If A Playoff, What's Your Format?

Submitted by gajensen on December 1st, 2011 at 10:36 AM

If the BCS bowl system were to be scrapped and a playoff implemented to determine the national champion, how would you go about it?

Would it take two weeks and feature the top four teams?  1v4 and 2v3?
Three weeks and top six teams?  1 and 2 with bye, 3v6 and 4v5, and so on?
Three weeks and top eight teams?

Would you want the BCS ranking system to stay in place to determine the seeds regardless of conference, or would you rather favor conference champions (and then perhaps at-larges)?



December 1st, 2011 at 10:40 AM ^

I'd say 3 weeks and top eight teams.  If that's making players play too many games, shorten the regular season by getting rid of cupcake OOC games.

EDIT:  I realize that this wouldn't happen because of the money.  But it would be nice.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:47 AM ^

ya it would be nice and it is a long shot and maybe something like just having the bcs games be the sponsored playoff games if that makes sense. you could keep all the bs bowl games for those that dont meet the criteria of the playoff, but this is all something that may never happen or wont for a long time imo.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:57 AM ^

A slight note about the money aspect -

Craig Thompson (Mountain West Commisioner) is touting a 16 team plan and claims that his plan would generate 3 times what the BCS generates in a year ($182 million versus his proposed plan $700 million).

The BCS contract expires in 2014 and the only way to attack the BCS will be from the economical angle.  If a plan could be proven to put more money in everyone's pocket, you could gain some momentum. 


December 1st, 2011 at 11:04 AM ^

True.  I beleive that a playoff system would generate more money than the bowl system, but I also think that you would have to shorten the regular season to implement it.  There are already concerns about the player's well-being from playing up to 14 games in a season, and imagine the toll an extra 4 games would have.  I just don't see it happening, unless we shorten the regular season, which would take a bunch of revenue away from the schools themselves.


December 1st, 2011 at 11:20 AM ^

You are right about the player's well-being, they get a ton of time now to rest and heal before the bowl games.  So you shorten the season and drop 1 or 2 cupcake games out.  Taking the cupcake games out then presents a revenue problem for the cupcake schools.  Any playoff solution would have to include proposals for issues such as these.

The other big problem would be the teams beyond the cutoff.  At 8 teams the 9th and 10th teams would be bloody mad (probably even the 11th, 12th, and 13th schools for that matter).  All of them holding claim to their right to be included in the final tournament.  We know it is inevitable because even the NCAA tournament with 64 teams gets those 3 or 4 schools every year that feel they got the shaft.  Subjectively placing these teams so that everyone could agree is also a nightmare that would have top be addressed.  Look at the differences in the BCS to USA Today to AP rankings.  The computers are even wackier yet.


December 1st, 2011 at 11:39 AM ^

True.  I've heard some good arguments for Oklahoma State getting a crack at LSU.  Oklahoma State's argument contains much more logic than say Oregon's argument. 

I guess I've heard all the tired excuses for why we can't go to a playoff and am starting to regurgitate them myself.  I really do hope that a solid plan can be presented and we can move away from the current BCS MNC game.


December 1st, 2011 at 5:37 PM ^

Right, but if a team is mad that they didn't get in at 9th, it's not because they think they should have a shot at the title, it's because they want the money that goes along with being in the tournament. They probably know that playing 3 of the top 7 teams is not likely going to happen, but getting money from the first and maybe second round is something to be pissed about.


December 1st, 2011 at 1:33 PM ^

be played at the higher seeds home fields.  Start it in early December then take a couple weeks off for Finals and Xmas.  Do the semi-finals at the big bowl sites on Jan 1 weekend and then do the championship game a week later at a rotating site. 

Picking the top 8 would be the toughest part.  One easy (but flawed) way is to choose the 5 major conf champs (sorry Big East) and the three highest rated at large teams based on BCS like formula with some tweaks.  No conference can have more than 2 teams in the play-offs. 


