Looking Ahead: How the College Football Season Should End in the Future

Ok, I know that the college football season hasn’t even started. And I know that August is probably too early to start the grumbling about the Bowl Championship Subdivision’s postseason… but come on! We (meaning pretty much everyone other than a BCS committee member) know that a legitimate, playoff-included ending to tier one college football is not only requested, but also necessary.

But some will cry out, “the bowl games are a sacred tradition and give a distinct ending to an every-game-matters college football season!”

I agree!

I agree 100 percent! The bowl season is as vital to college football as March Madness is college hoops.

But can we let the regular season alone decide which two teams out of the 120 get to play for that big crystal football? Can we really let a group of all-knowing voters, computers and coaches decide which TWO teams out of ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY are the best!? Really?

I apologize for shouting, now back to the point.

Why can’t the players decide that; in between some painted lines on a field and a couple goalposts?

The idea of a playoff being added to the Bowl Championship Subdivision of college football has floated around for a while now. The same problems arise any time it is brought up though. Where would you fit it? What happens to the bowl games? Are these young men putting their bodies or education at risk by being asked to attend extra practices and play additional games?

These are all valid concerns. And the inclusion of a playoff would without a doubt have to address each of them.

So, without further ado, let’s get to constructing a playoff scenario that would not only mesh seamlessly with the existing system, but would quell nearly all bar room arguments about who really should be playing in the BCS National Championship bowl game.

Now before you can start deciding when and where these playoff games would happen, you would have to figure out who would be playing in them.

Well, with the aforementioned 120 teams that compete in tier one college football, a playoff berth based on record alone wouldn’t work. The difference in overall talent between teams in conferences like the SEC and teams in Conference USA must be accounted for. But at the same time, if teams truly distance themselves from the pack in conferences like the Mid-American, Sun Belt and Mountain West, and play competitively against teams in conferences like the PAC 12, ACC and Big Ten, then they deserve at least a shot to play for it all. Don’t they?

So to keep from complicating matters, I posit that the rankings currently in use stay in use. The USA Today Coach’s Poll, the Harris Interactive Poll, and the computer polls should still feed into determining a BCS ranking for teams.

But instead of allowing the BCS to only determine which two teams get to compete for the championship, why not allow that same ranking system to determine which eight teams get that opportunity?

Eight teams you say?

Yes, the top eight BCS ranked teams after the final week of the regular season will be the teams entering the playoffs.

Now before I continue let’s take a look at the top eight BCS ranked teams going into bowl season the last few years.


Auburn Oregon TCU Stanford Wisconsin Ohio State Arkansas Oklahoma

Alabama Texas TCU Cincinnati Florida Boise State Oregon Ohio State

Oklahoma Florida Texas Alabama USC Utah Texas Tech Penn State

In each of these last three seasons a valid case could be made for any of the eight teams to deserve at least a shot at the national title.

Last year’s national championship between Auburn and Oregon was a fantastic game, but who is to say that Ohio State, or Stanford, or even TCU couldn’t have come away with a victory against Auburn? I don’t think that anyone but the players for these teams could have decided that.

Go back another year to the 2009-2010 bowl season. Well… ok, so the Crimson Tide looked pretty invincible that year, but did Texas really deserve that shot over Boise State or Florida (yes I remember Alabama giving them a good drubbing in the SEC championship)?

All right, I know we have to jump into the way back machine for this, but let’s go back one more year. Ages ago in the 2008-2009 bowl season the Gators beat the Sooners for the title, but both the USC Trojans and the Utah Utes looked very impressive in their respective bowl wins.

Stay with me, I just wanted to make sure we all had a point of reference.

The point here is that maybe the best team took home that big crystal trophy… but maybe the best team didn’t, maybe the best team didn’t even get a bite at the apple. Why shouldn’t we let more than the two teams anointed by the almighty BCS as number one and number two compete for the prize. There are now 68 teams that get a chance to go to the Final Four… I’m just sayin’.

Yeah, eight may seem pretty arbitrary and I can already here the cries, “What separates eight from nine?” But I think that right now, while no one is that ninth looking in and wishing, we could all agree that the top eight BCS ranked teams round out all the true contenders. And besides, you will see how eight makes good, solid sense in just a moment.

Other problems that some associate with a playoff are the questions of when and where these playoff games would take place.

Well now you will start to see why eight makes sense. The games on December 4th of 2010 were the final games of the regular season, those were the championship games for all conferences that needed them (SEC, Big 12, ACC, etc….) The game on December 18th was the New Mexico Bowl, the opening game of the bowl season. There is a perfect two-week gap if the New Mexico Bowl would be willing to move forward one day.

Why is a two-week opening important? In this two-week gap between regular and bowl season an eight team playoff would give you two teams left for the national championship game.

If eight teams were to play the week after conference championships there would be four survivors. Those four teams would then play the following week to leave us with two. These two would then be funneled into the regularly scheduled BCS National Championship game.

Now that we have the “when” figured out let’s get to the “where”.

For this playoff we will use a standard 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 format. The games will be played at the home of the higher seeded team. In economic times like the ones we are presently wading through I don’t think there are too many cities that would spurn the noticeable financial bump that would come from a high profile playoff game. And a system where tickets for these games could be purchased early by confidant fans willing to find out the location later could be made available.

But won’t this cause too much disruption to the bowl season? Not really. None of the top eight teams would be competing in a bowl game before New Year’s Day anyway. And to keep bowl selection committees from having to wait even longer to fill their fight cards, these playoff games won’t count in relation to bowl game eligibility. That sounds kind of confusing so let me say it another way. Teams cannot play there way out of any game but the BCS National Championship during this playoff. If a team is slotted to be a Rose Bowl participant if not in the championship game, and loses in the playoff they will still go to the Rose Bowl. This playoff won’t let teams lose anything they already earned.

All this playoff does is determine which two teams will play in the regularly scheduled national championship game.

So now that we know who is going to play, when they are going to play, and where they are going to play, we can address a final problem. What is the potential impact on the education and health of these players?

Health is always a concern, and asking anyone to play additional football games will always increase the possibility of injury. There is no disputing that. But the top eight BCS ranked teams are usually composed of finely tuned, trained and prepared athletes; many of whom will be making their way to the NFL one day. Athletes like these can take the rigors of a maximum two extra games. Half of those eight teams will only have to play one extra game. That is a total of six additional games being added to the entire college football season. I don’t think that is asking too much.

But what about the education of these young men?

Again, only six games are being added on to the entire season. Some students stay away from school for over a month during March Madness and their educational needs and requirements are still met. I am sure that the football players from a handful of teams can be accommodated for.

Well there it is people, a two-week playoff that determines the participants in the BCS National Championship game. The bowl games retain all their tradition and prestige. If anything they gain more legitimacy because most arguments of who should play whom for the title will be settled.

If you have a better idea please let me know.

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