Nothing is ever clean and easy in the BCS, is it? The system was ushered in as the answer to all our problems. No more debate. No more split championships. Thanks to a trusty computer and failsafe algorithm, the BCS will produce an undisputed NCAA football national champion every year. There would be peace and harmony across the land, right? Yeah, right. While only one year have we had a split championship between the BCS and the AP (the top two college football national championship awards), controversy has dogged the championship game itself on at least four or five different occasions.
To preserve this perfect system this season. all Florida State and Ohio State had to do Saturday night was win and we’d have two undefeated teams playing for the national championship in January. Florida State took care of its end of the bargain, disposing of Duke 45,-7 in the ACC championship game. Ohio State? Well, they had their hands full with Michigan State in the B1G championship game. When Sparty won 34-24, the BCS picture got just a wee bit fuzzy.
Buckeyes Out, Tigers In
As a result of Sparty upending Ohio State, Auburn is the likely opponent to face Florida State for all the marbles. Truth be told, that seems fair. I don’t think there’s another one-loss team out there that is as good as nor as deserving as Auburn. However, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a playoff in bigtime college football? Something similar to the atmosphere of March Madness?
The Impossible Dream
If it were up to me, the NCAA would adopt an eight-team playoff in the FBS division: five major conference champions + three at-large teams. The five conferences with automatic berths: ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. The remaining three berths would depend on final rankings.
Why? Because I’m of a mind that a one-loss Alabama or Ohio State still deserve to be in the mix. By rewarding conference champions with an automatic berth, the focus remains on winning your conference. The inclusion of at-large teams guarantees the best of the best participate in a playoff. I should note, however, an at-large team could be seeded higher than a conference champion. The only thing guaranteed by winning a championship is a seat at the table.
With that in mind, I’d seed the playoffs something like this:
1. Florida State, 13-0 (ACC)
2. Auburn, 12-1 (SEC)
3. Michigan State, 12-1 (B1G)
4. Alabama, 11-1 (at large)
5. Ohio State, 12-1 (at large)
6. Baylor, 11-1 (Big 12)
7. Stanford, 11-2 (Pac-12)
8. Missouri, 11-2 (at large)
Bowl Games Still Matter
The current major New Year’s Day bowl games—Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose—could serve as the opening round of the playoffs. That way they retain their significance as the biggest bowl games in the landscape. The semi-final games would be played the following week at neutral sites, with the championship game taking place a week later.
“The season would take too long!” some will scream. Not really. A three-tier playoff would add days, not weeks or months, to the season.
Season Extended By Days, Not Weeks
If this playoff structure were implemented this year, the championship would be played on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. Before you scream and shout that it drags out the season for too long, consider the 2012 BCS Championship game was played on Jan. 9. This year? Jan. 6. Tacking on a few more days to the bowl season clearly isn’t verboten in a non-playoff structure. And it doesn’t even add that much in my eight-team playoff. In other words, it can and should be done.
But it won’t happen. Next year, the NCAA is adopting a four-team playoff. This is good because it will probably eliminate the possibility of a split championship, but I think it will leave out deserving teams.
Fortunately, I think everyone agrees Florida State and Auburn should be in the title game this year. The BCS backed its way into the right conclusion. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see a playoff…MY playoff.
To dream the impossible dream.