A playoff system which would work

Let the build up for the Alabama vs. Notre Dame BCS national championship game begin. That game will dwarf all the other BCS match-ups: Florida State-Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl,

Florida vs. Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, Kansas State vs. Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl and Wisconsin vs. Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

The BCS, in its current format, will be around for another season and then we will have a four-team playoff, which will end some arguments, but create others.

It is a first step. Since this is the holiday season, I thought it might be fun to project what a 4-team and an 8-team (the next step) playoff would look like using this season’s BCS rankings.

It’s a better system which would work. Here’s how.

Let’s start with a 4-team format.

That would be:

No. 1 Notre Dame vs. . No. 4 Oregon or No 6  Stanford (Pac-12 champ)

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3.Florida or No. 5 Kansas State (Big 12 champ)

That  would definitely work. Notre Dame-Oregon would be a semifinal game which would create interest, with the Kelly’s (Oregon’s  Chip vs. Notre Dame’s Brian) matching strategies. Notre Dame vs. Stanford would be a rematch

The Bama-Gator match-up would also be intriguing since the two SEC teams didn’t play during the regular season. And even more entertaining game could be Alabama vs. Kansas State

The first championship game will almost certainly be played in Dallas and let’s use the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls as the semifinal sites, with Oregon vs. Notre Dame in the Fiesta bowl and Alabama vs. Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

If you expand the playoff system to 8 teams, the match ups would most likely be:

No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 12. Florida State

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 6  Stanford

No. 3 Florida vs. No. 5  Kansas State

No. 4. Oregon vs. No. 7 Georgia

Using the old system, you would have arguments from the Big East  and Big Ten since neither of their champions would have a chance to even compete for the title in an 8 team playoff which has 4 teams from the SEC. But since a human committee will decide the match-ups, you have room to maneuver. To avoid a regular season rematch, the committee would fiddle with some pairings

Ok. Let’s adjust a little bit. Put Florida State into the No. 8 spot vs. Notre Dame. LSU would get bumped by FSU. The Big East doesn’t deserve a spot with these rankings since Big East champion Louisville in No. 21 in the BCS rankings.  Same goes for the Big Ten, whose champion this season was Wisconsin which wasn’t even in the Top 25 in the final BCS standings.

Again, you would have four intriguing match ups.   Notre Dame-Florida State would be fun to watch. Alabama-Stanford, Florida-Kansas State and Oregon vs. Georgia would also be interesting.

Making a quick guess I would say that Notre Dame, Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon would emerge as the Football Final Four teams with semifinals of Notre Dame vs. Kansas State and Alabama vs. Oregon.

There are two ways this system could be implemented.  Play the four quarterfinal games in the New Year’s Eve-New Year’s Day slots, wait a week  and hold the two semifinals. And then wait two weeks until the bye week before the Super Bowl and hold the national championship game on a Saturday Sunday or Monday night.

Yes, this could mean as many as 16 games for the two championship teams in a season extending until the end of January.

There are solutions for that as well: Cut the regular season to 11 games. The billion plus dollar payout such a format would generate would be distributed to the FBS schools which should ease the loss of revenue from not having a 12th game. Playing 11 games would also give teams a few bye-weeks during the course of the regular season, which would allow teams to get healthy.

The other solution would be to play the quarterfinal games in the middle of December at the site of the team with the highest seed. Take a few weeks off and then move into the current January 1-January 8th window.

You could even push the championship game back a week.

Such a system would not only keep the regular season relevant, but would dramatically improve the quality of the bowl match ups with a two-tiered system. You could have the 8 team playoff plus the normal bowl system for all the other teams.

If you really wanted to get radical you could have a 16 team playoff, which would have to have first and probably the second round playoff games at campus sites with the highest seeded teams. Conference champions from all six current BCS champions would be guaranteed spots, as well as the highest ranked champion from the other conferences, plus all worthy runner ups.

Again using this year’s rankings. the first round match ups would be:

1. Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten)

2. Alabama (SEC) vs.  Louisville (Big East)

3. Florida (SEC-2) vs.  Northern Illinois (MAC)

4. Oregon (Pac 12-2) vs.  Clemson (ACC-2)

5. Kansas State (Big 12) vs. Florida State (ACC)

6. Stanford (Pac-12) vs. Oklahoma (Big 12 2)

7. Georgia  (SEC 3) vs.  Oregon State (Pac-12-2)

8. LSU  (SEC 4) vs.  Nebraska (Big Ten 2)

In this group, you have no regular season rematches. The SEC does get four teams, but all the other conferences but the Big East received two bids. The team with the highest ranking from a non- BCS conference gets a spot.  Yes, the MWC, CUSA, the Sun   Belt and WAC  are all left out, but they would be competing for an open spot all season.

Using this system this year, Texas A&M and South Carolina are left out and so are UCLA and Boise State.

The first round games would definitely be played in the middle of December,  leaving 8 teams with the same options of playing the first two rounds on campus sites and the final Four on New Year’s  Eve and New Year’s Day and the championship game a week later.

Again, the regular season would have to be cut to 11 games to make this work. It would also cut down the ridiculous 40 plus days between games which is currently in place.

