Friday, November 27, 2009

College football playoffs: the plan

Earlier, I wrote about the 3 divisions that already have college football playoffs: Division III, Division II, and Division I-AA (FCS). We covered the number of teams that each division includes in the playoffs, raging from 32 (Division III) to 16 (Division I-AA). And we covered the number of games this means that the teams will play (15, for the two teams that reach the championship game).

Playoffs work for three divisions. And the extra games are not a problem for the teams. And they play those games in December.

So, why doesn't Division I-A (FBS) use the playoffs?

Reasons given include tradition, money, and power. And it's all three.

Against that, it'll be hard to change things. Still, if they ever do, I have the plan:

Automatic Bids

There are 11 conferences. The 11 conference champions get an automatic spot. The remaining 5 spots ... call them "wild card" spots ... would be taken up by the top teams in the BCS standings that don't get an automatic berth.

Here are the 11 conferences, with their respective champions or possible champions, listed alphabetically by conference:

Atlantic Coast
Clemson vs Georgia Tech
Big East
Cincinnati or Pittsburgh
Big Ten
Ohio State
Big 12
Nebraska vs Texas
Conference USA
East Carolina or Southern Mississippi vs Houston or Southern Methodist
Central Michigan vs Ohio or Temple
Mountain West
Texas Christian
Pacific 10
Oregon or Oregon State
Alabama vs Florida
Sun Belt
Western Athletic
Boise State or Nevada
Champions in the following conferences are determined by a championship game: Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-America, and Southeastern

Wild Card Teams

The remaining 5 spots are filled by the best teams that did not win their conference championship. That would be done by taking the top five teams BCS standings that did NOT win their conference.

This would lead to some seedings that some people really wouldn't like. For instance, the loser of the SEC championship game (either Alabama or Florida) would probably be one of the top five non-champions, and therefore, be a wild-card team.

This team (either Alabama or Florida) would be seeded lower than, say, Troy (the Sun Belt champion).

Personally, I'm fine with this. There is precedent in the NFL, where an 8-8 division champion is seeded higher than an 12-4 wild card team. This happened in 2008, when San Diego, the AFC West champion, was the number four seed, while 12-4 Indianapolis was the number five seed, and 11-5 Baltimore was the number six seed. But the Chargers won their division, while the Colts and Ravens didn't win theirs.

This seeding I'm proposing would give extra importance to winning the conference championship, as well as giving the best of the rest a spot in the dance.

The bowls

What about the bowls?

Well, what about them? They can still play bowl games. In 2009, there are 33 bowl games scheduled. 34 if you count the "BCS National Championship Game."

That's 68 teams. So, this playoff system would not affect 52 teams. That's 26 bowls not impacted one little bit.

The other 8 bowls? They can still play along. Or not. Their choice.

The championship game could be one of those, or a stand-alone, as it is today. The semi-finals could be two of the big bowls. Rotate it if they like.

And, the teams that lose out in the first round -- 8 good teams, by the way -- could still qualify for a bowl. Second round losers -- 4 good teams -- could also make to to a bowl.

So, there's the 8 bowl games (4 taking the first-round losers, 2 taking the second-round losers, and 2 hosting the semi-finals).


After the remaining conference championships are decided, I'll revisit this, showing the seedings and the match-ups. And the bowl impacts.

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