College Football Playoff: A Modest Proposal

Before the games and conference championships started last week, there was a huge moral disagreement looming between many football fans. Who deserves to play for a national title more - an undefeated team from a weaker conference, or a one-loss team from a loaded one? Fortunately, that argument never came to pass, and Ohio State saved us the trouble by falling in the Big 10 Title game to its toughest foe yet: Michigan State.

The MSU win was met with a huge sigh of relief from pro-SEC fans, as the win allowed a one-loss Auburn team a chance to play for the national title.

Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, there have been several years when a deserving contender has been ousted for being the odd man out. Look at 2004 for example, when Auburn wasn't allowed to play for the National Championship with a loaded roster against another stacked team in Southern Cal. Sadly, Southern Cal demolished an inferior Oklahoma team and hoisted the trophy. Auburn went on to beat Virginia 16-13 in the Sugar Bowl.

One thing that's always bothered me to no end was the fact that FBS Football, or "Division One," is the only NCAA Men's team sport that doesn't require a playoff or some form of tournament to decide its champion. Why? Well, there are plenty of reasons - reasons subjective to financial gains and losses, logistics, and even interest.

Next year, college football is going to adopt the concept of a four-team play off to decide on a champion. To be quite honest, four teams just isn't enough. This doesn't add to quality of the football, but it adds to the politics that are making so many fans upset. There's going to be more trouble, and more good teams will be stuck on the outside looking in.

So, here's my proposal - a nine-team playoff that would look something like this:

You could keep all the major profitable BCS Games as part of the playoff. With nine teams making the "postseason," it would be extremely difficult for the voters to miss out on anybody. It also wouldn't allow one loss to determine a team's final destiny. If this were applied to this year's BCS Standings, it would look like this:

A reason that would be used against this plan is time. When are you going to play the four rounds of this playoff? To find a solution, let's look at the current amount of time it takes to accomplish one bowl season.

This year, college football's best time of year starts on the 21st of December, which is a Saturday. Suppose this gives way for an opening round - South Carolina vs. Missouri in the Outback Bowl, according to our projection. This would constitute the "play-in" game that the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has recently adopted, to much positive feedback. If the "play-in" game is held on Monday, December 16, the winner would have to face a short week to compensate for Florida State's regular season record. Let's reward who finishes first. This way, we don't have any dilution of our product, like when star NFL players sit out before the playoffs.

When deciding which bowl games would be part of the tournament, I simply took the three games that paid out the most money to the teams participating. The one game that I discarded was the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, just because that was the old "Peach Bowl" that featured the SEC vs. the ACC. The rest of have been pre-determined for a while as well, but the Chick-Fil-A game is pretty irrelevant to the West Coast, so let's just hypothetically keep that between the SEC and the ACC.

The second round would take place on the following Saturday, December 21. The semifinal round would take place the next Saturday, December 28. The championship game would be played two Saturdays after that. This way, we'd have two completely rested teams in the championship game, keeping the product as high-quality as possible.

All the while, the smaller bowl games are being played from teams that didn't finish in the top nine. Could you imagine how amazing Bowl Season would be if you had good match ups in the lesser bowls and filled the prime-time spots with playoff coverage? It would be nothing less than beautiful.

My proposal also is logistically sound. The right side of the bracket would take place in the western side of the country, while the left half takes place in the eastern side of the country. This is the part that should be tweaked annually, as performance should justify how close a team gets to play to it's home field. This could also serve as a de facto "random" rotation of Bowl Games, so that none would feel lower-priority than the rest.

I'm not sure if my idea is what I'd specifically want to see from college football. I would love to have a 16-team playoff, but it's just not realistic with the physicality and preparation each week of football takes to produce. This would be a nice, modest compromise that could supplement existing end-of-season excitement without worrying about the "what-ifs" that have plagued the sport since its inception.

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