- 1998: 4
- 1999: 2
- 2000: 4
- 2001: 4
- 2002: 2
- 2003: 3
- 2004: 3
- 2005: 2
- 2006: 5
- 2007: 6
- 2008: 6
- 2009: 5
- 2010: 3
- 2011: 2
- 4 is enough for now (given the MWC and WAC just got raided)
- B12 needs to get up to 12 teams
At this point we'd have 6 BCS conferences with at least 12 teams and each conference having a title game. That leaves you at the end of the regular season with 6 conference championships and history suggests that normally at least 2 of the confereces will have be having off years and can be eliminated via polls. As I mention above this also makes the conference championship games a round of the playoffs. It as also makes the regular matter. Consider the years when a 4 loss team won the Big East. I don't really feel they should have a shot at the national championship. So discarding teams like that ensures that no one will slack off in the regular season. Also if conference winners autobid in, it creates scenarios where you pull your starters when playing teams that aren't in your division, since all you care about during the regular season is winning your division.
The 4 team playoff becomes this weird animal where up to 12 teams can have a shot at the playoffs going in to the title game weekend (assuming B12 gets back to 12). 6 will lose and go off to bowls. 2 will be eliminate by polls and go off to bowls.
History shows that all 6 BCS conferences rarely produce elite teams at the same time. To get to six elite teams for a playoff you need the MWC and WAC producing talent. Those conferences have just been raided (either for coaches or for entire programs) and it seems unlikely we'll see elite talent from the non-BCS conferences for a time period. So if we're seeding 6 every year, we run the risk of having to seed really unworthy teams for #5 and #6.
Basically 4 means you're killing two teams via poll voting and that can at times present problems. 6 teams means you're letting inferior teams many years, but avoiding having the polls as the headsman.
One other comment...if you let all conference champs always get into the playoffs... Giving any conference an autobid to the playoffs is bad for the regular season. Consider the following scenario. Michigan and Ohio State have both won their divisions and are about to play The Game (as in 2006). This means they will meet in the conference championship game no matter what happens in The Game.
If the conference champ of the B1G automatically makes the playoffs, you have a massive incentive to sandbag The Game. You want to the win the B1G Title Game, The Game is meaningless. You actually have an incentive to hide your playbook (since you're playing again next week) and pull players to avoid an injury. #1 OSU vs #2 Michigan is a lot less epic since the coaches care more about winning the following week. If Michigan loses The Game, but beats OSU in the Title Game and goes on to the playoffs we'd be a lot happier than if the opposite outcome happened.
If only 4 out of the 6 BCS Conference champs make it to the next level though that changes. Now you not only have to win your conference but also put together a resume that beats at least of the other conference champs. So then going 2-0 against Ohio State becomes more important.
Whew, it is finally done...
I walk away from this really feeling like we're in a situation where we can move forward logically. If you simply average the numbers for each year, you come up with a 4 team playoff working just fine.
However that ignores the fact that in recent years we had some seasons where 5 and 6 team playoffs were needed. On the other hand, the BCS conferences raiding the MWC and WAC may have put an end to that trend.
As it stands I would consider the logical action to be pushing for a 4 team system to be ready to go when the BCS expires. Install that system for a time period and then watch to if programs arise out of the MWC, WAC, and C-USA. If they do, when the 4 team expires, consider moving to a 6 team system.
After doing the first four years of this I took a break, but I've finally returned to it.
To start this one off I want to discuss my purpose and process for a moment. This is not a pure numbers survey, that's the bailiwick of The Mathlete. My goal is to approach the championship saying "What are the fewest teams that have a resume that entitles them to have a shot at the national championship?". So my human bias as an author does creep in.
One thing I want to stress, if I'm trying to do this from a need based approached. What is the minimum number of teams we need. Where can we draw a line and say: Everyone on one side of this line has a resume weaker than the people on the other side. Not what we as fans want to see. Basically if at the end of the season we do resume voting for just that season, how many teams took care of business in the regular season and should have a shot at holding the crystal ball.
To recap the results from last time, I found the people on the stronger side of the line was:
- 1998: 4 teams
- 1999: 2 teams
- 2000: 4 teams
- 2001: 4 teams
From that review I suggested that a four team playoff looks like the minimum you need. I did not find a season where you had a 5th team with a resume that made them worthy (although we come close in 1998 with A&M). I also did not find a season where you'd have trouble finding 4 teams to round the playoff out (although 1999 comes close when you have to settle for two loss Wisconsin or Alabama as the 4th, both teams choked on a cupcake and the #3 team only has one loss).
