BCS considers autobids for league champs ranked in the top 6

Submitted by oakapple on May 2nd, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports (http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/blog/brett-mcmurphy/18938708) reports that the BCS is considering a playoff model whereby conference champs receive autobids to the playoff, but only if they are rated in the top 6.

Had this system been in place last year, #5 Oregon, which won the Pac-12, would have gone into the playoff over #4 Stanford. However, #10 Wisconsin, which won the Big Ten, would have been ineligible, thus freeing up a spot for #2 Alabama.

This strikes me as a reasonable compromise. In this era of conference championship games, a team can win a weak division despite a mediocre regular season, and be one game away from from playing for the national championship.

Last year, for example, the Pac-12 championship game featured Oregon vs. 6-6 UCLA. Suppose the Bruins had won. A playoff featuring the four best conference champs would have taken LSU and Oklahoma State (no issue with either of those), but also #10 Wisconsin and #20 Clemson.

What kind of playoff is it, if the four teams are #1, 5, 10, and 20? That's not an anomaly, either. Weak conference champs are crowned with some regularity. In the NCAA basketball tourney, where they take 68 teams, this isn't an issue. Even after autobids, there are more than enough slots to take everyone else that truly belongs there.

But if your playoff is only going to have four teams, you need to make sure they're four really good teams.

Personally, I wouldn't mind just taking the top four (however those four are determined). It's the simplest system that everyone can understand. But still, one can see the objection where, last year, #4 Stanford would have received a playoff bid over #5 Oregon, even though Oregon won the Pac-12.

Giving priority to conference champs, while requiring them to be in the top 6, strikes an appropriate balance. It gives value to winning your conference, while ensuring that a #20 team can't get into a four-team playoff.

Once you get below #6, you're almost certainly into teams that had weaker seasons, and in a playoff limited to four teams, they don't belong.



May 2nd, 2012 at 4:47 PM ^

it is almost certainly too nuanced and complex for sports reporters who will automatically declare that a 6 team playoff is really the best thing.


May 2nd, 2012 at 4:50 PM ^

If you want conference championships to mean something, then you need to have at least enough teams in to include the major conference champs.  If winning your conference is meaningless in the eyes of the BcS, then why do we even bother with conferences anymore? 

It would be like the NFL having divisions, but saying that certain division winners don't make the playoffs. 


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:09 PM ^

It would also encourage teams to play tougher schedules so that when they do win their conference, they'll have enough quality non-conference wins to get a spot in the top 6. I like that. 


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:11 PM ^

This is good in that it encourages good teams to schedule good OOC games. Last year Oregon was lower than Stanford (even though they beat them) because they lost to LSU to begin the season. If a top-4 playoff is adopted, it will further encourage cupcake nonconference games.


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:18 PM ^

I disagree this encourages teams to play cupcakes and win all of your games.  Just like the present system, the last thing you want to do is take the risk of winning all of your conference games and taking the risk of not making the championship game because you lost a 34-30 game to Notre Dame in September and you now find your self ranked 7th.

Playing a big out of conference game has a bigger chance of hurting you than helping.


May 2nd, 2012 at 6:19 PM ^

This promotes MORE cupcake scheduling.  Think about this--if Alamaba beats us in game 1, we will drop down in the polls and will have an extremely hard time gettingback ot the top 4.  However, if we were playing a cupcake Non-con, we would be guaranteed to enter BIg Ten play with a top 10 ranking and be within striking distance of the top 4 if any teams faultered.


If you rewarded teams for winning their conferrence, Michigan could play Alabama, Notre Dame and hell Oklahoma pre-season because at the end of the day, winning the Big Ten would get you in the tournament.  Wouldn't you rather see those games than games against MAC schools?  Non-con games could go back to being big-ticket items where you play national opponents instead of just a way to schedule 3 or 4 auto-wins.


