The Best Playoff Scenario…EVER

First off, I am not a guy who thinks that college football has to have a playoff. Is the BCS the answer? Of course not. But I am more a BCS fan than an 8 or 16 team playoff. Remember the BCS is ONLY designed to get the top two teams together for a championship game. The other bowl games are about making money and bringing in two teams who will bring the most fans into the stadium and eyeballs on TV. And who is in charge of the BCS? The NCAA? Nope. It is the 6 automatic conference qualifiers:

Big East
Big 10
Big 12
Pac 10

Do they care what the other conferences want? Do they want to include more teams from outside their conferences? Do they want to control the money involved? The answers to these questions are NO, NO, and YES.

I think the college football regular season is by far the best of any sport. And I really enjoy the bowls. I watch as many bowl games as I can. In the past few years, most people that are in college football realize that blowing up the BCS is not likely to happen. Between the contracts (through 2014 I think) with ESPN/ABC and the firm resistance of the BCS conference presidents, the earliest any changes to the current system would be 2015. That being said, I don’t forsee any changes in the next 10 years. I just don’t see it coming. The BCS conferences are not going to want give more access or more money to the non-AQ conferences. Although to be fair, I didn’t forsee the Big 10 choosing such horrible division names either.

But the plus one concept has gained traction over the past few years. I think that the impetus for this was in 2004 when three teams from BCS conferences all finished unbeaten. USC, Oklahoma, and Auburn all finished 12-0. But the BCS title game was between USC and Oklahoma, who were #1 and #2 in the nation in the pre-season polls as Auburn was #20. Auburn never got a chance to play for the title because they started the season ranked below the Trojans and the Sooners, and those teams never gave up the strangehold on the top two spots. After USC destroyed Oklahoma 55-19, many people wondered if the Tigers would have given USC a better game. I firmly believe that the bigger problem with college football is the existence of pre-season polls that influence the final BCS polls. If there are no rankings until the beginning of October, then I think there maybe fewer controversies at the end of the year. But to mandate no pre-season polls is laughable and will never happen.

After that season, media members started bantering around about the Plus One concept. The top 4 teams would play semifinals, maybe on January 1 and the winners would play for the championship the next week.

In the past 12 years of the BCS, 7 championship matchups have resulted in controversy. Here is a quick recap of the title games and if any controversy over the two team selections existed:

1998: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16 No real controversy here, outside of a few people in Columbus.
1999: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29 No controversy here. They were the only two undefeated teams.
2000: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2 First real problem. #2 FSU went over #3 Miami, who had beaten the Seminoles on the field.
2001: Miami 37, Nebraska 14 Big controversy. Nebraska, who didn’t win their division, went over #3 Colorado, who won the Big 12 and beat Nebraska 62-36.
2002: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2OT) No controversy here. They were the only two undefeated teams.
2003: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14 2nd biggest controversy of any year. AP #1 USC was #3 in the BCS rankings and didn’t even play in the championship game.
2004: USC 55, Oklahoma 19 Biggest controversy of any year. 3 unbeaten teams and only two teams could play in the game. Sorry Auburn.
2005: Texas 41, USC 38 No controversy here. They were the only two undefeated teams. Best played title game.
2006: Florida 41, Ohio State 14 The controversy was whether Florida or Michigan should play Ohio State. Michigan had their chance and the voters didn’t want a rematch.
2007: LSU 38, Ohio State 24 The wildest year in recent times. All potential teams had at least one loss and a 2-loss LSU was a somewhat controversial choice.
2008: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14 No controversy here. These were the top two teams.
2009: Alabama 37, Texas 21 No controversy here. They were the only two undefeated BCS teams. Sorry TCU and Boise State.

Recently I read an article that talks about one man’s proposal for a playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivison. It is essentially a plus one scenario. It ensures the continued existence of the bowls, which I think are still a vital cog to the college football machine. It basically adds two teams to the BCS and allows for two semifinals to be played at two of the four BCS bowl sites the week after the site’s normal bowl game is played. Then, the two winners play at one of the other BCS Bowl sites for the championship. I don’t want to steal any of his thunder as this is an awesome idea…which means it will go nowhere. But I think this is the most practical way to have a playoff as well as keeping the bowl structure viable.