From the above as I go I'm using the hypothesis that: "In any given season you can eliminate two of the six auto qualifying conference champs and have a nice four team field." As I go forward I'll see if this gets supported or rejected and what the rising strength of the MWC does to this (because then I'm looking at rejecting 3 from 7 instead of 2 from 6). At least Notre Dame always sucks, so I don't have to worry about them.
Championship Game: #2 Ohio State defeats #1 Miami
Who Else Had A Claim:
Miami: Finishes the season 12-0. So they are undefeated and get the immunity idol. Miami beats two ranked teams in conference play and two ranked teams in OOC play (FSU and Florida). That's a nice schedule and they come out undefeated.
Ohio State: Undefeated as well. They defeat one ranked team in OOC play (Washington State) and three ranked Big Ten teams.
ACC: Maryland finishes ranked #13 and 11-3. The lose to ranked FSU teams and lose to an unranked Notre Dame squad in their season opener. That Notre Dame squad though finishes 10-3/#17 though. Florida State actually wins the division despite being 9-4. FSU goes 7-1 in division play (losing to NC State). Three of FSU's four losses are to good teams (Miami, ND, and NC State). NC State also finishes the season 11-3 and ranked, with losses too Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Virginia.
I can't really see arguing how anything out of this mess of teams has a resume to compete with a pair of undefeated conference champs. So I'm discarding the ACC
Big 12: Oklahoma finishes off the season 11-2 and wins the B12. They get five ranked wins over four teams (had to play Colorado twice) and losses to A&M and OSU. Some years this would be enough, but not in a year with two undefeated teams that each have four ranked wins.
PAC10: A 10-2 WSU and a 10-2 USC end up at the top of the conference. USC loses to WSU and a ranked KSU early in the year. WSU loses to Ohio State, Washington and then gets defeated by OU in the Rose Bowl. The PAC10 is like the ACC, where multiple teams had a chance to seize the day, win out, and finish the season with a good resume. They did't though.
SEC: Georgia wins the SEC, but a lose in Nov to #22 Florida robs them of an undefeated season. They end the season with four wins over ranked teams and defeat FSU in the Sugar Bowl for a fifth ranked win.
Independents/MWC: TCU and ND have decent years. The Domers beat four ranked teams but do trip against Boston College and lose to USC. TCU destroys almost everything in its path, but chokes on San Jose State (and loses its bowl game to Southern Mississippi). TCU's weak MWC schedule definitely haunts them here, along with the fact that two other teams go undefeated.
The Verdict on 2002:
This could have been an ugly year for selection. Maryland, FSU, NC State, OU, USC, Georgia, Washington State, Notre Dame, and maybe even TCU all end the season a couple of scores away from having the resume needed to play in the BCS Title Game.
The BCS is saved from too much controversy thanks to Miami and tOSU finishing out with four ranked wins each and no losses. Had either of those teams lost, then Georgia has a claim. In a four team system that would leave OU and Washington State with about equal claim to the fourth game. Notre Dame is right behind them (although through the transitive property WSU > ND). I'd also imagine some people making a case for the one loss TCU, but they do lack ranked wins.
This is a results based system though, so I'd say the final ruling is two teams.
Nice ink Maurice.
Championship Game: #2 LSU defeats #1 OklahomaNote: This was the year the AP gave the title to USC and the 21-14 snoozefest of LSU vs OU.
Who Else Had A Claim:
Oklahoma: Didn't actually have a claim. They didn't win their conference. They defeat three ranked teams in conference play, but lose to #12 KSU in the title game (KSU 35, OU 7). If you don't win your conference, you don't play for the national title. So OU is gone.
LSU: Defeats 4 ranked teams, but losses by 12 points to an unranked Florida team. Florida ends 8-5 and ranked at the end of the season, so that doesn't look too bad. Winning the SEC and only have one loss is fairly good, but lets see if anyone has anything better:
ACC: Florida State loses to a ranked Miami team (twice, they had to play them in their OOC schedule and in the Orange Bowl, urgh). FSU also loses to Clemson by 16 points (Clemson ends the year ranked). The following week they need 2 OTs to beat NC State (who finishes 8-5 and unranked). FSU's only ranked win is over Florida. FSU also beats Maryland early in the season before Maryland is ranked (Maryland finishes 10-3). So FSU finishes with two losses, but they do beat the team that beats LSU. Lets see what other conferences have to offer in their champion.