It is a system that could and would work, would generate millions of dollars in extra revenue, keep the regular season relevant, cut the gap between the regular season and post season into a normal time frame, not extend the football season too long into January for too many teams, give players time off during the regular season and generate interest.

All of which are reasons why it probably will never happen.





© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.

  9 comments for “A playoff system which would work

  1. December 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm


    A few notes on your comment:

    First, 35 is the numbers you’re looking for when referring the number of bowl winners.

    Secondly, the upcoming playoff system (in 2014) is not removing any bowls (in fact, it’s adding one), so don’t worry about all the teams being rewarded for their .500 seasons. Those rewards will still come.

    Thirdly, I’m not sure we can say that going to a playoff is “nothing but a money grab” because to do so would be saying that college sports, particularly football and basketball, isn’t a money grab already.

    Lastly, I have to disagree with your conclusion that a playoff system (not necessarily the one coming in 2014 or the one proposed in this blog) would be diluting what makes the regular season special. Whether it’s a four-team, or eight-team playoff, in my view it actually increases the importance of a regular season. More teams are striving for a chance to contend for a national title and their chance isn’t dependent upon human polls that are driven by bias, filled-in by “voters” that admittedly don’t follow the game very closely, and is influenced by preseason polls which are are not based on on-field performance. Currently a team’s chances at being one of two teams allowed to lift the crystal ball nearly always excludes at least one team which has a legitimate argument for inclusion. In a playoff scenario, teams with such an argument will get their chance — which will drive the importance of the regular season for MORE teams (whereas currently, if a team loses two games — or sometimes one, they have very little of significant to drive towards).

  2. Chris Columbo
    December 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    College football has pageantry and tradition and that is what makes the regular season special. Diluting that is a huge mistake. Going to a playoff is nothing but a money grab, If you look back about 50 years in every year there was no more than 3 elite teams,very rarely a 4th. My sense is that the 4 team playoff will serve everyone’s purposes fine. This is college sports with college students and at some point the priority still has to be school for the players.

    One other thing that is not being given consideration, in the current bowl system approximately 40 teams( the winners) have a positive ending to their season. This is what builds enthusiasm and programs. Also there are a lot of alumni and local fans that follow these teams. For example there are probably a half a million living alumni of a school like Wisconsin , thrown in their families and friends over for for a News Years day party and the TV eyeballs add up. So people care about these other bowls on a more regional basis.

    • Jim
      December 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Great point. This whole entire playoff argument gathered steam the year Auburn went undefeated. Three teams that year had a legit argument for playing for a championship. Three. Not 8. Not 16. Also seniors winning their last game is special

  3. Jim
    December 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Ok, so the Stanford fans have to drive to Tuscaloosa? They win and drive back to Pasadena? Win again and shoot down to New Orleans? This makes sense to you? Your right I stop reading once I see the phrase “8 team playoff”. Also with your idea, the 4 seed gets a “home field” bowl game over a 5 seed? You don’t think that will be chaotic? Determining who of the 1 or even 2 loss teams get HOME FIELD for a bowl/playoff? This again is no solution, it causes more problems than it solves. And tell me again why the 8th ranked team deserves a shot at the national title anyway? What fan base from a 2 loss team is claiming they were screwed over by the system. If you want to reward a team who drops a couple of big games and decides to start playing better late in the season go watch football on Sunday. The coolest thing about CFB is that the regular season still matters. Your Frankenstein creation rewards disappointing teams while canabalizing the strengths of the sport and most importantly, screws the good fans out there. Most people I know can’t take three weeks out of work to criss cross the country to follow an 8 team playoff

  4. Jim
    December 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Mark, you are overlooking something obvious. How many Bama fans would spend the money and travel to this magical Stanford game, then tell their boss and family they have to travel across the country to the semi final. Now lets say they win the semi…you’re telling me a Bama fan will not want to be at an even bigger game? Lets criss cross the country again! Just because something works for one sport DOESN’T mean it will simply work for another sport. NO ONE would be at the quarterfinal game. The reason it works for hoops is your team (potentially) plays two games in 48 hours IN THE SAME BUILDING! So if you like Duke and live and die by how they do in March Madness, you can get on a plane to Indianapolis or Boston or wherever and see them play twice over a weekend. Stop dreaming like a child and look at this process as an adult.

    • Mark
      December 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      do you actually read everything that is written like an adult or do you just see what you want to see as a child. I wrote that in an 8 team format, the quarterfinals could also be played at the site of the highest seeded team.

      • Buster R Hymes
        December 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm


  5. SJGMoney
    December 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Have to have 1st (1st and 2nd round if you go to 16 teams) at home sites for economic purposes. Otherwise don’t see how you are going to see huge fan turnout for 3 playoff road trips. Also added incentive for winning your conference and being higher ranked, get to play at home. Isn’t that what some people fear, the regular season and conference championship games being less relevant? Take SEC Championship game: in 8 team playoff both Georgia and Alabama would be assured of making playoff but only the winner gets the home field advantage. Still something important to play for, right?

  6. December 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    LSU isn’t facing Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, Florida is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *