College football is the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks of the BCS. The college football playoff is the superhero, but will he get here in time to save college football? The 2010 college football season will prove why a playoff is absolutely needed. Those against a playoff say that it diminishes the value of the regular season. I could not disagree more. If anything, a playoff would make the regular season more important and more compelling.
Look at this weekend’s match-ups. Miami goes to the Horseshoe to play Ohio State, and Penn State plays Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Of those four teams, three of them have national championship game on their radar: OSU, Alabama and Miami. Penn State would have to beat Alabama this weekend and beat Ohio State for a shot at the title game. Not to mention, Virginia Tech had its national title dreams dashed on Labor Day when Boise State knocked them off. With games of this magnitude so early in the year, national championship dreams die quickly. Lose one game, and you have to do a lot of scoreboard watching late in the year to see who falters in conference play. If you are Boise State or TCU and you lose one game, your title dreams go up in smoke. If you lose two games, you might as well pack it in and plan for next year’s title run. Only one two-loss team has ever made it to the BCS national title game: LSU in 2007. With a playoff, Virginia Tech has a shot at the national title. With a playoff, your title dreams are not dead if you lose early in the season. Even if you lose late the year, you still have a shot at the title game in a playoff.
People rip Boise State because they don’t play anyone. No one wants to schedule them and rightfully so. They just beat Virginia Tech in FedEx Field, which is basically a road game for the Broncos. Is it their fault they’re in the WAC? Conference affiliation is beyond their control. “They wouldn’t go undefeated in the SEC, the ACC, or Pac-10.” Boise State is not in any of those conferences. That argument is irrelevant. All Boise State has to do is win the 12 games on their schedule. For those that say Boise St. would not fare as well in a power conference, a playoff would put that argument to the test. I am in favor of a four-team playoff, but the best playoff scenario would have to field eight teams.
College football will never have a perfect system to determine a true national champion, but a playoff is better than the BCS considering the parity in college football.
Before I delve any further into this, I will pose a question that I’m going to give two answers for, the politically correct answer and the flat-out truth.
Why isn’t there a playoff system in place for the FBS (Division I-A)?
The politically correct answer: We don’t want the college football season to interrupt finals and take away the Christmas break from our student-athletes.
The truth: We stand to lose too much money if we attempted a football playoff and the in-season games won’t mean as much
Now, the hot topic in college football nowadays is whether a playoff system should be implemented. Me personally, I’m all for a four-team playoff season. The FCS (Division I-AA) goes with a 16-team format, but that’s too much when all you’re trying to do is put the two best teams in a position to play each other. The excuse that a playoff system might cut into academics is complete garbage. The FCS starts their playoffs right after Thanksgiving and runs until right before Christmas, final exam time for most, if not all, college campuses. You don’t hear the student-athletes complaining, and there hasn’t been any type of intervention trying to stop the FCS from having a playoff system. The student-athletes’ grades must not be that bad (or not that much of an issue) if they continue to play during exam time.
I’ve squashed the politically correct answer. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter. It’s all about the money in the land of college football. The (assumed) fact that it lessens the importance of some in-season games doesn’t matter. We’re not giving USC a pass because they lose to Stanford in-season and still have a high enough BCS ranking to earn a spot in the playoffs. That doesn’t matter because all I want is four teams. The top four teams in the BCS get in, regardless. There are no conference tie-ins to the playoffs. I don’t care if it’s one SEC team, one PAC-10 team, one Big Ten team and one Big XII team; or if it’s two SEC teams, an ACC team and a non-BCS team. It’s simple, win and get in.
What about the teams that get snubbed? Don’t be 42-point favorites at home and lose to Stanford. Win your conference, go undefeated and don’t leave YOUR destiny in the hands of a computer. When you have to pray to a bunch of journalists to give you a high enough ranking to justify you going to a particular bowl game, you’ve already lost that end of the battle.
What about the bowl games? Simple enough, nothing. Leave the current bowl lineup the way it is. Add two more New Year’s Day bowl games, but they’re not bowl games, they’re BCS national semifinal games. You already have the BCS National Championship game when the national title used to rotate between the four BCS bowls (that’s how Miami, then a Big East school and Nebraska, a Big XII school, played in the Rose Bowl, traditionally a Big Ten-PAC-10 bowl game, in 2002). Play both semi-final games at a neutral site, and for a true neutral-site game, split tickets 50/50. If you’re top-4 in the BCS, I’m pretty sure your fan base will want to travel to see you play for a national title. Since everyone is trying to make money, have stadiums bid to host the semifinal games. Make the winning bid known two years in advance.
Let’s look at last season, the top four teams in the BCS were
- Oklahoma (12-1)
- Florida (12-1)
- Texas (11-1)
- Alabama (12-1)
Oklahoma would have played Alabama, and Florida and Texas would play in the other semifinal. Getting to watch these two games THEN seeing the winners play each other in the BCS national championship game the very next week is much more intriguing than seeing Oklahoma/Florida, Texas/Ohio State, and Alabama/Utah.
That’s my proposal for a four-team college football playoff. This is as flawless as it’s going to get and it’s not flawless. But it’s better than five or six teams griping about trying to get two spots (one really since, the SEC champion will get one spot majority of the time).