B12: A three loss KSU (complete with a loss to Marshall) beats OU down in the championship and wins the conference. But two of KSU's three losses are to unranked teams. Their third is to a ranked Texas outfit. They also beat ranked Nebraska and OU. What else do we have.
Big East: Miami finishes the season with losses to Tennessee (10-3, #15) and and Virginia Tech (8-5). They do beat Florida who in turn had beaten LSU.
Big Ten: Michigan finishes off the year with two loses. A four point loss to Oregon and a three point loss to Iowa. We defeat five ranked teams and then lose by two scores to USC. A 10-2 Ohio State finishes off the season ranked ahead of us, but we beat them so we have the tie breaker. As a side note I still remember chanting: "Capitol One Bowl!" at the tOSU fans as they left. Anyway Michigan finishes with two losses to ranked teams (although Oregon does not finish the reason ranked) and wins over five ranked teams (although by the end of the year MSU was not ranked).
PAC10: USC is a soulless killing machine, aside from Cal. They lose to Cal early in the season (in triple OT). Their biggest problem is a weak schedule. Their ranked games are Auburn and Washington State. Plus of course a two touchdown victory over a Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Independents/MWC: A two loss Utah. They lost to Texas A&M and New Mexico State. They defeat a ranked Oregon (Oregon does not finished ranked). Considering the resumes of the other conference champions, I'm not really high on Utah.
The Verdict on 2003:
This whole season is a mess. LSU has the strongest resume, but it really doesn't separate them from the pack. After them you have a mess of teams like USC with only one loss, but only two ranked victories. Then there is Michigan at two losses but more ranked victories. Miami, KSU, and FSU all have slightly weaker resumes in terms of ranked teams defeated, but they aren't terrible.
This is definitely a season where people with different criteria will select different teams. Personally I'd say three teams have legit claims: LSU, Michigan, and USC.
Championship Game: #1 USC defeats #2 Oklahoma (vacated)
Who Else Had A Claim:
USC: Undefeated, soulless killing machine yet again. Solid resume. No issues with their selection.
OU: Undefeated manages to win their division this year. Solid resume. They're in.Note: The Big East gets much less impressive starting this year, due to the good teams bailing to the ACC.
ACC: Virginia Tech finishes off the season 10-2. They open the season against USC and only loss by a single touchdown. They also lose by one point to an unranked NC State team (who finishes 5-6). They defeat ranked WVU, Virginia, and Maryland teams. They lose to Auburn by 3 in their bowl game. A solid showing all around, although two loses are not so good when you have multiple undefeated teams in play.
Big East: Four conference co-champions. Including a 6-6 Syracuse (4-2 in conference play) team. I'm sorry but when a 6-6 is conference co-champ, no. Just no. (9-3 Boston College is the best of the lot).
Big Ten: Michigan finishes off 10-2. Losses to Notre Dame (who goes 6-6) and to Ohio State (who finishes up ranked but 8-4 overall). When we play them Purdue and Minnesota are ranked, but they do not finish the season ranked. We defeat an unranked Iowa who does finish the season ranked. Michigan losses to Texas by one point. We're in the same boat as Virginia Tech.
SEC: Auburn is undefeated. They beat four ranked teams in the regular season and a fifth in their bowl. All ranked teams are in the Top 15.
Independent/MWC: Utah is undefeated. They do not play a ranked team.
The Verdict on 2004:
If you had just two undefeated teams, this would be easy and a year you only need two to settle it all up. As it stands you have a clear Top 3 of USC, OU, and Auburn. following them up you have Utah (Point: They are undefeated. Counterpoint: They played a shit schedule) and the two loss ACC and B10 teams (Point: Stronger schedule than Utah. Counterpoint: Two losses a piece).
So I'm calling three as the final verdict here in terms of where I can draw the line of "everyone after this line has a weaker resume".
Any excuse to link to Marlin Jackson
Championship Game: Texas defeats USCNote: USC's official record for this is now 0-1. Alabama also gets itself in trouble and now as a record of 0-2. Ah vacated wins…
Who Else Had A Claim:
USC: Soulless killing machine. Defeats 5 ranked teams. Undefeated. Legit claim.
Texas: Undefeated. Defeats 3 ranked teams. Legit claim.
