The BCS has made its selections, and another year without a playoff has passed. Our matchups are set, and we're down to two teams who have a shot to win the national title. But don't get too excited; each squad must now sit for a month before getting a shot to claim that ultimate prize.
But what if we had a college football playoff to look forward to? One that consisted of the top eight teams in America and began two weeks after the conference title games, the weekend of December 17 in this year's case. We'd have a final four remaining for Christmas weekend and the true national title game on New Year's weekend. Sounds great, don't you think?
It does to me, so with that in mind, here's a system that would be easy to implement and fun for all. We start with a simple eight-team playoff, matching 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, and 4 v 5 in round one, with the higher seeded team hosting.
How are those seeds determined? Any team who wins its conference and is ranked among the top twelve in the BCS standigs is granted a spot in the playoff. Notice we said any team (from any conference). If you win your league and finish ranked among the nation's top twelve teams, you are in the pot of eight to play for a national title.
Then that would almost certainly leave at least one or two, if not more, slots available for at-large selections. To fill those spots, we again turn to the BCS standings. The highest ranked team who did not win its conference is the next selection, and that process continues until all eight slots are filled. Obviously this means we could have just one or maybe no at-large selections in some years, while we could probably see as many as three or four in other years.
Once we determine the eight teams, we return to the BCS standings one final time. The eight squads are seeded in order according to their BCS ranking. The highest-ranked team among the eight is the #1 seed, and the process continues until the #8 seed is determined.
Under this scenario, you are accountable for your entire season, so a team like Florida State (who went into the ACC title game having lost three straight) could not earn a playoff berth by simply beating Virginia Tech to end the season. One quality win at the end of the season does not vault them past a team who has had a great season but failed to win their conference title (i.e. Oregon).
In the same regard, a team like Texas (for a second let's pretend they were beaten by Colorado in last Saturday's Big XII title game) would not see their national title hopes dashed by simply having their lone loss of the season come in their last game. It would likely hurt their seeding a great deal, but they would still be a part of our playoff.
So the rules are set; now let's complete the field. We start by determining the conference champions who are among the top twelve teams in America according to the BCS standings.
Below is a list of every conference and its champion for the 2005 season. Next to each team in parentheses is its BCS ranking. A asterisk indicates that a team has earned a playoff berth due to the combination of its conference championship and season-ending top-twelve BCS rank.
ACC: Florida State (22)
So after step one of our two-part process, we have filled five of eight slots in our playoff system. To complete the remaining three spots, we glance back at the BCS standings and select the next three highest ranked teams not already chosen. The top three teams according to the BCS standings have already been selected, but #4 Ohio State has not. They become the sixth member of our playoff. Oregon, ranked fifth, and Notre Dame, ranked sixth, complete our field of eight teams. Miami, Auburn, Virginia Tech, who round out the top ten in the BCS, each missed out on a playoff berth by a small margin.
With the eight teams now selected, it's time to seed those teams from top to bottom. As mentioned earlier, that process is completed by deeming all eight teams equal, regardless of whether or not they are conference champions, and then seeding them in the same order as their BCS ranking. When that is done, we are left with the following seedings and first round matchups:
(8) West Virginia at (1) Southern Cal
Now who wouldn't want to see a full Saturday of college football like this? We'd probably start the day with an 11:00 AM CST start in State College and then kick things off at 2:00 PM CST in Columbus. The evening would start with a 5:00 PM CST kickoff in Austin, and the marathon day would conclude with a 8:00 PM CST start time in Los Angeles.
Now we could predict the outcomes and trace it all the way to the end, but that's all a matter of opinion, so you can do that for yourself. It's also debateable as to where the semifinal and final round games would take place; I feel that this is where the bowl games, specifically the current BCS bowl games, could come into play. Even if you wished to play the first round games on neutral fields, that could be possible as well.
What matters is that you have (arguably, as always) the eight best teams in America in a bracket, and each has a shot to win the national championship. Moreover, you have a college football version of March Madness. I just cannot understand how this doesn't appeal to the rulers of NCAA football. It means excitement; it means money through both TV exposure and fan attendance; and it means a true national champion.
The teams who have played best throughout the season (i.e. USC and Texas) are still forced to earn the title, but they do earn an "easier" road based on the seedings and matchups. Teams like Auburn and Miami may feel shorted, but each failed to win its division, much less its conference. At the same time, though, each still had the opportunity to earn an at-large selection, but neither's full-season package was impressive enough to earn them a high enough ranking in the BCS to earn that selection.
It is interesting to note that had Virginia Tech beaten Florida State in the ACC title game, the Hokies would have earned a playoff bid. But with their loss, Frank Beamer's squad was left out, and the ACC was left without a team participating in the playoff. In similar fashion, LSU lost a spot in the playoff by losing to Georgia in the SEC title game. However, it is likely that only one of those two teams would have received a bid anyway.
And one final point of importance: TCU, as champ of the Mountain West, came up just two spots short of earning an automatic berth into the playoff. The Frogs' BCS rank was number fourteen, but it would almost surely have been among the top twelve nationally had the one-loss Frogs not dropped an early-season decision to lowly SMU. That, in my opinion, proves that this system is fair to all, both the so-called BCS conferences and the non-BCS leagues.