December 1st, 2011 at 9:26 PM ^

eliminate the OCC cupcakes as stated...however utilize the current BCS bowl system/rotation to host the top 8 teams aka CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS...if you don't want to be in a conference reccognized by the BCS...sorry about your choice boise state, NOTRE DAME, etc...other at large teams can be selected for the 'other' bowls as currently in place to create similar cross conference matchups...works just fine in the lowest levels of college football and they all manage to graduate too....


December 1st, 2011 at 10:43 AM ^

Keep current bowl system relatively the same...IMHO if you are #5 in the BCS you dont have nearly the gripe that umich had in '06 or Auburn in '03(?)...This year you would presumably get #1 LSU vs #4 Stanford winner vs. #2Alabama v #3 Ok. State winner.

I would feel like the winner of that would be a 'true' national champ...and wouldnt have to blow everything up.


At worst this is a 4-10 year stop gap before a full 6, 8, or 12 team playoff.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:44 AM ^

Top eight should suffice. 

Just have them play around neutral sites, then meet in a NC game. There's a ton of time off between the end of the regular season and the championship game, which allows ample time for a brief playoff system. 

However, a format with more than 8 teams, there likely isn't the time for that. 


December 1st, 2011 at 10:47 AM ^

I would allow tweaked BCS to determine the final eight.


First round:  Played at higher seeds stadium.  Wouldn't you love to host some SEC teams in December?

1 vs 8: 

4 vs 5:

Other bracket:

2 vs 7

3 vs 6


The winner's move on to the Semi-Finals:  Rose, Fiesta


The locations would rotate or could stay fixed.  The problem is what do we do with the Sugar and other BCS qualifying bowls. 


December 1st, 2011 at 11:00 AM ^

Actually, I support this one now.  The whole hosting an SEC or USC in December swung me; I get fired up just thinking about it.  Plus the seeding keeps the regular season relevant, since teams will want to avoid playing in Death Valley in the playoffs or freezing in AA/Columbus, or Happy Valley in December.


December 1st, 2011 at 11:57 AM ^

Negative.  People will not travel twice.  You cannot just "use the bowls", it is the worst-possible idea ever conceived in the history of everyone's playoff idea ever.  The amount of buy-in from so many different people that you'd have to get is too great.  And if you think people will travel twice, check out that picture of the ACCCG in Jacksonville and see how many people from Boston College are there.


December 2nd, 2011 at 2:42 PM ^

Sure, the game itself, but what about the semis?  That's what I'm referring to.  If one is in New Orleans and the other is in Miami and then the championship is in Pasadena, people aren't going to go to all that.

Even assuming you're right and that corporate interests will gobble up every ticket.....please, that sounds hideous.  I can't believe people would be actively trying to get a system where nobody but BIG IMPORTANT CLIENTS of BIG IMPORTANT FIRMS will get to actually see the game in person and it costs $5,000 just to get inside.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:49 AM ^

Take the top 8 BCS teams.

8 @ 1

7 @ 2

6 @ 3

5 @ 4

Play those games on THIS WEEKEND, first weekend in Dec. 

The losing teams would still go to BCS bowls, winners would play in Semi finals at other BCS bowl sites, obvioulsy those would rotate like they do now. Play those games on News Years Day (or Jan. 2 like this year). Then play your National Championship game just like you do now on Jan 10th-ish.

A few things would have to happen for this format to work. First either go back to playing 11 games or start the season a week sooner. Both have been done before. The Pigskin Classic (Michigan vs. Virginia, 1995) was always played a week before everyone else started playing. Do that if you insist on still have 12 game schedules so UMass can get a paid day from Michigan and Furman can get one from Alabama. Or just simply go back to playing 11 games, which is enough anyways.

I've been screaming for this system for years and dont see how it wouldnt work.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:49 AM ^

16 teams with conf champs and 5 at large, selected by committee.  On campus until East/West semifinals and a championship game.

16 team NIT for next group of 16.

Additional tournaments ok if teams approve it.

But I don't play college football.  Whatever the players want is what we should do.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

Ideally, I want a 4 team playoff with the 4 super-conference champions, but that's unlikely. I would prefer a 6 team playoff, where the top two seeds, determined by record, and/or some other simple factors, get a bye. Only conference winners make it, putting a premium on conference title games, and really forcing the Boise States and Houstons of the world to join a conference. I am very flexible on my ideas, also. 