May 2nd, 2012 at 6:35 PM ^

To play Devil's advocate, had one of Wisconsin's close losses come against LSU, like Oregon, instead of @MSU or @OSU they might have been ranked in the top 6 instead of #10.


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:15 PM ^

My proble with this is the problem I have with any system that let's polls determine a small number of teams to participate in a playoff.  Too much is determined by perceived strentgh of schedule.  If you don't have major match up between conferences you can't really be sure how strong a conference truly is only based on how they play against each other.  The sample size is to small and there usually are not enough big non conference games to truly determine how well a team compare to a team that has the exact same record that may not even have any opponents among the two with common opponents.


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:20 PM ^

Ok but what happens if, and it is a big IF, the conference champs from the B1G, Big12, SEC, PAC12, ACC, and Big East are 1-6 in the polls? 


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:28 PM ^

i assume in that case, the top 4 make it.  i think the idea is that you can pass another team in your conference if you're the conference champ AND ranked in the top 6, but not if you're the conference champ and ranked 7th or lower.


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:44 PM ^

The top four get in. All they're saying is that a conference champ in the top six can leapfrog a non-champ rated higher. But if the top six are all champs (which is exceedingly unlikely), then the top four get in.

It's a compromise between those who just want the top four, and those who want conference champs regardless of ranking. No one disputs that if the top four happen to have all won their leagues, then they all get in. It's the wild cards that people argue about.

Obviously, this leaves open the question of how the top four are determined. The existing system will probably be scrapped. Almost everyone agrees that the Coaches' poll shouldn't be part of it: it's an obvious conflict of interest.

However you do it, someone is going to be #5.

I don't have a serious issue with this. I can't remember many years when a #5 team (by any reckoning) had a serious claim that they ought to be #1. In most years, four is enough to ensure that no one with a legitimate claim is left out. I'd personally prefer an 8-team playoff, but it's clear we're not getting that this time, and practically any form of playoff is better than what we have.


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:21 PM ^

My initial thought was that the the autobid should be expanded slightly to be the top 8, but looking over some of the historical match ups you can't go much beyond Top 6 without adding A LOT more controversy - the potential of a #1 or #2 ranked team being shut out by an autobid or just having all the conferences qualify.



May 2nd, 2012 at 5:29 PM ^

If they go this direction, it sounds like potentially the #1 and #2 teams in the country could be left out (e.g., neither wins its conference, and #3-6 do. Imagine GA beating LSU last year in the conference championship). Even if they require those 2 teams to play, you'll have screaming from the #3 or #4 team that didn't happen to win its conference. There are too many years when the winner of the conference doesn't happen to clearly be the best team in the conference.


May 2nd, 2012 at 6:14 PM ^

Sorry, if the "best" team isn't winning a conference, then they aren't using the right system to crown the conference champions.  I don't understand the logic people use when they constantly crow about "Every game counts!" but then pick and choose and say "Oh wait, that game didn't really count".  Either all the games count, and any team not winning their conference championship is eliminated, or all the games actually do NOT count.

In a tournament this small (4 teams) if you don't win your conference, you have ZERO claim to be in this tournament. 

If you want a system that rewards teams like Alabama for being good while losing their conference, you really need to go to an 8 team playoff.


May 2nd, 2012 at 6:44 PM ^

Of course every game counts!

But if (in last year's example) you choose #10 Wisconsin over #2 Alabama, then you're giving much more significance to Alabama's only loss, than you're giving to Wisconsin's two losses to lesser opponents.

And ironically, you would accept Oregon in the playoff, merely because they won a weaker league, when they also lost to LSU, and by a much wider margin than 'Bama did.

I would agree with you that among comparable teams, a squad that won its conference ought to have priority. I can understand the outrage when #2 Alabama, who already had their shot against LSU, gets the bid over #3 Oklahoma State, who hadn't yet played the tide, and won their league to boot.

But would you really argue that (say) a 20th-ranked conference champ ought to have priority over a 2nd-ranked non-champ?