The BCS Final Four: A New Plus-One System

Here are a few excerpts:

the most important point from [Big 10 commissioner Jim] Delany is something that no one can argue about: the AQ conferences still control the show. This is the simple reality that the vast majority (probably over 90%) of college football playoff/plus-one/Iron Man/Russian Roulette proposals completely ignore. Those proposals usually start by effectively smashing the system and completing starting over from scratch.

Those statements are at the heart of where a different system has to start.

As a result, for any college football postseason proposal to have even a whiff of a chance of succeeding, forget about “fairness” and think like Jim Delany. Here’s what I believe are the rules that any viable postseason system needs to follow:

1. The AQ conferences must make more revenue than today in an absolute sense
2. The AQ conferences must maintain their revenue advantages over the non-AQ conferences in a relative sense
3. The AQ conferences must maintain their access advantages over the non-AQ conferences
4. Don’t [mess] with the Rose Bowl anymore
5. The BCS bowls are as elitist toward the non-BCS bowls as the AQ conferences are toward the non-AQ conferences
6. The bowl system can’t become completely NIT-ish

He has great arguments for each of the points above. Please go to the story to read them.

Here is his suggestion:


A. Separate semifinal games
B. BCS bowls keep tie-ins
C. Double-hosting of semifinals and final at BCS bowl sites
D. Semifinal site tie-in preferences
E. Championship Game in Mid-January

Here’s how the BCS Final Four system would have looked this year:

Semifinal 1: #1 Auburn (SEC champ) vs. #4 Stanford (top 4 auto-qualifier)
Semifinal 2: #2 Oregon (Pac-10 champ) vs. #3 TCU (Non-AQ auto-qualifier)
Rose Bowl: #5 Wisconsin (Big Ten champ) vs. #11 LSU (Pac-10 champ replacement)
Sugar Bowl: #8 Arkansas (SEC champ replacement) vs. #6 Ohio State (at-large selection #1)
Orange Bowl: #13 Virginia Tech (ACC champ) vs. #9 Michigan State (at-large selection #2)
Fiesta Bowl: #7 Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. Connecticut (Big East champ/at-large selection #3)

Really the only thing I disagree about is to play the title game in Mid-January, although if all traditional January 1 bowl games were played on January 1, then the semifinals would need to be played around January 8 and the title game around January 15. I would like to see the final be held before the first NFL playoff game. I think that would be the best case scenario.

As a result of reading this, I am very much behind this proposal. This is in my opinion the ONLY way a playoff will occur in the next 10-15 years (unless Congress gets involved). What are you thoughts? What do you think of this proposal? If you think we should have a 8 or 16 team playoff, tell us how we can get the BCS conferences to buy in?

About ruffles31

1996 NC State graduate who is still waiting on his first ACC conference championship in any of the four main revenue sports (football, men's basketball, women's basketball, and baseball) since enrolling. All I want is a ACC Champions t-shirt.

ACC & Other College Football NCS Football

33 Responses to The Best Playoff Scenario…EVER

  1. baxter 12/21/2010 at 7:46 AM #

    Very weak system in my opinion.

    8 – 16 teams are just as viable as this plus one. I still think the revenues generated from advertising and ticket sales would pummel the current system. Keep the BCS bowls as the quarter finals, add in two new bowls and a “championship” bowl. I think this whole concept of pleasing the AQ schools is nonsense. Just like a pre-season poll having an actual impact on who should be there after the last game is played. 16 teams results in 5 additional weeks of the season, can be started after a buy week after the conference championship games, can satisfy having 6-12 schools from the AQ’s and 4 non-quals (though how often that would happen I find very doubtful). I don’t believe in the you have to allow anyone in who won their conference, thats garbage (outside of AQs), but you would have more revenue and better football because the teams are always rusty coming off the 3 to 4 weeks off. Also, you could play the playoff games on Saturday, and schedule the remaining bowls during the week. And lets be honest, people who says this ruins the importance of the minor bowls, who really gave a crap about NIU, Troy, BYU or any other 6-6 team that squares off up until the BCS games? Its already watered down, the excitement of a playoff system would generate more buzz, more ad revenue, and better football. Period.

