdivision football. You see, the whole idea of the BCS basically limits any real chance at any kind of a fair chance for 45 of the 120 Division I-A college football programs in 2009. With 65 teams in BCS Conferences and over 90% of the BCS Bowl Game bids (and the $17 million payout for playing in those games, win or lose), the deck is stacked against the non-BCS teams in the WAC, Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA & Sun Belt. Add in the whole Notre Dame special name recognition and money clause and the deal is even more corrupt. So we start with 16 teams – 11 conference champions and 5 at-large bids.

The BCS computers, the same computers that somehow placed Oklahoma over Texas for the 5th tie-breaker in the Big 12 South this season despite Texas’ win over the Sooners in the regular season, can be put to a new use under my plan. The BCS formula can now be used to help determine seeding for our new playoff system for college football. Seeds 1-6 can remain with the 6 BCS Automatic Qualifier conferences (unless a new conference were to emerge as a BCS member), assuming these conference champions are ranked above non-BCS AQ conference champions. The rest of the seeds can be determined by a selection committee (much like the NCAA Tournament) and the BCS numbers, which are the equivalent of college basketball’s RPI rankings.

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For example, based on the 2007 BCS rankings, our playoff would include these 16 teams in the following order:

  1. Ohio State (Big Ten Champion) vs. 16. Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt Champion)
  2. LSU (SEC Champion) vs. 15 Central Michigan (MAC Champion)
  3. Virginia Tech (ACC Champion) vs. 14 UCF (Conference USA Champion)
  4. Oklahoma (Big 12 Champion) vs. 13 BYU (MWC Champion)
  5. USC (Pac-10 Champion) vs. 12 Florida (at-large, BCS #12)
  6. West Virginia (Big East Champion) vs. 11 Arizona State (at-large, BCS #11)
  7. Georgia (at-large, BCS #5) vs. 10 Hawaii (WAC Champion, BCS #10)
  8. Missouri (at-large, BCS #6) vs. 9 Kansas (at-large, BCS #8)

How this playoff would have ended none of us will ever know, but what would likely have avoided is highly-hyped BCS Championship Game blowouts like the past two seasons where Ohio State could not matchup with Florida and LSU of the SEC.

2008 is even more interesting. Normally, a non-BCS conference team needs to finish in the Top 12 of the final BCS rankings to be BCS bowl-eligible, or in the Top 16 with at least one other BCS conference champion ranked below them. This season, we have 3 non-BCS conference teams in the BCS Top 12 with Utah being guaranteed a BCS Bowl berth. However, while an undefeated Boise State has more BCS wins in the past two years in half as many games, it seems likely that the “sexier” Ohio State will instead be cashing in on another $17 million while a higher-ranked and more deserving Boise State gets left out of the BCS. Remember when I mention fairness above?

So what do we do with the bowls? I love bowl games as much as anyone, and I do not want them to go away nor do they need to be eliminated. A 16-game tournament means 15 games will be played, 15 games that can be hosted by the Top 7 bowls, matched up regionally as best as possible, with the four big-money (current) BCS bowl games, the Rose, Orange, Fiesta & Sugar hosting the College Football Final Eight through the National Championship.

The 16-team format eliminates the need for 8 traditional bowl games because those 16 teams are now in the playoffs. Thus, the current 34 bowl games will be reduced to 26 bowls. Some overlap will likely be needed with the 3 non-BCS bowls involved in the first round of our playoff format, but this could allow some cities to double-dip and actually get two bowl-caliber games (one bowl, one playoff game). This overlap could even be rotated to allow for a greater economic impact to ensure the same cities do not get the tourism dollars year in and year out.

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The 26 bowl games would be handled the same as today; conference affiliations & agreements. Of course a 6 win season will still be required for bowl eligibility.

So there you have it, a 16-team playoff format. Critics will begin with arguments like “that’s too many games for these student athletes” or a focus on the academics and the hardships these college students would be under if they advance to the 16-team playoff and keep playing. My counter to that is that academics did not decide the 12th game that was recently added to everyone’s schedule in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and academics don’t seem to matter in breaking the Texas-Oklahoma-Texas Tech debate for the Big 12 South title and Big 12 Championship debate, so quit saying you care about anything other than money. Some may wonder how to handle the dollars in a playoff system. Much like the professional sports, teams are rewarded with additional revenue the farther they advance in the playoffs. The traditional bowls can remain the same while the playoff system will be based on a predetermined amount, much like today’s $17 million payout in each BCS Bowl Game.