ACC: A four loss FSU team wins the ACC championship game. Had VT taken care of business a 10-1 VT team would have emerged from the ACC as the victor. Instead a four loss team does. No sale on FSU.
Big East: WVU is in fine form with a special someone at the helm. They lose to Virginia Tech early in the season (who finishes out 11-2 for the year). WVU suffers from three issues. First they start the season unranked. Secondly they lose a game early on, which means they are not ranked until the first weak of November. Finally the only ranked team they play is Louisville. They defeat Georgia in their bowl by three points.
Big Ten: Penn State finishes off 11-1. So close, yet so far. They defeat three ranked teams but loss to an unranked Michigan team (who finishes up 7-5). Thank you Super Mario.
SEC: Georgia wins the SEC with two losses. Both were to ranked teams. Georgia defeats four ranked teams. As a side note, had LSU won the SEC Title game, LSU would have come out of the SEC with only one loss and wins over four ranked teams.
Independent/MWC: TCU opens the season strong with a win over ranked Oklahoma. They then lose to SMU the following week. They play no one else who is ranked and finish off the season with a three point win over Iowa State in their bowl.
The Verdict on 2005:
Once again the BCS benefits from the fact only two teams went undefeated. You have someone drop a game here or there and suddenly selection gets really ugly really fast.
Final verdict is two.
The Summary So Far:
- 1998: 4 teams
- 1999: 2 teams
- 2000: 4 teams
- 2001: 4 teams
- 2002: 2 teams
- 2003: 3 teams
- 2004: 3 teams
- 2005: 2 teams
It appears every year you never have more four conference champions who cannot be separated from the others by the virtue of their resume. It so far you can throw out at least 3 of the 7 (counting the MWC).
What is different in this set of years though is when we have three teams there is now a problem selecting a fourth. In 2003 there is three times basically tied for fourth. The same in 2004. In 2002 and 2005, had one of the undefeated teams lost, a can of worms also would have been opened.
If we have a 4 team playoff:
In 2002 and 2005 there are multiple teams who can point to the teams that got the #3 and #4 seeds and complain they are equal to thos eteams. In 2003 and 2004 there are multiple teams who can point to the team that got the #4 seed and complain.
If you want complete fairness you go with a 6 team playoff to avoid this. The other possible response is to say to WVU: "Why yes you are comparable to PSU/Georgia However your resume is not comparable to that of USC or Texas. If you wanted to avoid getting screwed by the polls, go undefeated like Texas/USC did." It all depends on what you like.
If you go with a 6 team playoff:
This era (2002 through 2005) goes a lot smoother. However…
In 1999/2000 you're letting in two loss teams from the Big Ten and SEC as your 4 and 5 seeds. Your sixth seed is likely #10 Marshall, the undefeated MAC champion (Stanford wins the PAC with 4 losses). In 2000/2001 you're letting less three loss teams from the Big Ten and SEC in to your playoff. Ugh. (Or you're recycling teams who game in second in their conference.)
If you go above 6:
You're likely letting all those teams who choked in their conference championship back in. There aren't enough quality opponents coming out of the smaller conferences to really flush out a bracket, so some teams are getting a second shot. At that point we're not allowed to be outraged about Alabama getting a do over, but we can be outraged about not getting a do over against tOSU. Pick your poison on that one.
Also the 1999/20001 bracket and 2000/2001 brackets would look terrible.
I still have 2006 to the present to go, but so far is is what I'm seeing from the review:
A 4 team system works better for the first four years. It keeps you from having to seeding pretty bad teams into the playoff or seeding in people who did not win their conference.
In the next four years, a 4 year system does not leave a conference champ with a really strong resume out in the cold. It seems you can draw a cut off point at the #2 or #3 seed and say "Everyone who comes after this team has an inferior resume." You then end up with multiple teams squabbling for that last spots. A six birth playoff solves this.
Up Next: 2006 and beyond….
Over the past few days a lot of people have posted ideas for the playoff system. They've come up with a variety of systems to ensure balance and fairness and clearly a lot of thought has gone in to this. I want to attack the problem from a different angle though:
What is the minimum number of games we need to crown a national championship?
To determine this I'm going to review the BCS's history and determine who else had a valid to claim to play for the Dr. Pepper Crystal Ball (and then have to display it at Wal-Mart). In part I'll use what we knew at the end of the regular season for that year and in part I'll look at what we found out after all the dust from the bowl games settled.