May 3rd, 2012 at 7:54 AM ^

I don't get the logic of that. Seems tautological. One could just as easily say that who wins the conference is a crap shoot, depending on who happens to match up better against another team. Every year, you have team A beat team B, which then beats team C, which beats team A. Which of A, B and C wins the conference is based on the schedule and who happens to play whom when. Even a playoff doesn't answer the final question of who's the best team. Most years, there is no single "best" team. The nice thing about a playoff is that at least it is final.


May 3rd, 2012 at 11:46 PM ^

Who wins a conference is much more objective than who is #1 or #2.  Give the dearth of interconference play, the only rankings with logical and factual basis are intra-conference rankings.  With that knowledge, it means anyone who is ranked #1 or #2 and didn't win their conference is highly suspect.  I would put far more weight into winning your conference than any polls or badly designed statistical ranking.  The polls have to be primarily based on bias and conjecture because there is not enough data to actually rank the teams.  A conference champion is however based on objective data.


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:51 PM ^

I just wish they would do 6 teams, top two getting a bye.  I feel like there is much less of a discrepancy between #6 and #7 vs #4 and #5.  But thats just me, and I probably know nothing.


May 2nd, 2012 at 5:55 PM ^

I think it should just be the top 4 ranked conference champions. If you lose your conference I dont feel like you should have a chance to win it all.


May 2nd, 2012 at 6:28 PM ^

This year would have been the first year that didn't happen. See my post below. Do you really think that #10 Wisconsin, with 2 losses, deserved to be in the running for the NCT over Bama, whose only loss was to the #1 team in the country? I was all for Ok St getting in the NCG over Bama, but outside of that, there weren't any other teams even remotely close to the same level as those top 3.


May 2nd, 2012 at 11:02 PM ^

Bama had their chance, they didn't win their conference.  They shouldn't have even been in it.  Doesn't matter what the outcome of the game actually was this year, they lost their conference = they shouldn't get in.  The purpose of the playoff shouldn't be to give a team a second chance, it should be to square off the best conference champions.  If you can't even win your conference, you have no argument that you should be in it.


May 3rd, 2012 at 12:52 AM ^

The purpose of the playoff is to find the best team in the country. The best chance you have of doing that is finding the 4 teams with the best claim to the title and having them play. Giving precedence to a conference champion with more losses than the #2 team in the country against inferior competition is counter-intuitive. The #10 team in the country should have no chance at winning the title.

Besides, putting Wisconsin in the playoffs is giving them a 3rd chance (which the almost blew anyway until the roughing the kicker call).


May 3rd, 2012 at 11:23 PM ^

and I'm saying that not winning your conference means that you have absolutely been eliminated as the best team in the country.  If you didn't win your conference, then you finsihed behind one or more other teams from your conference.  That means you are worse than them.  And considering intra-conference play tends to have a lot of predictivity between teams within a conference and the area lacking in cross connectivity is interconference play, it only makes sense to limit an actual playoff to inter-conference opponents since that is the part of the interconnection that is limited.  And if you are going to limit it to inter-conference opponents then it makes sense to be conference champions only.

Wisconsin would be getting a 1st chance.  They won their conference.  Alabama didn't even win their division within their conference.  They were not the best team in the SEC.



May 2nd, 2012 at 6:05 PM ^

it depends on HOW those teams get ranked and who is ranking them..NO COACHES!!!

and IF SOS is considred.....if its not done fairly then I will not support it


May 3rd, 2012 at 10:20 AM ^

This is the key. Your margin of error is only as close as your lowest tolerance / weakest link (i.e., subjectivity of people/coaches voting). The top 6 idea just hides the ball and drives bad behavior for teams to schedule non-conf baby seals just to pad the W/L column. I could see maybe a top 6 requirement for mid-major conferences, but definitely not for B1G, PAC 12, SEC, etc.


