Even though it is practically guaranteed to go away, I still think College Football can survive (and even continue to thrive) without a playoff and with a system like the BCS determining who plays for the national championship.
You’ll notice I said “like the BCS” and not “using the BCS”. As much of an anti-playoff guy as I am, I will freely admit that the BCS is a flawed creation. Somewhere it was allowed to move away from the original focus (pitting #1 vs. #2 in a “true” National Championship game) to a controversial and convoluted system for determining which teams get to play in the four most prestigious bowl games (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta) along with the title game. Add in the complex and ever-changing BCS formula, which seemed to encounter a bizarre one-off scenario every year, and you have a recipe for disgust and an easy target for fan (and media) outrage.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. It is possible to determine a college football national champion fairly, without a 4, 8, or 16 team playoff that takes focus (and importance) away from the greatest – and most meaningful – regular season in sports. All it would take is three simple steps:
1. Return the BCS to its original purpose – matching up #1 vs. #2 for all the marbles.
Despite what the critics would have you believe, the BCS has a done a pretty good job of getting the best two teams into a winner-take-all championship. Yet, the BCS is still widely despised. Why? While much of it is the public’s misguided desire for March Madness in January (who cares about the regular season if I can fill out a bracket!!), a big part of it is that a team like 8-4 Connecticut, 9-3 Clemson, or 9-3 West Virginia automatically qualify for one of the most prestigious bowl games while teams like Boise State, TCU, and Houston lose one game and end up in some third tier bowl.
If you return the BCS to only being concerned with 1 vs. 2, then the other bowls can pick whomever they like. The Rose can maintain its preferred Big 10 vs. Pac 12 matchup, the Big XII and SEC champs could play in their new bowl game, and the other big time games (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Cotton, etc.) can set up their own tie-ins or try to snag that year’s Boise State or Houston.
2. Publicize the formulas for the computer polls. Oh those blasted computers – they are the ones we love to blame when something goes wrong or when your team misses out on BCS glory by hundredths of a percent. I get it – when your team ends up in the Champs Sports Bowl instead of the Championship game it is much easier to blame it on a computer nerd sitting “in his mother’s basement” than it is to address that overtime loss or the narrow escape against Podunk State.
Let everyone know how the computer polls work, and what it takes to get a higher ranking. That allows coaches and teams to control their destiny and eliminate external excuses.
3. Make any and all necessary tweaks to the formula so the teams that end up #1 & #2 are as controversy free as possible. Who deserves to play for the national championship? Unfortunately, it is not always as simple as the top two teams in the final BCS ranking. There are scores of opportunities for controversy, especially if one of those top two teams:
- Lost head-to-head to a team ranked in the Top 10.
- Did not win their conference.
- Played an amazingly weak schedule.
- Is on probation with the NCAA.
- Has already lost to the #1 or #2 team.
- Is from a Non-AQ conference.
How to address each of the above is another topic for another day, and I understand that you cannot account for every possible scenario. But by having a clear set of qualification rules it is possible to put a system in place that is consistent, fair, and lets teams and fans know how to end up in the championship. Most importantly, it helps to avoid and eliminate the controversies that pop up each year.
Piece of cake, huh?
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Of course, none of these things will happen. A playoff is coming whether I like it or not. I just hope they don’t screw it up and leave us with something worse than what we currently have – or could get with a few tweaks.
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This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed college football’s post-season….Read more about:
- Why a playoff is a very, very bad idea
- How the Bama-LSU rematch was an example of the BCS getting it right
- How to build the perfect 4-team playoff
- A radical plan to blow up the conferences to create a 16-team playoff
And feel free to let me know how right (or wrong) I am in the comments.