The BCS needs to die simply for having this a contractual requirement.
I'm going to break this into three or four diaries, as these things get long. With that said, lets get going:
Championship Game: #1 Tenn defeats #2 Florida State
Other Possible Claimants*: Kansas State, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas A&M.
Are their claims legit?
First off Tennessee's claim is untouchable. They came out of the SEC defeated and beat 4 ranked teams before besting Florida State. For Florida State though the claim is hazier. They came out the gate strong, beating Texas A&M (A&M was #14 at the time, the Aggies finished the season ranked #11). The next week the Seminoles lost by three scores to North Carolina State. NC State finished the season 7-5. FSU though did go on to beat 4 more ranked teams, giving them a total of 5 victories over ranked teams.
So in 1998 we're looking to see if we can argue that anyone else can claim they should have finished #2 instead of FSU. First off KSU. They finished the regular season undefeated and beat three ranked teams. They ended up going to the B12 Championship game ranked #1 but lost to Texas A&M in triple overtime. In my view, if you can't win your conference, you can't win the title so KSU is out.
The Buckeyes lost to the Spartans (well really we all lost when a meteor failed to strike the stadium, but I digress) by 4 points (28-24). Otherwise the Buckeyes were undefeated and beat 4 ranked teams during their season. Michigan State finished 6-6. The Buckeyes went on to defeat Texas A&M in their bowl, making Texas A&M the Kevin Spacey of 1998. When compared to Florida State, Ohio State is close. Ohio State lost to an inferior team by a lesser margin (4 points vs 3 scores) but Florida State beat one more ranked team than Ohio State did. This one of those decisions you can argue about.
UCLA spends most of the season as the bridesmaid but never the bride. They finish out their conference play undefeated, but on 5 December lose to Miami (YTM) by 4 points. Miami finishes the season 9-3 and ranked (although Miami was unranked at the time UCLA lost to them). UCLA's major problem was they only had three wins over ranked teams.
Texas A&M has been covered about by virtue of their losses to FSU and OSU. Coming out of regular season play, FSU could claim superiority over A&M. OSU also went on to prove it was a better team in bowl season. A&M also lost to Texas and finishes the regular season with two losses. So Texas A&M is out due to my desire to avoid rematches and the fact they have two losses.
1998 Season Summary:
#1 Tenn cannot be disputed.
For #2 we have three teams that all lost to one team and have between 3 and 5 victories over ranked teams each. I'd say 1998 leaves us with a pretty clear argument for a +1 system. Tenn, FSU, OSU, and UCLA as division winners fight it out for the greater glory of their local Walmart (or Super Walmart). The Big 12 division winner is removed due to a lose to FSU
*I'm using claimants in the sense they had a claim to play in the title game, not claim a share of the title.
So Woodson is getting the Heisman and y'all are getting a ring the year after I leave? That's right Peyton, I'm also getting a Cup named after me.
Championship Game: #1 Florida State defeats #2 Virginia Tech
Other Possible Claimants: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Alabama
Are their claims Legit?
First off Florida State has an touchable claim on #1 this year. They finish undefeated and with 4 wins over ranked teams. Virginia Tech is also untouchable, finishing out the season undefeated and with wins over 4 ranked teams. Although I really do want to penalize Virginia Tech for their out of conference scheduling (namely: James Madison and UAB).
I'm going to handle Alabama (and thus the SEC first). Alabama finishes the season with losses to Tennessee and Louisiana Tech (We choked on a cupcake PAWWWWLLL). They lose to Michigan by one point in overtime at the Orange Bowl. The other option from the SEC is Florida (they lose to Alabama twice and once to Florida State). No rematches, so sorry Florida.
Wisconsin suffers from an early season loss to Cincinnati (the Alvarez Strategy of Scheduling Crap Teams suffers a rare backfire). Then the next week they lose to Michigan. Michigan finished off the season with an Orange Bowl Win and as #2 in the B10, so that's a terrible lose. Each loss was by 5 points. Wisconsin does beat 4 ranked teams.
Nebraska finishes off the season 12-1. Their only loss is a 4 point loss to to a ranked Texas squad. They beat two ranked teams (A&M and KSU) and then avenge their loss to Texas in the B12 championship game. So that leaves them with three wins over ranked squads and one loss to a ranked squad. Nebraska also beats a ranked Tenn squad in the Fiesta Bowl, the good old days of the Fiesta Bowl, back before we as a society had the computing power to make a bag of chips say dumb stuff.