May 2nd, 2012 at 6:28 PM ^

This was basically my proposal except I had an 8-team playoff. Going back through history, I think this will work out really well. Really, last year would have been the first year that the top 4 conference champions weren't selected, depending on how ND is handled (probably in their favor). You even get 1-4 half of the time. My only fear would be that a team like Louisville would mysteriously drop in the rankings to make way for a #2 or #3 non-conference-champion like Michigan. However, I do like how it gives mid-majors a real shot at winning the NC, though, assuming they are undefeated and played even a remotely difficult schedule.

#1 LSU
#3 Ok St
#5 Oregon
#2 Bama

#1 Auburn
#2 Oregon
#3 TCU
#5/6 Wisc/OSU

#1 Bama
#2 Texas
#3 Cincinnati
#4 TCU

#1 Oklahoma
#2 Florida
#5 USC
#6 Utah

#1 OSU
#2 LSU
#3 VaTech
#4 Oklahoma

#1 OSU
#2 Florida
#5 USC
#6 Louisville

#1 USC
#2 Texas
#3 PSU
#6/4 ND/OSU

#1 USC
#2 Oklahoma
#3 Auburn
#6 Utah

#1 Oklahoma
#2 LSU
#3 USC
#4 Michigan

#1 Miami(YTM)
#2 OSU
#3 UGA
#4 USC

#1 Miami(YTM)
#3 Colorado
#4 Oregon
#5 Florida

#1 Oklahoma
#2 FSU
#3 Miami(YTM)
#4 Washington

#1 FSU
#2 VaTech
#3 Nebraska
#4 Bama

#1 Tennessee
#2 FSU
#3 KSU
#4 OSU


May 2nd, 2012 at 8:58 PM ^

The reason for having conference champions only is so that teams will play good games in the non-conference portion of the schedule without being penalized.  

"Champions only" will make conference championships mean something more than a bowl bid.  It will also take regional bias out of the selection process.  And it will be a lot closer to making "every game count" than another beauty contest determined by polls or computers.  

Let teams play their way in by winning their conference.  With all of the conference championship games, it creates a large, de facto tournament.  If it becomes a beauty contest, then there won't be many more games like Michigan vs Alabama to start seasons, because it is stupid to schedule such a game under the current system.

Mr Miggle

May 3rd, 2012 at 7:55 AM ^

Why do you assume schools will play all cupcakes when strength of schedule is a factor and play tough opponents when it is not? Scheduling will be primarily driven by money, which for most big-time programs means lots of home games, which naturally leads to cupcakes. Absolutlely nothing about a champions only playoff system will change that.

I find it very amusing that you say there won't be more games like UM-Alabama, because it's stupid under the current system. Why you think so is a mystery.As is your idea that not counting the 3-5 non-conference games brings us a lot closer to "making every game count"  It seems to me that the chance of making the playoffs if you don't win your conference would give some incentive for teams to play a tougher non-conference schedule. 

Either I'm completely missing something obvious or you're using some kind of super-sophisticated reverse logic that's beyond my comprehension.


May 3rd, 2012 at 9:51 AM ^

The problem is, you are rewarded more for winning against a mid major at home than you will ever be for losing against an elite team on the road.

It's better to win all of your teams with out taking any chance of losing than taking an oppurtunity for a big win and losing.

I still maintain the best system would be to hand out auto-bids to major conferences and then fill out the reminder of a 8 team playoff with schools that have the most impressive schedule.

This way schools don't have to worry about playing tough out of conference games because as long as you win your conference you still have a change to play for a championship.  It also encourages you to play as many tough game in the non-conference schedule because if you slip up and don't win your conference you still want a couple of big non-conference wins to fall back on and possibly make it into the playoff race.

In this system every game counts, and strength of schedule truly does mean something.


May 3rd, 2012 at 12:25 AM ^

They literally don't have time to watch other games, besides there opponents. They also vote for friends that are retiring and place us 4th!