I also like the idea of the BCS just controlling the championship game, and letting the other BCS bowls be determined by conference champions and the bowls themselves. 

oriental andrew

December 1st, 2011 at 11:47 AM ^

  1. Only conference champions make what?  The playoff field?  That would exclude teams like Alabama and Stanford, and LSU (if UGA should win).  A lot of schools would be very unhappy with that.
  2. BSU and Houston are already in conferences, or do you mean one of your proposed superconferences or current BCS AQ conferences? What does it matter if it's clear they're one of the top teams in the country?  My biggest gripe is with the ranking system, not with conference alignments. 
  3. I do like a 6 or 8 team playoff, though.  Question is how to place them.  Just championship bowl game and other 2 rounds at schools?  Only first round at a school and the next 2 rounds at neutral bowl sites? 


December 1st, 2011 at 10:59 PM ^

Excellent questions, my man.

1) Yes. Conference champions would be the ones in the playoffs. No at-larges (that brings in too much schedule padding, opinions, corruption etc.). It really creates a 12 team playoff if you think about it, since 2 teams from each conference (1 from each division) will be playing for a spot in the National Playoffs. I don't care if they get mad about it. Win your conference games. Earn your way. This isn't 'Nam. 

2) BSU and Houston are not in the AQ conferences. That is what I meant. This would force them to man up and join an AQ conference and play real opponents. I don't care if Boise State wins every game 100-0. Join a real conference, or don't play for the national title.

3) This is what I am flexible on. You could have some sort of committee determine the top two teams if there is a huge tie for records and whatnot. Location is something that can be worked on as well. You could have two of the current BCS bowls be the first round, and the other two current BCS bowls be the other two if you wanted. I am open to logistical ideas here. This is obviously devaluing the top bowl games (which face it, that's what all playoff proposals do, and that's what's preventing this from ever happening). 

Or the simple route is take the BCS away completely except for the championship game. That might be the best way to do it within reason. 


December 1st, 2011 at 10:52 AM ^

16 would be ideal but likely we will have to do it in steps anyway.  Right now, just get them up to 4 with a +1 deal and then once everybody gets a sniff of the money, 8 is inevitable.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

Eight team playoff. Six AQ conferences get automatic bid. Last two spots go to at large bids based on entire body of work over the season with no more than two teams going from a conference.

This would place a huge premium on winning your conference. Win your conference and you have a shot at a national title. More importantly it changes the focus of non conference games. Now you would have teams looking for big games to pad their resume, more importantly they don't have worry about losing a big non conference game so they're more likely to take the risk.

Besides that rank the teams from 1 to 8 with the at large schools always being 7 & 8. First two rounds home games for high seed, held preferably first two weeks of December. Championship game at bowl game. And all eliminated teams guaranteed separate bowl game during bowl week.


December 1st, 2011 at 11:04 AM ^

but you have to look no further than the NCAA basketball and hockey tournaments to realize sometimes those autobids prove they belong. Besides it's hard to tell how good any one conference is when usually you just see them playing against each other.

oriental andrew

December 1st, 2011 at 12:00 PM ^

Is a 3 or 4 loss (or, if Louisville somehow manages to win the conference, FIVE loss) team really in the conversation for the national championship?  By your logic, yes, because they won their conference.  By any other objective measure, no frickin' way.  When the top-ranked BE team (8-3 WVU) is losing to 7-5 Louisville and 5-6 Syracuse, that is NOT a national championship team.  Ditto 8-3 Cincy (losses to WVU, 8-4 Rutgers, and CRUSHED by 5-7 Tennessee).  Sorry, but the BE this year is case-in-point that AQ bids don't work. 


