College football playoffs

If you’re a football fan, get ready for my last college football post here at IMAO. If you’re not a college football fan, you can skip this post as you plan for your 17-day Hawaii vacation.

The regular season is done. Conference champions have been crowned. Bowl match-ups have been determined. And a lot of people are unhappy with the LSU-Alabama rematch for the “National Championship.”

Can this be fixed? Yes.


The solution is simple: have a playoff. Division 1-AA (FCS), Division II, and Division III all have playoffs, so it’s possible to participate in playoffs and still be a student-athlete.

Here is the plan that would work … if they’d just do it. Whatever team comes out of this would be, without a doubt, the national champion.

First, some basic assumptions:

  • If you win your conference, you deserve a spot in the playoffs.
  • All conferences are treated equally.
  • If you don’t win your conference, but you’re still a really good, highly-ranked team, you deserve a chance for a spot in the playoffs.
  • The bowls shouldn’t lose out on having playoff teams appearing.

With that in mind, here’s the plan.

  • The field will be 16 teams, seeded 1-16.
  • The 11 conference champions get the top 11 seeds, based on their standing in the Coaches Poll.
  • The remaining 5 spots (seeds 12-16) will be filled with the top 5 teams in the BCS that don’t win their conference. These are the “at-large” or “wild-card” teams.
  • Independent teams will qualify if they are highly ranked. Independent teams are seeded where they would be as if they were a conference champion.
  • In each round, the top seed plays the bottom seed, the second seed plays the next-to-last seed, and so on.
  • The higher-seeded team in each matchup is the home team.
  • The home team hosts games in the first round.
  • Teams eliminated in the first round are eligible to appear in a bowl game.

With those guidelines, here is this year’s playoff bracket. Listed are the teams, the conference they represent, and their ranking in the Coaches Poll.

  1. Louisiana State (Southeastern) (#1)
  2. Oklahoma State (Big 12) (#3)
  3. Oregon (Pacific 12) (#5)
  4. Wisconsin (Big Ten) (#8)
  5. Clemson (Atlantic Coast) (#14)
  6. Texas Christian (Mountain West) (#15)
  7. Southern Mississippi (Conference USA) (#21)
  8. West Virginia (Big East) (#22)
  9. Northern Illinois (Mid-American) (#27)
  10. Arkansas State (Sun Belt) (#30)
  11. Louisiana Tech (Western Athletic) (#33)
  12. Alabama (At-large) (#2)
  13. Stanford (At-large) (#4)
  14. Boise State (At-large) (#6)
  15. Arkansas (At-large) (#7)
  16. South Carolina (At-large) (#9)

Here would be the first-round match-ups:

  • South Carolina at Louisiana State
  • Arkansas at Oklahoma State
  • Boise State at Oregon
  • Stanford at Wisconsin
  • Alabama at Clemson
  • Louisiana Tech at Texas Christian
  • Arkansas State at Southern Mississippi
  • Northern Illinois at West Virginia

The winners advance to the second round, while the losers are eligible for selection to a bowl.

The quarter-finals are played Christmas week, and will be hosted by existing bowls. The semi-finals are played around New Year’s day, and will be hosted by existing bowls. The championship will be the following week (as the current BCS championship is).

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  1. College football playoffs could only happen in a world where
    University Presidents cared more about money than their students,
    and placed athletics ahead of academics.
    So, like
    next year , perhaps.


  2. And, eventually, Alabama and LSU would still meet up, just like this year, because they ARE the two strongest, most evenly matched teams.

    In a year like this one, no playoff system can be structured without A LOT of inter-conference pairing, as your first-round match-ups show, and some re-matches are likely.

    Unlike your book, your playoff schema is not “The Greatest [System] in the History of Everything”.


  3. Or, I suppose, we could just stop giving football scholarships, admit football players on the same basis as, say, talented musicians, eliminate athletic scholarships, and stop paying head football coaches several times what the presidents of colleges are paid. Of course, that is even less likely to happen than the elimination of degrees in, say critical dance studies (there is an OWS member with an advanced degree in exactly that), in part because it would require the NFL to have a minor-league program equivalent to major-league baseball’s, but it’s nice to think about.


  4. While I still don’t like the BCS (who does, really), I don’t think a 16 team playoff is the way to go. I’m not too opposed to the way it’s done now, other than ridiculous way the bowls choose teams. Boise State at #7 and Kansas State at #8 are passed over for a BCS appearance in favor of Virginia Tech (#11) and Michigan (#13) because those teams will draw more fans.

    I also don’t agree with your proposal, Basil (or Frank), to automatically include conference champions into your playoffs. I want to see the best football teams playing, not a (7-6) UCLA team that gets lucky and beats Oregon, or a (7-5) Louisville team that backs it’s way into the Big East championship. If you’re going to pick playoff teams, take them straight off the top positions in the polls. And while we’re at it, use the AP poll, not the coaches poll. The coaches are way too busy to pay attention to all the other games, and as such, the coaches poll is a less realistic assessment of the relative team strengths than the AP poll (or the Harris poll).

    And finally, even though I complained about Michigan and VT earlier, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Let’s GO BLUE!! Can’t wait to see that Sugar Bowl!


  5. 8 teams using the exact BCS criteria from when it was 8 teams would work.

    The talking heads would still get plenty of chances to bitch about who’s in and who’s out. But I would eliminate the Big East as an AQ.

    I think it may take a year where the SEC gets shut out of the title game so they want a playoff. The whole of the BCS college system seems to answer to Birmingham.


  6. The conference leaders would work for the top seeds if there weren’t as many conferences. It works in the NHL because you have three division leaders out of 8 spots. 11 out of 16 leads to too many lower teams getting in.


  7. Geez, those are some needlessly complex rules. I prefer this: If you win, you’re in, and second place is just the first loser.



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