    And I don’t care if its 8, 12, 16 or whatever number of teams you want. But I don’t buy the plus 1, its a bandaid.

  2. baxter 12/21/2010 at 7:51 AM #

    I mean, just look at the top 16 from the BCS this year:

    1 Auburn 13-0
    2 Oregon 12-0
    3 TCU 12-0
    4 Stanford 11-1
    5 Wisconsin 11-1
    6 Ohio State 11-1
    7 Oklahoma 11-2
    8 Arkansas 10-2
    9 Michigan State 11-1
    10 Boise State 11-1
    11 LSU 10-2
    12 Missouri 10-2
    13 Virginia Tech 11-2
    14 Oklahoma State 10-2
    15 Nevada 12-1
    16 Alabama 9-3

    Who from that list would you say, ABSOLUTELY NOT? Now I’d try and stack the first week at least where you wouldn’t have a rematch like AU and Bama, but no single game would be easy. Hell, even an AU, OR, TCU, Stanford, tack on four teams by selection would be a great 8 team playoff.

  3. BJD95 12/21/2010 at 8:31 AM #

    That would make for one bad-ass 16 team tournament. And the regular season would still mean a lot, for seeding and home field advantage purposes.

    I would love to see a Bama/Auburn blood feud rematch.

  4. Tiew 12/21/2010 at 8:39 AM #

    The big issue is whether or not the schools participating will have to share the revenue with the rest of the NCAA. The big football powers wouldn’t stand for that, and I can’t say I blame them since they’re the ones spending the money to be great. (Thinking of how Virginia Tech is losing money on their bowl this year.)

  5. Manu Ginobili 12/21/2010 at 8:40 AM #

    I have thought about a similar system for some time:

    1- Keep all the non-BCS bowls they want. Ideally, the NCAA could cap the total (BCS and non-BCS) bowls at 32 (64 teams).

    2- Have a non-sponsor name for all bowls (I personally hate names like the Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, etc). It helps establish tradition and continuity. And make it retroactive. But sponsors are welcomed obviously, as long as they don’t replace the entire name.

    (I understand that points 1 and 2 are not the most important to fix the system, but they could make the whole bowl system look “cleaner”.

    3- Keep the BCS ranking. The 6 AQ and 4 top at-large teams will play at the 5 BCS bowls we have today (seeded as teams #1 to #10). You can even guarantee the top non-BCS team a spot in the BCS bowls.

    4- Place #10 and #9 in two separate BCS bowls. Taking this year as an example, that would mean that Connecticut and Virginia Tech would play in the Fiesta and Orange respectively, without a chance to compete for the National Championship.

    5- #1 to #8 play the first round of a playoff that would have begun this past weekend. Highest ranked team plays at home. The four first round losers are placed in the BCS bowls remaining. Let’s say that this year Stanford, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Arkansas are placed in the Orange, Fiesta, Rose and Sugar bowls respectively. Two BCS bowls are set after week one: VA Tech-Stanford and Connecticut-Oklahoma.

    6- Two semifinal games are played the following weekend. The two losers fill the remaining BCS bowls (this year TCU to the Rose and Ohio State to the Sugar) and the two winners (Oregon and Auburn) play for the National Championship. The season would be over no later than this season

    7- It’s never going to happen.

  6. Daily Update 12/21/2010 at 10:45 AM #

    This year is a perfect example of why a playoff isn’t necessary. There aren’t more than 2 teams that deserve a shot at this year’s title.

  7. VaWolf82 12/21/2010 at 10:56 AM #

    I’ve always thought that the ’03 and ’04 controversies were over-hyped by the media. Any rational evaluation of the three teams would conclude that one of the teams had a substantially weaker schedule than the other two. Both years, that team was left home.