December 1st, 2011 at 2:34 PM ^

If team is not good enough to win they will lose. So will 7 other teams, 4 in the first round. And most years the top 4 teams will win the first round. However the problem with college football is that most teams don't play anyone of note outside of their conference so there is no way to know how good a conference really is compared to other conferences. The only reason Arkansas and Alabama are ranked as high as they are is because they play in the SEC between them their best win is against Penn State. So how good is the SEC compared to any other conference this year. We can assume but honestly nobody really knows. The only way to account for this is with automatic bids for major conferences. And as of this moment the Big East is a major conference, and their champion deserve a shot to play just in case one year a conference is drastically underrated.


December 1st, 2011 at 12:04 PM ^

I don't think a cinderella team getting to the Elite 8 means that college football should have autobids in an 8 team playoff format.

Since the tournament expanded to 32 teams in 1975 only one team seeded 8 or lower has won the tournament (Villanova 1985).  The champion is predominantly a 1, 2, or 3 seed: http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/ncaa-tournament/history/finalfourseeds.  You have to go back 15 years to find a national champion that was even a 4 seed.

In other words, if the team had any real likelihood of a national title, they would be ranked high anyway and wouldn't need some crutch of an auto-bid to make it into an 8 team tournament.


December 1st, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

I would say three weeks and Top 6 based on BCS ratings.  I would consider some stipulation that any undefeated team ranked 7, 8, 9, or 10 would take the #6 team's place in the playoff. 

The big question is how to fit three weeks into the schedule - ideally, you still want the players to have an opportunity to spend Christmas with families, study for and take final exams, and be in class for a new semester (granted, the current format and relatively recent changes to the system don't really seem to care about such considerations).  Hopefully, the two teams with bye weeks in the first round would be playing in conference championship games anyway. 

Round one (in this calendar year) would be December 12 - higher seed hosts

Round two December 19 - probably rotate these among the BCS bowl sites to take the place of the normal contest (Sugar, Fiesta, Rose, Orange).  It would be a challenge to pull this off though when there's a low likelihood of being able to keep the same conference tie-in's.

The championship game would be at its regularly scheduled time in January.  I could also see moving week two to New Year's.



December 1st, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

Before the BCS mess, "some" bowl games meant a lot.  It was an opportunity for the Big 10 conference champion to play the Pac 10 champion, etc.  I would like to see us re-establish the traditional bowl rivalries and have the winners of the Big 4 play each other in a two week playoff.  The other crappy bowls can be kept for the sake of money and all that.


December 1st, 2011 at 11:02 AM ^

Take the winners of the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC, and PAC-12 as autobids.  Take the highest ranked conference champion from the rest of the conferences (MAC, Big Least, MWC, etc).  Then take two at larges.  That makes 8 teams.

It would be a mistake to do away with auto-bids.  You've got to have conference championships mean something for the post season.  Year-end games with high stakes have played a huge part in the popularity of college football over the years.  Nebraska vs Oklahoma.  Michigan vs Ohio State. 

8 is ideal, but it won't be 8.  It will be 16 at least.  Guaranteed.  It might start off at 8.  Maybe even 4.  But it will evolve to no less than 16 and it will probably happen fast.  Too many teams will whine and bitch if they just barely miss getting in. 


December 1st, 2011 at 11:24 AM ^

It would probably not be possible to do away with the bowls, so I would keep them for teams that don't make the tournament or that lose in the first round. For the tournament, I would put the semifinals and final at neutral sites but allow the higher seeded team to host earlier games.


December 1st, 2011 at 11:41 AM ^

My idea was basically the same as Hannibal's, so I'll just +1 it.

Right now there are 5 conferences worthy of autobids for their champs. Highest ranked winner of non-autobid conference also deserves a shot. 2 at-larges solves the issue of a great non-conference winner (e.g. Alabama and Stanford this year). At-larges get lowest seeds automatically (WIN YOUR CONFERENCE!).

First round should be at home sites of higher seeds.

Only real trouble I see is the following scenario: say Michigan and OSU go into The Game both 11-0. Michigan wins, then beats OSU in the rematch B1G title game. But 11-2 OSU is still ranked high enough to get an at-large. Michigan faces OSU again in the MNC game and loses - is OSU really the national champion for winning 1 out of 3? (Realistically though the chances of an 11-2 conference championship loser being in the top 8 are small).