This doesn’t have to be so hard.
People have been clamoring for a playoff of any sort for college football for years. Well, actually, only at the highest level of Division 1 college football. Every other level has a playoff system in place – it’s only Division 1-A that does not. And it’s purely for disgusting reasons, such as money.
Don’t get us wrong – we love money as much as the next guy. But there’s no reason that an NCAA football playoff would limit the amount of money that could be made. I know the old farts who run the bowls are extremely resistant to change (even so-called experts barely understand the BCS system, referring to it as “computers”) but let’s take a look at some of the arguments out there against a football playoff and debunk them, shall we? (Oh, and yes, we plan to use this photo of Jim Tressel as often as possible because, well, it's just funny.)
The kids will miss class time. This is one of those most insulting things I ever hear around sports and it comes up all the times, primarily from those who want the bowl system to stay as it is. It’s pure and utter BS and it’s insulting to everyone’s intelligence. Nearly all bowls are currently played during the winter break that pretty much every college provides. No school is holding class the last week of December and very few are going the first week of January. Playing a playoff system would not interfere with school. Plus, as many have pointed out, what about the NCAA basketball tourney in March? It’s played on Thursdays and Fridays in the early weeks and it drags on into April, with teams having to travel all over the country. Sure, it’s fantastic, but aren’t the kids missing school then for sure?
It will diminish the regular season. I can see this point in certain limited circumstances. Would the OSU-Michigan game have meant as much if being undefeated wasn’t such a premium? Maybe not. But under the system I will propose below, you will still need to play your asses off to make it into it and so every game will still be of utmost importance.
It will diminish the existing bowls. How? Right now only ONE bowl matters at all. The other bowls only matter to the teams and the fans of the teams involved. And some of them don’t even care. Under a playoff system that incorporates the BCS bowls, all the major bowls would matter and for all the teams not in the playoff, they could still play in their meaningless bowls. Those secondary bowls are meaningless now so how does a playoff system diminish them further?
Fans won’t travel to more than one bowl. Really? I don’t believe that for one second. You don’t think OSU fans will follow their team? Or Texas fans? One of the great things about college football is how well teams “travel.” And if fans could only go to one bowl game, then tough for them. I have zero doubt all the bowl playoff games would still sell out. Do they have trouble filling buildings for NCAA basketball playoff games when you’re down to the final eight or four? Do people only go to the title game? Of course not.
It makes the season too long. Well, now that most teams are playing 12-game seasons, this one carries a little more weight. However, the regular season still ends for everyone by early December and then there is a month layoff until the major bowls. What are people worried about with a slightly longer season? These delicate players getting hurt? This isn’t Pop Warner football – this is major college football and, again, the other levels of college football have playoff systems. Division 1-A should not be any different. And also, I’m not proposing a 16-team playoff like some people want. I agree that that is too much.
So let’s get to the proposal.
For years, I have felt there was an easy fix to all of this. In 2001, when Colorado beat Nebraska 62-36 to go to the Big 12 Championship Game and then Nebraska ended up in the National Title game because Colorado had two losses on the season, I remember thinking then that this whole current system is an effin’ joke.
Here’s what I think would take care of all arguments (and I’m by no means the only person to think of this so I do not in any way take credit):
- Continue using the ranking system as it exists. Admittedly, there’s no way to fairly match all 119 Division 1-A schools against one another in a college season so the rankings are a necessary evil. Plus, this keeps the BCS in existence which softens the blow to the egos of those who created it.
- After all regular season games are played, the top six (6) teams advance to a playoff.
- Number 1 and number 2 get byes (thus valuing the top two spots very highly) while number 3 plays number 6 and number 4 plays number 5.
- The following week, number 1 plays the lowest seed remaining and number 2 plays the highest seed remaining (aside from #1 of course).
- The winners of those two games play the following week in a true title game.
- These five playoff games can neatly fit into the five existing BCS bowls and the bowls which are semi-finals, finals and championship game can rotate each year just like the current title game rotates.
What does this do? Well, it means the season only elongates by two weeks. And it means that teams have to play – at most – an additional two games over what they would play under the current system. Naturally, there are arguments to be made against having only six teams in but wouldn’t that keep the urgency there that makes college football so great? Rutgers still would have missed out this year (and with two losses, they probably should have). Wisconsin would also miss out and they’re getting screwed worse than almost anyone. But the point is, we’d still have these debates about who got rooked and who should be in and who shouldn’t. But in the end, it’d be a lot harder to argue that the championship game isn’t a real championship game, wouldn’t you agree? Plus, there are arguments about who got screwed in NCAA basketball each year when only 65 teams get into the tournament. There’s no end to it. If you had a 16-team playoff, the coach of the 17th-ranked team would be upset. When it comes down to it, can we agree that the #7 ranked teams and beyond really aren’t national championship contenders?
What would this mean for this year? Let’s take a look.
It would mean that we’d be arguing that Florida doesn’t deserve a bye rather than that they don’t deserve to have a pass all the way to the championship game. Michigan and USC would still have their chances to prove their loss(es) were blips and that they’re the best.
Ohio State and Florida would get byes to the second round. Meanwhile, Michigan (#3) would play Louisville (#6) and LSU (#4) would play USC (#5). Let’s just say for our argument that Michigan and USC win and move on.
Then, the next weekend, Ohio State would play USC and Florida would play Michigan.
In my opinion, this would result in Ohio State playing Michigan again but that’s irrelevant. The point is, this stuff would be decided on the field and still within the existing bowls. Instead of starting the BCS bowls after the New Year, play the first round that last weekend of December. Then the next round the first weekend of January and the finals the second Friday or Saturday of January. This would work and people would be ten times more excited about it and three times as many schools would be amped up with fans ready to go crazy.
Are there holes? Of course. But how is this not light years better than the current system?