    Nebraska in 2001 was the worst year for the BCS in my estimation. There was simply no good choice for who was going to lose to UM.

  8. VaWolf82 12/21/2010 at 10:59 AM #

    Do they want to control the money involved?

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    The potential for a play-off system making more money is offset for the BCS schools over the uncertainty of how that money is going to be divided. The BCS schools already subsidize the weaker sisters through the NCAAT. The presidents are not going to risk the same thing happening in football.

  9. bradleyb123 12/21/2010 at 11:04 AM #

    This “plus one” system is actually a “plus three” system, isn’t it? It sounds like all the bowl games will be played, and then four teams will play in two semifinal games, with the winners advancing to the championship game. So, two additional semifinal games and then the final, for a total of three additional games, all played at BCS bowl sites after the BCS bowls.

    I don’t think this will work. I think that’s too much expense for the majority of fans that can barely pull off going to their bowl games. If they had to then buy tickets (and flight, and hotel, car rental, etc.) for an additional game, and then one MORE time for the championship, I think that’s going to eliminate a lot of people (for purely financial reasons).

    The only way a playoff will work (IMO) is if teams get to play on their home fields until a championship game at a neutral site.

  10. bradleyb123 12/21/2010 at 11:08 AM #

    This isn’t March Madness. We shouldn’t be concerned with bringing all conference winners as automatic qualifiers. If a playoff has 8 or 16 teams in it, then the goal should be to invite the best 8 or 16 teams available. Period. If that means three SEC teams and no A-10 teams, then so be it. Invite them, let the bowls host the opening round (if we MUST continue catering to the bowls), and then the winners advance, and get re-seeded so the best teams play at home until the championship game, which is played at Dallas Cowboys stadium or somewhere great like that.

  11. bradleyb123 12/21/2010 at 11:12 AM #

    Hopefully schools will take a listen to Mark Cuban’s proposal. That may be our last best hope for a playoff. The only way it will happen is if they find a way to keep it as lucrative as the bowls are now, because we already know it’s all about the money right now, and always has been.

    As much as I like the appeal of matching #1 and #2, that should not be the goal. That is not the goal of March Madness. The goal there is to invite everybody and let them settle it on the court, with the HOPES that #1 and #2 survive to face each other. But it should not be forced. And as much as we might want to see #1 face #2, imagine how great it would be to see #1 face #4, and #2 face #3, and then #1 face #3 or whatever. There could be SEVERAL great matchups each year instead of just the one. THAT should be the goal!

  12. BJD95 12/21/2010 at 11:46 AM #

    Here are my previous long-winded posts on the matter:

    Under my system, here would be your first round matchups:

    #16 Virginia Tech at #1 Oregon
    #15 Wisconsin at #2 Stanford
    #14 Nebraska at #3 Auburn
    #13 Texas A&M at #4 TCU
    #12 Oklahoma State at #5 Alabama
    #11 LSU at #6 Oklahoma
    #10 Ohio State at #7 Arkansas
    #9 Missouri at #8 Boise State

    Awesome football, and the SEC (4 teams) and Big 12 (5 teams) get rewarded for being strong, deep conferences that hold a title game.

  13. LRM 12/21/2010 at 12:02 PM #

    With two-thirds of the non-AQ muscle leaving for AQ conferences (Utah and TCU), it’s going to be even more difficult for the non-AQs to play argue their way into the BCS.

    The AP named USC the 2003 Champs, which is as much the national title as the BCS, which adds even more controversy. If you go past the championship game, the BCS is riddled with inconsistencies and controversy. For example, in 2007 one-loss Kansas went to the Orange Bowl over one-loss Missouri, who beat Kansas and whose only loss came to Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship.

  14. pman27 12/21/2010 at 12:19 PM #

    Personally, I’m against any playoff that extends the CFB season. These guys are supposed to be students and attend the spring semester, not continue practicing and playing with travel because the sporting public demands a definitive CFB champion. There are also physical health concerns for these kids if playing beyond an already lengthy 13 to 14 game season (including conferenece championship and bowl game).

