Keep a college football playoff format simple

Published 12:01am Sunday, May 13, 2012

The impact of the BCS National Championship Game between LSU and Alabama is still being felt four months after the fact.

Commissioners for the BCS conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick met in late March to discuss possible changes to the current postseason format in college football. Ideas have been thrown around, ranging from four-, eight- to 16-team playoffs, or a “plus-one” system, where the top two teams would meet for one final game after all the bowl games had been played.

What seems to be the most popular idea is a four-team playoff, where No. 1 and No. 4 would face off in a semifinal game, as would No. 2 and No. 3. After that, the winners would play for the national championship.

The LSU-Alabama rematch comes into play in Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney comments from Wednesday. Delaney tossed around the idea of a four-team playoff, with the stipulation that only a conference champion could be a part of that playoff, provided that the conference champion is ranked in the top six.

In practical terms, No. 1 LSU would have played No. 10 Wisconsin, and No. 3 Oklahoma State would have played No. 5 Oregon, had the rules been limited to “you have to win your conference” this past season. But if what Delaney is proposing were in place, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Oklahoma State would have squared off in the semifinal, and LSU would have had a different rematch, this time against Oregon.

The national outrage over Alabama, which didn’t win its division or conference, getting into the national title game over Oklahoma State, which did win its conference, is what has fueled this talk. The problem is this may be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Let’s take, for example, last year’s Stanford University team. PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in an interview in February that he supports the “conference champions only” model, where the top four highest-ranked teams that won their conference would play each other. Well, had either his preferred model or Delaney’s been in place last season, Stanford would have been left out of a four-team playoff despite the BCS formula thinking it was a top-four team. Try explaining that to a fan base of a member institution.

I understand the rest of the country is probably sick of seeing SEC teams win it all year after year, and having two SEC teams in the title game last season had to have been the ultimate slap in the face. But sooner or later, one of these proposed models is going to leave a Big-10 or PAC-12 team on the outside looking in. Do we alter the system again after that happens?

Futhermore, there’s the Notre Dame factor. As an independent, Notre Dame obviously doesn’t have the ability to win a conference championship. If they’re ranked in the final top four, do they get left out in a champions-only model, or are there special stipulations for the Fighting Irish? And if Notre Dame does get special stipulations, imagine the outrage of the Fighting Irish replacing one of the top four-ranked conference champions.

If you’re going to change the current model, keep it simple. No. 1 should face No. 4, and No. 2 should face No. 3. Let the best four teams play, not the best four teams that happened to win their conference. If you want to re-evaluate the system that determines the top four teams, that’s perfectly acceptable, too.

Is it the perfect model? No, but it’s the best one of all the ones being proposed.

  • Gray Grantham

    I have no problem with that if human voting is eliminated from the selection process.  If human voting is involved it will be no better than what they have now.

    The problem is, no one wants to eliminated thehuman polls from the selection process. 

    So which is better selecting playoff participants by a beauty pageant voted on by Coaches and writers who are filled with bias, especially if a particular conference has a disproportionate presence in both the coaches and writers polls.

    If they are unwilling to go to a 16 team playoff where they could have all conference Champions and a handful of at large births which would included everyone who would possibly have a legitimate shot at winning the Championship, then I think you have to look at Conference Champions only.  Not to exclude the 2nd or 3rd best teams, which might very well be in the same conference as the best team, but to offer the most competitive system that can be derived with such limited constraints.

    I don’t want to see for example and Undefeated Boise State “voted out” simply because they don’t have a boat load of writers and coaches on their side in the polls.  I don’t want to see a 2 loss SEC team voted in at the last moment over a 1 Loss Pac 12 Champion because they have more writers and coaches in the polls.

    That is exactly the kind of system the BCS is headed for unless they limit it to Conference Champions only.

    If a Conference has already crowned a Champion supposedly the best they have to offer, why in the world would we want to give their 2nd or 3rd place team a free pass for a second chance at dethroning that Conference Champion.  

    If you are unwilling to have a true playoff with 16 teams then at least require conferences to place only their best team in the playoff.  I don’t want to see a repeat or a 3peat game between 2 teams from the same conference it is ridiculous.

    Last yea we have Alabama as National Champion, Why? because they beat LSU in 1 game.  But LSU also beat Alabama in 1 game, so other than Alabama possessing the hardware, can you say Alabama is the better team?   No they are at best equal.  Therefore we may have crowned a National Champion but the process yielded a flawed Champion.  whereas had Alabama been eliminated from the BCS because they did not win their conference, there is no doubt LSU would have been the undefeated and unquestionable National Champion.

    At the very least there should be a rule that no team be allowed into the playoff that has already been defeated by a higher seeded team.

    If they are going to place so much importance on 1 loss to determine placing in the polls lets honor that 1 win and eliminated Alabama from the playoff.

    The only thing I can think of that is more ridiculous than the current BCS or the proposed 4 team playoff is a best of 7 series.

    Do the right thing go to a 16 team tournament of Champions with a handful of at large births or eliminate non champions from the playoff.

  • Anonymous

    Best four teams according to who ?  

    A corrupt coaches poll that’s filled out by SIDs who don’t have time to watch all the games and just vote for their conference ?  Computers programmed with secret formulas that no one knows ?  A system that promotes scheduling cupcakes instead of strong out of conference opponents ?

    You know who would have gotten in last year over Stanford under Delaney’s plan ?  Oregon.  The team that beat Stanford in Palo Alto by 3 touchdowns.

    Oregon lost to LSU and to USC (a team Stanford needed help from the refs to beat in 3OT).  Oregon beat Stanford badly head to head, but because they played LSU out of conference while Stanford played Duke, the geniuses on the coaches poll and the computers ranked Stanford higher, even though Oregon had proved ON THE FIELD that they were better than Stanford.

    Winning your conference should mean something.  It protects the regular season, and makes CCG games more meaningful.Delaney’s plan is a good one.  It minimizes the polls and computers, and puts the emphasis on proving it ON THE FIELD.  

    With only four playoff slots, there are usually enough strong conference champions to fill those slots, and Delaney’s plan guarantees that they will all be Top 6 teams.

    If there were 8 teams in the playoffs, which would be a much better system, I could see doing the top 6 conference champs and two wildcards, but with only four playoff teams, there’s not enough slots to put in teams that didn’t win their conference if you have four strong conference champions.

    Delaney’s plan is a good compromise between “Conference Champions Only no matter what their ranking” and just using the Top Four rankings because we know MIke Slive is never going to agree to Champs Only.

    And why do people want to just use the rankings ?  Aren’t the rankings what everyone hates about the BCS in the first place ?  The polls and the computers ?

    Put more emphasis on what happens ON THE FIELD.  Either use Delaney’s plan or say Top 3 Conference Champs + Top Wildcard.  

    If the fourth team is a conference champ- great.  If it’s a team like Alabama last year or like Notre Dame, that’s fine too.  At least three of the four teams will have won their conference under a 3 Champs + 1 Wildcard system, so we know at least 3 teams have proved they belong ON THE FIELD.