1999 Season Summary:
This is one that the BCS gets right, although considering they had exactly two teams finish undefeated it isn't hard to get right. If either FSU or VT finishes with one loss then Nebraska has a legit claim on the #2 spot. At that point we'd have a clear #1 (the undefeated team) and a tie for #2 (the one loss teams). Had this happened I'd assume we'd once again need a +1 game, with Wisconsin getting pulled in to round it out to four teams. Wisconsin has the weakest resume of the bunch, but had Wisconsin won out they'd have had 6 wins over ranked teams and only one loss to an unranked team. So it wouldn't be a travesty.
It would have better if VT lost to the Georgia or Mississippi State
Championship Game: #1 Oklahoma defeats #2 Florida State
Other Possible Claimants: Miami, Washington
Are their claims Legit?
First off Oklahoma is undefeated, so they get the immunity idol. Florida State drops to Miami early in the season. FSU does defeat two ranked teams in the course of their regular season.
Miami wins the Big East and defeats Florida State, but losses to Washington. Washington is Miami's only loss.
Washington meanwhile beats Miami, who beat Florida State, but loses to #20 Oregon. Beside beating a ranked Miami team, Washington also beats a ranked Oregon State team.
As a side note, the B10 and SEC both experience down years and fail to produce a team with fewer than 3 losses.
2000 Season Summary:
Florida State has the claim of beating two ranked teams, as does Washington. FSU has the claim that their one loss was to a higher ranked team. Washington though has the claim that they beat the team that beat Florida State. It's a mess of quality of opponent versus the transitive property of wins.
Solution: The plus one system. Washington gets a chance for a direct win over FSU and Miami gets a chance to avenge a regular season defeat. All four of these teams are conference winners, so our worst case with a +1 is a potential out of conference rematch (Miami vs FSU). Since it was out of conference play that loss occurred early in the season and wouldn't be a terrible, plus both teams would have had to beat some other good teams to earn that rematch.
A rare photo in which Rick Neuheisel has hair and job security.
Championship Game: #1 Miami (YTM) defeats #2 Nebraska
Other Possible Claimants: Colorado, Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, Illinois, Maryland
Oh boy, this whole season is a mess. With that said:
Miami is undefeated, so the immunity idol is theirs.
Now Nebraska and why I listed Colorado twice. Nebraska is the favored team in the polls, with wins over a ranked Notre Dame and Oklahoma (The Sooners are #2 when Oklahoma played them). The last game of the regular season though they are blown out by Colorado. Colorado 62, Nebraska 36. In the title game Miami takes care of business and wins 37-14.
Colorado meanwhile ends the season with losses to Fresno State (24-22) and Texas (41-7). Colorado avenges their loss to Texas in the B12 Championship Game though and wins (39-37). Their reward is to get the Fiesta Bowl, while Nebraska gets a shot at glory despite failing to win their division or their conference.
Oregon has a strong season with wins over 3 ranked teams in the regular season and then beats Colorado in bowl season. Oregon's one flaw is losing to Stanford by a touchdown. This is a Ty Willingham coached Stanford, but somehow one that finishes the season 9-3.
Tennessee has a fairly strong resume, but suffers from the fatal flaw of losing to LSU in the SEC Title Game. LSU has three losses at the time. If you can't win your division, no crystal football for you. So Tennessee is out.
Illinois finishes out the second with wins over three ranked teams. They do suffer a 45-20 defeat at the hands of Michigan, but finish the regular season 11-1.
Maryland gets mentioned here since they also finish the season with one loss. However they need overtime for their sole victory over a ranked team (Georgia Tech) and they lose to a ranked Florida State squad. Maryland is out of the picture due to their weak resume.
2001 Season Summary:
Colorado got screwed. They finish the season with two losses (one of them avenged). Oregon also gets screwed here considering they have three ranked wins and only one seven point loss.
I'd say you have four teams with legit claims when this season ends. Miami, Colorado, Oregon, and Illinois. They're all conference winners. Colorado does have two losses, but they did avenge one of them and they bombed Nebraska, so I'd say let them play.
The BCS remains the second worst thing to happen to buffaloes.
So The Mininum?
What is interesting is in this era you can't really argue about the #1 team. In these games the #1 team was undefeated and took care of business. The argument mostly comes down to who deserved the honor of having a shot at the #1 team. Perhaps this argues for #1 getting a first round bye in a larger format playoff system.