    And this doesn’t equate with spring practice, which is a controlled scenario.

    Call me a purist, but I’m fine as is. After all, if they eliminate the BCS and implement a championship, what will everyone agrue about? Probably about the last team that didn’t get in.

  15. bradleyb123 12/21/2010 at 1:05 PM #

    what will everyone agrue about? Probably about the last team that didn’t get in.

    That would be better than undefeated teams not even getting a chance. It’s one thing to be the first team not invited when there are 8 or 16 teams in a playoff. Sure, you might think you have a case, but it’s a whole lot better system than inviting the teams people THINK are #1 and #2.

  16. CylonWolf 12/21/2010 at 1:28 PM #

    You can’t have multiple neutral site games in a playoff. Fans are not going to shell out the money to fly to 3-4 different cities for playoff games…fans of the top teams will wait until the later rounds to travel, leaving the stadiums at first round matchups pretty empty. No more than the final and semifinals should be neutral sites, and preferably only the championship game.

    Also, the whole “only 2-3 teams deserve a shot anyhow” argument is a crock. Thats probably the case in most NCAA sports, yet they have a field of 64…theres nothing wrong with a 16 team field. Oh, and YES, a 16 team field SHOULD include all conference champions, even the MAC and the Sun Belt. There are two reasons for this: first, that’s the fair way to do it; any system that does not give those smaller conferences a glimmer of a shot is only slightly better than the current system, and two, because giving the “best 16 teams” all of the slots diminishes the importance of the regular season significantly…if only 5 at-large spots are available, then winning you conference becomes very important.

    Honestly, coming up with playoff scenarios is kind of silly, because the NCAA already has one that works…they just need to implement it for Division I-A.

  17. ruffles31 12/21/2010 at 2:50 PM #

    The BCS is not designed to be fair. The BCS is about keeping all the money to its own teams and conferences. The NCAA has nothing to do with this. And I can guarantee that any playoff would have to had a lot more money brought into the BCS conferences’ payouts than ever before.

    You aren’t going to get a 16 team playoff unless you get the teams to go back to 10 regular season games. There is a better chance of HWSNBN winning a national title as head coach of our Wolfpack than that happening.

    Football pays the bills for the athletic budgets for almost all schools. And still most of them are in the red. To tell schools to take off 1 or possibly 2 home games…that just isn’t going to EVER happen.

    If you have a 12 game regular season, followed by (for some) a conference title game, followed by a 16 team playoff, the finalists will play a total of 16 or 17 games in a year. They may play more games in a college season than if they are in the NFL (and don’t give me the preseason NFL crap games). No way any college president signs off on this.

  18. Astral Rain 12/21/2010 at 4:06 PM #

    Why can’t you have 8 11 team conference, 10 game conference schedules, and an 8 game playoff?

    Or even 7 confs of 11 + a wild card? Or 7 confs of 12, 2 wild cards, and conference championships/wild card game making a 16 team playoff effectively?

  19. PackerInRussia 12/21/2010 at 4:41 PM #

    “I don’t think this will work. I think that’s too much expense for the majority of fans that can barely pull off going to their bowl games. If they had to then buy tickets (and flight, and hotel, car rental, etc.) for an additional game, and then one MORE time for the championship, I think that’s going to eliminate a lot of people (for purely financial reasons)”

    If it were a 16-team playoff and all games were played on neutral sites, this would be even more so. But, if it were just a plus-one scenario, fans might be willing to put up more bucks to see a semi-final game with their team being one step away from the championship. It also may draw more interest from college football fans in general as it would be a big-time game. Not a much with the first round games of a playoff.
    You could put two games in the same stadium to draw from 4 sets of fanbases.

  20. PackerInRussia 12/21/2010 at 4:50 PM #

    “what will everyone argue about? Probably about the last team that didn’t get in.”

    The further removed the controversy is from the championship game, the less it matters.