At the end of the season all teams below .500 will end with 11 football games, those who play in traditional bowl games will play 12 games, conference championship participants a minimum of 13 games (unless a conference championship loser finished with a 5-7 record, a very rare result), and playoff participants would play a minimum of 13 and a maximum of 16 games.

Look, there is obviously no exact solution that everyone will like. An 8-team playoff is a nice idea, but this once again likely keeps all non-BCS conference champions on the outside looking in. The thrill of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is when a heavy favorite collides with an underdog, and this plan allows for underdogs to have a fair chance. While I understand that the University Presidents who make these decisions are looking for more revenue wherever it can be found, this system opens the doors for that revenue based on the teams that deserve it the most by earning it for their school’s athletics department and their conference on the field.

 

December 8th Update: With all of the bowl games having been announced, here is how the seeding for our 16-team playoff would work in 2008:

  1. Oklahoma (Big 12 Champion) vs. 16. Troy (Sun Belt Champion)
  2. Florida (SEC Champion) vs. 15 East Carolina (Conference USA Champion)
  3. USC (Pac-10 Champion) vs. 14 Ball State (MAC Champion)
  4. Penn State (Big Ten Champion) vs. 13 TCU (BCS #11, at-large)
  5. Utah (MWC Champion)* vs. 12 Ohio State (BCS #10, at-large)
  6. Boise State (WAC Champion)* vs. 11 Texas Tech (BCS #7, at-large)
  7. Cincinnati (Big East Champion) vs. 10 Alabama (BCS #4, at-large)
  8. Virginia Tech (ACC Champion) vs. 9 Texas (BCS #3, at-large)

* Typically, a BCS Automatic Qualifier Conference team would be seeded higher, but due to higher computer rankings, Utah & Boise State jump ahead of Cincinnati & Virginia Tech despite their being BCS AQ conference champions. With these two non-BCS AQ conference champions bouncing the ACC & Big East Champions down, the at-large teams are also bumped down in terms of seeding.

Wow. Now that would be a playoff! Does Texas still get the shaft? Yes, but at least they have a chance to prove it on the field! How about Texas Tech - is this better than no BCS game at all? Of course! Would Boise State now have a fair shot instead of being overlooked in favor of a lower-ranked Ohio State team for the Fiesta Bowl? Once again, this is a better system! Too bad we will not see it happen...

 

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By Michael Shull
CollegeSports-fans.com Director of Content


Fan Comments on our College Football Playoff System:

 

From Scott Shaw on February 8, 2009:

Priority, determine a national champion properly and keep the bowls intact and important. The answer... an 8-team playoff.

CRITERIA TO MAKE THE PLAYOFF
1. 4 automatic qualifiers = the top 4 out of the 6 BCS conference champions
2. top non-BCS conference champion (must finish with BCS ranking of 10 or better)
3. One guaranteed At-large team (highest-ranked team not already in)
4. Notre Dame if they finish in the top 8
5. 5th best BCS conference champion provided they finish in the top 10
6. 6th best BCS conference champion provided they finish in the top 10
7. next best non-BCS conference champion if they finish in the top 10
8. next best non-BCS conference champion if they finish in the top 10
9. 2nd best At-Large
10. 3rd best At-Large
11. 4th best At-Large

There should be no complaining by teams if they don't make it in because they knew the criteria before the season, so play hard and schedule non-conference accordingly.


THE SCHEDULE
Finish the season on the last Saturday in November with Conference Championship games.
Place teams teams in bowls, except for the BCS bowls.
First Saturday in December = Heisman trophy is awarded
2nd Friday/Saturday in December = BCS Quarterfinal games... high seed hosts
3rd Friday/Saturday in December = BCS semi-final games, high seed hosts again keepin regular season important... after second game have the BCS bowl selection show.
After this, BEGIN BOWLS
Continue with bowls until early January
On approxiately January 8th = BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME


***The 6 teams from the playoff that did not make the championship game and 2 other teams that were determined at the end of the season are placed in the 4 major BCS bowl games (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange). The key here is for the media to still stress the tradition and validity of the bowls and to pump the heck out of them. For example, make "Pick 'em sheets for playoff/bowls" that list the playoff teams and all of the bowls and the teams in those bowls... then people have pools where they pick the winner of all of those games.