Anyway in terms of structuring a playoff where no one can complain they were screwed out of the #2 ranking between 1998 and 2001, by my count we're at:
1998: 4 teams, 1999: 2 teams, 2000: 4 teams, 2001: 4 teams
This of course is subjective and I'll freely admit I engaged in some resume voting with the above. What I did find interesting here was we're at a point with six strong BCS conference (Miami and VT are in the Big East at this point and FSU is enjoying the glory of a pre senility Bobby Bowden). 1998 is the year we come the closest to having five teams in play (if KSU beats A&M). It seems like most years you end up with two conference winners who can be fairly easily discarded. In 1998 for example A&M is out due to their two loses (in 1998 the winner of the Big East, Syracuse, had 3 losses and is eliminated).
When the fifth team threat emerges so far it has come from a team that did not win their conference (KSU in 1998 and Nebraska in 2001). In those cases you can simply invoke the "Win your conference if you want to win the title rule" and remove them (and in Neb's case: "Win your division").
As a side note, the BCS was good at picking #1s during this period.
So working solely off these four years of data, I'd argue in the direction of a +1 system. It seems in most cases you have four strong teams and anyone who comes the champion in a +1 playoff is going to have a resume that makes them the clear champion. This could change those if more 1998 scenarios happen (where KSU wins their conference and thus you end up with 5 BCS conference winners who have resumes worthy of letting them into a 4 team playoff). Keep in mind those, in the future we'll not only have 6 BCS conferences, but some possibly legit teams coming out of the MWC. So will 4 be enough?
So The 4 Team Playoffs:
1998: Tenn, FSU, UCLA, Ohio State
1999: FSU, VT, Neb, Wisconsin
2000: OU, FSU, Miami, Washington
2001: Miami, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon
The only two real objections here would be in 1999 if a two loss Wisconsin team runs the table (so a two loss Wisky gets the title over FSU and VT who would both be one loss) and the whole FSU-Miami rematch in 2000. FSU-Miami is an out of conference game during this time period though (Miami is Big East, FSU is ACC) and I don't want to penalize scheduling like a big boy for your out of conference schedule, so I say let it happen. In terms of Wisconsin winning it all, that's the downside of a playoff. The pro of the playoff is that it elimates arguments over if #3 or #4 deserved a shot at #1. The con is sometimes a weak #4 could get lucky and win out. We just have to hope the latter doesn't happen often.
I also can't see any fifth team that would have room to complain about getting the door slammed in their face for any of these games (include my standard: If KSU won in 1998 we'd have a problem disclaimer, but they didn't so I do what the results say I should do).
Quick Note: Please don't get too hung up on the #4. I'm not trying to set a standard playoff size from just these points. My goal is at the end of all of this to look back and say: "The median number needed since 1998 is X, and with X we'd have still had controversy in the following years...". For example with an X of 4, you likely have some controversy in 1999 when a two loss team got a shot at an undefeated team.
Up Next: To 2002 and Beyond!
(If I screwed up a fact in all this please call me out. I was multitabbing like a madman on College Football Warehouse so I may have messed up a score or record here or there. Hopefully not too frequently).
Turn on ESPN, or look at basically any media outlet that covers college football, and you'll find someone railing against the current BCS system. And with good reason. Brian has his well-reasoned alternative here. Today, Andy Staples informed us that the athletic directors of the Big 12 conference, fresh off Oklahoma State's BCS snub in favor of a regional contest between teams that already played each other, have tentatively backed the idea of a seeded 4-team tournament:
Monday, Big 12 athletic directors voted in a straw poll to get behind the idea of a plus-one format that would allow four teams to compete for the national title. Such a format would have allowed USC to play for the national title in 2003, Auburn to play for it in 2004, Texas to play for it in 2008 and Oklahoma State -- which finished behind No. 2 Alabama by the slimmest of margins in the BCS standings -- to play for the title this season. If the league's presidents choose to agree with their athletic directors, the Big 12's support would be a huge step forward. The Big 12 was one of several leagues that blocked SEC commissioner Mike Slive's 2008 proposal for a four-team, seeded tournament. The ACC was the only conference that supported the plan.
