The BCS is broken: Why a College Football Playoff is needed and why it would work

We are now in the midst of bowl season, so it is that time again: time to gripe about the BCS.

With five teams finishing undefeated this year, the idea that one game could decide college football’s undisputed champion is not only laughable, it is ludicrous. No. 1 Alabama may be playing No. 2 Texas on January 7 in the BCS National Championship Game, but for my money the Fiesta Bowl on January 4 between undefeated No. 4 TCU and undefeated No. 6 Boise State has as much legitimacy.

Additionally, No. 3 Cincinnati also went undefeated. Not only that, they were perfect in an AQ conference. Yet, they still do not get a shot at the title. If anyone thinks the BCS still works, they need their head examined.

The Bowl Subdivision needs a playoff. Some pundits think adding one extra game after the bowls are played or having a 4- or 8-team playoff is what should be done. I do not think that those suggestions would be completely fair to all the teams, so this is my proposal.

The FBS playoff should be a four-week, 12-team playoff. All 11 conference champions would qualify as well as the highest ranked Independent. The BCS standings could be still be used to decide the seeding. I know many people would like to still use the rankings alone to decide the playoff teams, but I do not. If the non-AQ conferences’ quality of play is so much worse than the BCS conferences, they should not be in the same division.

To make this fair, every conference should be required to have a championship game. This will even out the schedules and possibly create a mini-bowl atmosphere on the first Saturday in December.

Reserving a spot for an Independent is not ideal, but it is better than granting a spot to a runner-up. Under the current BCS eligibility rules Notre Dame becomes eligible for a BCS Bowl if they finish in the top eight in the rankings.  This would continue that tradition. Admittedly,  this is not fair.  I think that eventually a 12th conference should be added and the number of teams in each conference made more comparable.

This is the schedule of play I would propose:

First Weekend in December: Conference championships

Second Saturday in December: First round of Playoffs. Seeds 5-through-12 play and the top four teams sit out on a bye week

Third Saturday in December: Quarterfinals

New Year’s Day and Weekend: Semifinals, bowls

Second Week in January: Championship game

If this playoff was in place this year the seeds would have been:

1. Alabama (SEC)
2. Texas (Big 12)
3. Cincinnati (Big East)
4. TCU (Mountain West)
5. Boise State (WAC)
6. Oregon (Pac-10)
7. Ohio State (Big Ten)
8. Georgia Tech (ACC)
9. Central Michigan (MAC)
10. East Carolina (Conference USA)
11. Navy (Independents)
12. Troy (Sun Belt)

And the schedule with the matchups would have been:

December 12th – First Round

#12 Troy at #5 Boise State
#11 Navy at #6 Oregon
#10 East Carolina at #7 Ohio State
#9 Central Michigan at #8 Georgia Tech

Byes: #1 Alabama, #2 Texas, #3 Cincinnati, #4 TCU

December 19th – Quarterfinals

Ohio St./ECU at Cincinnati
Oregon/Navy at Texas
BSU/Troy at Alabama

January 1st – Semifinals

(GT, CMU, or TCU) vs. (BSU, Troy, or Alabama) at top seed location

(Ohio St., ECU, or Cincinnati) vs. (Oregon, Navy, or Texas)

January 7th – Championship Game

This could result in a Texas and Alabama title nonetheless. But that is not the point. This would give all deserving teams a shot as well as eliminate a lot of the AQ conference bias.

Here are the advantages to this proposal:

A More Legitimate Champion. Whatever team comes out on top at the end of this tournament would have to have beaten some of the best teams in the nation.  If a #1 or #2 seed wins the championship it would prove their raking was correct. If a #5 seed or lower  won, then they still beat four conference champions.

Notre Dame would (could) be relevant again. The Fighting Irish have arguably the most storied college football tradition in the NCAA.  However, the last few years have been up and down for Notre Dame and they have not won a national championship since the 80s. Despite their woes the Fighting Irish remain one of the visible college football teams on National Television.  Navy would have qualified in this proposed  tournament the last 3 seasons, UND was in contention until mid-November when they lost their last four games… beginning with Navy.  Yet a tournament would give Notre Dame a chance to be in the playoff hunt every year. This would justify some of this particular school’s media saturation.

Quality Nonconference Play. More inter-conference games during the playoffs could actually help strengthen the weaker conferences.  The weaker conference teams would be going up against  stronger conference teams in games that would be competitive and not just a way for big schools to pad their schedules.  A playoff appearance could also make a school from a weaker conference more appealing to the top prospects.

Many will grouse that a playoff will cause more problems than it solves. I disagree, and I think that many of the problems it will create are tolerable. Here are some common arguments  against a playoff and my explanation of why they may not be as big a deal as some would tell you.

Bowl Changes. Would a playoff wreak havoc on the Bowl schedule? There will certainly be some adjustment needed, but it may not be that disruptive to the schedule.  In this proposal, we can use the six most prestigious bowls for the quarterfinals and semifinals. (The National Championship game would still be just that.) I think the actual bowl schedule could remain largely unchanged except perhaps dates, so that they don’t overlap with any playoff games.

A Playoff would disrupt academics and winter break. This is a common argument against a playoff and it is true in many ways. A playoff would take student-athletes out of school earlier and away from their winter break.  But March Madness also does this.  The Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament will last three  weeks this season and the  Final Four teams will end up playing in three different cities. It’s almost as much disruption as this football tournament. Also, many college football teams participating in bowl games are already practicing duringtheir winter break.

2nd place teams still won’t get a chance. For example Florida was undefeated and   until falling to Alabama in the SEC Championship game.  This could be solved by going to a 16-team tournament and adding 4 wildcards, filled by the four highest-ranked non-conference champions. This year that would mean Florida, Iowa, Virginia Tech, and LSU. Many consider those teams stronger than what would be the bottom 4 seeds this year.

There are a number of problems that would be caused by moving to a playoff system, but I think they are far outweighed by the benefits.  This would be a big change, but it is needed. The BCS is a sham of system that has far too much bias to ever really give the fans an legitimate champion. I believe a 12-team tournament would not only give the FBS postseason legitimacy,  it would be one of the most exciting sporting events of the year.

1 Comment to “The BCS is broken: Why a College Football Playoff is needed and why it would work”

  • uberVU - social comments January 8, 2010 at 3:06 AM

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