Assuming Oregon gets by Oregon State, and Auburn wins the Southeastern Conference championship game against South Carolina, once again a BCS championship game debacle will take place. TCU is likely to go undefeated, which means we have three deserving teams to fit into two slots for the title game.
Sorry TCU. You don’t belong to a “power” conference, so you need not apply. Sure, your fate is determined by pollsters and computers, which theoretically means you can get into the championship game. But, as we all know, theory and the real world often don’t mesh.
Until its overtime loss to Nevada, Boise State was also in the discussion, but it, too, gets the same short shrift. Don’t blame the Broncos, though. Every year, they try to schedule the big boys on any terms they wish. Want the Broncos to visit your 100,000-seat palace with no return visit? They’ll do it. Unfortunately, they get very few takers. Kudos to Virginia Tech and Oregon State for taking on the Broncos this year. But, where are the Alabamas, Auburns, and Ohio States? Oh, that’s right. They’re too busy beating up on such powers as Georgia State, Arkansas State, and Marshall.
TCU, meanwhile, has put up a very impressive campaign in 2010. Seven times this year they’ve allowed the opponent to score seven points or fewer. It’s doubtful that even the top teams from the power conferences would have had the same defensive dominance against the same opponents. Wins against Oregon State and Baylor have been no less impressive, either.
A number of playoff scenarios have been proposed throughout the years, such as a 4-, 8-, or 16-team playoff. College presidents balk, saying it would make the season too long. Never mind every other division in college football has no problem with this. A proposal to pick two teams after the bowls are completed won’t work, either, because you basically are left with the same system right now. A playoff after the bowls has possibilities, but college football really shouldn’t be going on in late January.
Is there anyway to fix this mess? Here’s a method no one has proposed. While not perfect, it does work. It would address college presidents’ concerns about the length of the season if a playoff were to take place. It also would radically alter the way college football works.
Very simply, have every team currently in the Football Bowl Subdivision complete its conference schedules FIRST. This would take up to the first nine games for some conferences, fewer for others. For others who require fewer than nine games, they can play non-conference games to fill out the schedule. This means independents such as Notre Dame and Navy can still find games, in addition to playing each other.
All right, so everyone has played nine games, the conference championships have been decided, now what? Now, we go to a 16-team playoff. Currently, there are 11 FBS conferences, so every champion automatically gets in – yes, even the Mid-American and Sun Belt Conference champions. The other five slots are filled through at-large births. Under this system, no one can legitimately complain about getting left out.
A 16-team playoff would require four weekends and commence in mid-November. Assuming a couple of bye weeks, this year’s playoff would have started November 20, with the quarterfinals on November 27. At this point, we take the final four and give them a month’s hiatus to build hype and interest, resuming Saturday, January 1, 2011. This is very similar to the current bowl structure, where teams can have a month or more between games. The championship game would be played on January 7.
Okay, sounds great, you say, but what about all the teams who didn’t make the playoff? What about the playoff losers? First, let’s address all the teams who failed to qualify for the Sweet 16. You give each of them three more games, and the opponents are determined on a regional basis, if desired, so travel can be minimized. Second, the teams who lose in the playoffs are thrown into a consolation bracket, so they can still play a 12-game season. Third, you can still have traditional bowl games involving playoff losers and non-qualifiers.
There are some obvious drawbacks. Teams that lose in the playoff might not be real motivated to continue their seasons in a consolation bracket. Schools whose teams don’t make the playoffs face logistical hurdles in putting together the games, and fans wouldn’t be able to make out their travel schedules until the last minute. Some inter-conference rivalry games such as Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech might be in jeopardy.
These drawbacks can be overcome. Basketball’s March Madness creates many of the same logistical problems for schools and fans, and so do the current bowl structure and lower-division playoffs, but no one seems to mind. Inter-conference rivalry games, ironically, might become even more special if they aren’t played every year.
In short, the pros of such a playoff system are plentiful and far outweigh the drawbacks. The traditional bowl system is largely preserved. The playoffs would occur in what is now the regular season, and no one plays more than 13 games. No deserving team is left out. Schools such as TCU, Boise State, and even Florida International and Northern Illinois would get their day in the sun. Fans would love it.
Especially those of TCU.