Then he goes on to say that the Big 10 is the lone holdout:
From their standpoint, that is the sensible position. That's why the Big Ten will likely offer the most resistance to any plus-one plan if it gets proposed prior to the next BCS annual meeting in April. Commissioner Jim Delany is a master at getting his colleagues to agree to do what is best for the Big Ten, and the Big Ten is better off without a playoff. Because the league contains huge schools with passionate fan bases, the old bowl system actually is the most advantageous for the Big Ten.
Then there's a bunch of "well we don't really know how it would work" stuff that demonstrates how far off this idea still is from becoming reality.
The problems at hand:
The sticking points are, according to Staples:
1. Resistance from the Big 10 ADs and from school presidents generally, who don't want to extend the season further into January and who like the bowl-system
2. Resistance from TV networks, who like the bowl-system
This is only part of the problem. Other issues he doesn't bring up include:
3. A tendency in American sports to keep expanding and expanding tournament brackets. Look at the NBA, NFL, MLB and even NCAAB. Anyone who thinks that this would end at 4, or even at 6, is kidding themselves. Once the cat's out of the bag, it's only a matter of time before it becomes 8, then 16, then 32.
4. NCAA football is unique in the sense that every single game matters absolutely. The more postseason play you have, the more watered down this becomes. This, in turn, could reduce interest in regular-season play, a la March Madness.*
These are, in my opinion, the underlying reasons why school presidents and ADs are opposed to a playoff. Unlike basketball or baseball, football is extremely physically taxing, and requires massive hours of practice, conditioning and preparation. It causes lots of injuries, and takes a lot of time away from schooling just to get ready for a single game. But the ADs and presidents were all okay with adding a 12th game, you say? Yes that's true, and it's a bit hypocritical. But that's where we are with the people pulling the trigger on this thing.
What an alternative to the BCS would have to look like:
Any viable alternative to the BCS, and by viable I mean palatable to ADs and school presidents, needs to do the following things:
1. Preserve the bowl system
2. Not extend the season far beyond its already extended point
3. Not threaten to engulf the regular season by morphing into an actual tournament
So what are the alternatives?
1. A "+1"
Go back to the old way of picking bowl participants (thus satisfying the Big 10 and Pac 12), and then have a game at the end pitting #1 against #2.
LIKELIHOOD: Low. This appeals to me, as someone who's always liked the ideosyncracies and old traditions of college football. But there's a lot of path dependency going on here, and I don't know if the NCAA would ditch the BCS selection process entirely at this point.
2. A pseudo "+1"
Keep the BCS, but instead of having a #1 vs. #2 game, have the BCS bowls all pick by lots, then schedule #1 vs. #2
LIKELIHOOD: High. I don't think this completely solves the selection issue, but it does sidestep the potential tournament problems that seem to be a sticking point. This would, at least, give the NCAA a decade of breathing space before the pitchforks and torches get too numerous to ignore...just like the BCS did.
3. A 4-team tournament
Have two bowls choose the top 4 teams, seeded, and then have the +1
LIKELIHOOD: Fair. This does solve the selection problem, but opens the door to more expansion, which I believe to be the ultimate fear of the ADs and school presidents who are backing the BCS. Still, it's not impossible given this year's BCS catastrophe.
4. A 6+ team tournament.
At least 6 seeded teams playing each other.
LIKEIHOOD: Low. Brian's suggestion is sensible and would make for good drama, but it potentially suggests 2+ games to the end of the season. The only way this becomes reality in the short-term is if ADs and school presidents agree to shorten the regular season, which ain't gonna happen.
5. Keep the current crappy system with some new window dressing to make it look, to its architects if to no one else, as if something has changed.
All Hail the BCS and its Opaque and Frustrating Selection Process.
LIKELIHOOD: Very High. Institutions are incredibly conservative things, and college football is, at base, a collection of autonomous institutions bound together by a host of decentralized institutions (conferences) loosely bound under an umbrella association with only limited authority and decision-making power (the NCAA). The NFL it ain't. This makes the most conservative solution the most likely, and keeping things mostly as they are = the most conservative solution. Don't believe me? Just wait and see...
As per previous diaries, I've just outlined some scenarios and argued why I think they are likely or unlikely. I'd like to ask all of you the following questions in your comments:
1. Which scenarios do you think are the most and least likely? Why or why not? Are there any I missed?
2. What system would actually be best for the sport, and for the student athletes who play it while enrolled full-time in college?
*March Madness has its own uniquely endearing qualities to it: IMO it's the best tournament in American sports. Not a diss here, but just because it works in one sport doesn't mean it's appropriate or feasible for another.