  21. john of sparta 12/21/2010 at 5:57 PM #
  22. drgreenhouse 12/21/2010 at 6:13 PM #

    A 16 team playoff is the best way to go; but before that happens you need to set a few ground rules.

    1st – The regular season needs to be lowered to back to 11 games (The only exceptions to this rule would be games held at neutral locations Labor Day Weekend or if the program plays an away game at the University of Hawaii); the last regular season games will be held on Thanksgiving weekend except for the traditional Army-Navy game and any other games that feature independents.

    2nd – To receive an automatic qualifying bid to the playoff system, the conference must hold a championship game or the conference champion must finish either the season ranked in the BCS (or whatever it will be called) top 25 or a conference member must be in those rankings. The winner of that game, held the first weekend in December, will automatically qualify for the national championship race.

    As stated, it would be possible for up to 11 automatic qualifiers to make it to the national championship race. At least 5 at-large teams will make it to the national championship race each year.

    After the 16 teams have been selected, they will be seeded according to their finishing record. The top 8 seeds will receive a home game in the first round of the playoffs, held in two weeks. The highest seeds remaining will host the second round of the playoffs. At the end of the round of 8, the Big 4 bowls will choose their participants; two of the games will consist of the semifinals, the other two will select their preferred teams from the teams that made the initial round of 16. The bowls will rotate as to who gets the semifinals games. The winners of the semifinals games will advance to the national championship game, held approximately January 15.

    This season would play out like the following:

    Round of 16

    #1 Auburn (SEC CHAMPS)
    #16 Central Michigan (MAC CHAMPS)

    #8 Arkansas (AT LARGE)
    #9 Michigan State (AT LARGE)

    #4 Stanford (AT LARGE)
    #13 Nevada (WAC CHAMPS)

    #5 Wisconsin (Big 10 CHAMPS)
    #12 Virginia Tech (ACC CHAMPS)

    #2 Oregon (PAC 10 CHAMPS)
    #15 Connecticut (BIG EAST CHAMPS)

    #7 Oklahoma (BIG XII CHAMPS)
    #10 Boise State (AT LARGE)

    #3 Texas Christian (MWC CHAMPS)
    #14 Central Florida (CUSA CHAMPS)

    #6 Ohio State (AT LARGE)
    #11 Louisiana State (AT LARGE)

    A program’s fans would only have to plan for 2 trips, the semifinal game and the national championship. Who among us wouldn’t try to go to both games if the Wolfpack made it to the National Semifinals?

  23. Astral Rain 12/21/2010 at 6:19 PM #

    With my 16 team plan- the only neutral site games would be
    the semis, final, and the wild card game

    The 1st round after conf championships (quarterfinals) would be at the home of the higher seed.

    Conf championships would be up to the conferences. (MWC would be an auto-qualifier)

    Non-BCS conferences would only be eligible for the wild card, which would be BCS rankings based. Basically the only teams left out would be Sun Belt, MAC, WAC, and Notre Dame (unless they joined a conference)
    I’d have no problem encouraging those programs to drop to I-AA.

    My guess is BYU would join the Mountain West or Big 12 pretty quick under this scenarion, and ND would join the Big East.

  24. LRM 12/21/2010 at 6:34 PM #

    I think you’re less likely to see Notre Dame finally join a conference than to see more teams go independent. Notre Dame has a stubborn arrogance that pays high dividends regardless of its national relevance over the past two decades.

    And if BYU can succeed as an independent over the next few years, then I expect to see Texas try it as well. You have to remember that University Presidents measure success in revenue, not wins. And revenue is overwhelmingly from TV.

  25. 61Packer 12/21/2010 at 7:49 PM #

    If the BCS is about making money for the teams in its 6 conferences, then why did they send Connecticut to the Fiesta Bowl while bringing Stanford to the Orange Bowl? That makes absolutely no sense, and as a result, I’ll bet ticket sales will suffer big time, not to mention having a turkey like UConn in a BCS bowl while more worthy teams like Michigan State, Boise State and Oklahoma State are out.

    I hate the BCS, everything about it.

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