 

From Jim Rodriguez on January 5, 2009:

I’ve watched some of the bowl games, and the present bowl system shafts a lot of teams, particularly Utah, which is now undefeated, but not a champion.

I agree 100% with the teams you’ve selected, although I might differ a bit on the placement. I would foresee some sort of “Selection Sunday” type of process, and not the BCS determining the “sweet 16”. The conference that a team comes from shouldn’t automatically count against the team (like Utah), but strength of schedule is definitely something that needs to be considered.

If you pick the conference champions, then you start with 11 teams. To that, you add the top 5 teams, that aren’t champions. That gives you the 16. The Obama 8 team format means you’re going to leave a conference champion out of the tournament.

The schedule that I would have for this year would be:

Saturday December 6: Championship Week for Big 12, ACC, Conference USA, and SEC.

Next week is rest week and allows teams to finish their final exams.

Saturday, December 20. Week #1 of playoff with 8 games & 16 teams playing. I think you’d need to spread the games out over at least 3 days.

· The bowl games started on December 20 this year.

· The “best” of the lower rated bowl games could be in this category.

Saturday, December 27. Week #2 of playoff with 4 games & 8 teams playing; quarterfinals.

Saturday, January 3. Week #3 of playoff with 2 games & 4 teams playing; semi-finals.

Saturday, January 10. Week #4 of playoff with 1 game & 2 teams playing; championship.

Overall, you’ve got a total of 15 games for this system, which would be 15 bowl games.

There’s nothing keeping other lower category bowl games from taking place, the same as they do today. This would be similar to the post season NIT tournament in college basketball.

Also, for those that say that the Bowl System is the best, then let them also propose that the NCAA Basketball Tournament system be abolished and go to a “Bowl Basketball System”. Then the #1 and #2 ranked teams can just play a 3 game tournament to determine the NCAA winner. See how that one would go over!

 

From Chad on December 7, 2008:

I am for your idea and have been for a playoff system for the past 10 years. This year, we again have 2 teams (FL and OU) who don't have any business being in the NC game Jan. 8th. The real beef I have is when there are a lot of 1 loss teams out there, like with this year, and we leave it up to a computer system and biased coach voting to determine team rankings.

Florida losing to weak Ole Miss team and at home, but still to get to go to the big game? Hummm, something isn't right there. Only because OU beats TTU, also 11-1, at home when obviously they were simply asleep that game, they get to pass them up, as well at UT? We all know the round robin who beat who with those three, but other important questions are: If TTU is just a spoiler team as many label them, then why would beating them be such a big deal? Both TTU and UT beat a no. 1 team this season. OU never beat a no. 1 team....which leads me to another question, why wasn't TTU given the no. 1 spot after beating a no. 1 team, UT, in November? UT went to no. 1 after beating OU in Oct. and even jumped 5 spots.
Hummm.

Both of those teams, OU and UT getting "special treatment" I call it need to go. Getting to play each other on a neutral field is disadvantageous to the other teams in the Big 12 who have to either be the host or visitor. The Dallas game is not quite a road game. We all know that if either had to go to Norman or Austin, they would both have more losses at home. If they are going to continue to play in Dallas, those wins they come up with in Dallas then shouldn't have as much weight as a true away/road game in the computer system if it still going to exist.

Why have the North and South conferences go at in the Big 12 as well? We all know Mizzou would lose and lose big last night. The real competition should have been between OU and UT or TTU or TTU and UT, but not Mizzou. Please, no competition for any top 3 Big 12 South team. That conference championship itself is messed up; why have the North and South face off when it's clearly a David and Goliath type of match up?

Another interesting note, had OU lost to OSU, TTU would have gone straight to the Big 12 Championship game? And what about UT? But if OU wins, then too bad for TTU and UT altogether? That for sure doesn't make sense that there was such an extreme alternative/direction TTU and UT could go depending on the result of just that one game. OU clearly struggled to beat OSU, which TTU didn't, so that OU win really wasn't that convincing and for sure wasn't good enough to permanently shut out UT and TTU for the season.

Lots of biased commentating out there as well. That Brent Musberger especially. We can all tell who he favors when he speaks. One commentator in the FL / AL game, said, " If AL gets into the NC game, I am not watching it."


 


 

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