OK, if you even made it this far, congrats. This time of year, everyone's got their own perfect little playoff ideas that they want to share with the world, and it gets a little tiresome. That notwithstanding, it's my turn.
I'm vehemently against the notion of a playoff as it's usually thought of. To me it ruins the regular season and the bowls, both of which I think are too important. But I've conceived this idea (I may or may not be the first, I dunno) and it's one that satisfies my own concerns about traditions, while adding a radical new wrinkle to the season that ought to satisfy the playoff proponents in a BIG way. I invite all to poke holes in the idea as they see fit....
- First, grab 8 more teams from DI-AA for a 128 team league. You can have a tournament with any number of teams, of course, but 128 is twice 64 so it breaks down nicely.
- Schedule 6 games at the beginning of the season. Some of them would be conference games and others would be non-conference, scheduled by the AD as they are now.
- Have a competition committee seed a 128-team bracket during a nationwide bye week, based on last year's results and this year's first few games, taking into account strength of schedule, quality of wins, blah blah blah. You could set up an RPI same as in basketball. Committee would attempt to avoid rematches.
- Play out the tournament. It would take six weeks to boil down to two teams. Losing teams return to their regular schedule as determined by the conferences and continue to play out the season. Winning teams continue through the bracket.
- Losing teams then continue to play the regular season just as they do now, but ineligible for the national title, and their conference title too if another team from their conference is still alive.
- The national title game then becomes the result of the bracket. All the bowls are played just exactly as they are now. Conference champions can be determined however the conference wants to determine them.
Advantages would be: We get a playoff - a big honkin' one - and we don't ever have to hear the media whine and bitch about it ever again. The bowl system remains almost perfectly intact, and even retains its prestige. Being the Rose Bowl champs would still mean something. The BCS can continue, only without the national championship aspect - now it's just a series of championship bowls for conference champions and some of the better at-larges. The regular season still means something, because the playoff is the regular season, and eliminated teams still get to play for a bowl game berth. Everybody gets a shot at being the national champion, and playing a seven-game tournament would probably shut everyone up about who does and doesn't deserve it. And finally, those early season games become pretty important all of a sudden. You want to impress the committee, maybe you stop scheduling Northwest Southcentraleastern North Dakota Poly Tech.
Disadvantages: It'd required wicked amounts of schedule flexibility. The teams' logistics people would really have to earn their paycheck. (But the TV schedulers generally ensure that games don't have a set time until as soon as a week prior anyway.) And a team would be conference champs despite playing maybe as few as three conference games. (Although if you're national champs, you probably would have beat all the fools in your conference anyway.) Also, potential loss of rivalry games. If Michigan or OSU is one of the teams still left in the bracket, the game wouldn't happen that year. However, by the last couple weeks only a few teams would still be alive for the title, and the vast majority of rivalry games would still get played. Probably the only lost ones would involve the final four.
The national schedule would break down like so:
- First six weeks: Games as usual.
- Week 7: Bye, for committee confab.
- Week 8: Round 1. All 128 teams involved.
- Week 9: Round 2. 64 teams remain. Other 64 continue the season as before.
- Weeks 10-12: Rounds 3, 4, 5. At the end, four teams remain.
- Week 13, 14: Final Four. Conference championship games are played, wherever needed. Final Four games get mad crazy hype as national title participants determined. Afterwards, BCS selection for Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta. Bowl invites extended. Final Four losers get auto-bids to a BCS bowl. Winners rejoice, commence smack talk, as both are on a six-game win streak.
- Bowl season: Same as always. Bowls are played, payouts are given, people celebrate. National title game is played. Dan Wetzel orgasms repeatedly. Terry Bowden no longer has column material. Congress decides to bully the NFL a bit.