While it’s not official just yet, it sounds like a four-team, college football playoff is on the horizon for 2014.
Last December I wrote a blog post with my solution to the BCS problem. I suggested that the championship game could be determined after bowl season, making the bowl schedule a de facto playoff system and adding to its importance rather than taking away from it. In such a system, every team including the top two would play in a bowl game, and the championship matchup would be determined afterwards. While the committee of 11 conference commissioners plus Notre Dame’s AD didn’t take my idea, they did pretty well on their own.
It looks like they are just working out the details to a four game playoff system. If done right, and without the threat of growing into a NBA playoff style monstrosity over the years (which is no sure thing), it could be near perfect.
One of the biggest details yet to be worked out is the role that conference championships will serve in the playoff format. The most intuitive, but problematic plan, would be to have the top four ranked teams seeded 1-4 in a small playoff bracket, regardless of conference standing. The problem with this idea is that it erodes the prestige of being crowned conference champion. It also opens the door for excessive bias and whining about polls which would determine 100% of the playoff.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive favors the top four ranked teams, with conference standing playing no role.. Of course, he supports this because it would benefit big time SEC schools like Alabama, who lost a bore-fest during the regular season to LSU and got another shot at them in the championship. This year, ignoring the value of conference championships gave us a national champion with an inferior final record and weaker schedule than LSU, not to mention 1-1 record vs The Bayou Tigers. I don’t blame him for his position. It’s his job to do what’s best for the schools in his conference. More on that later.
The opposite proposal has also been made–conference champs only. While many thought Alabama getting a second shot at LSU was unfair, leaving them out of a four team playoff for not winning their conference would have been harsh punishment for a tough regular season loss. Surely there were not four better teams than Alabama, and while this would add value to winning your conference it creates new problems. With the conferences expanding and the ACC adding a ninth conference game, cutting into non-conference play, which conference champions are best? Are champions from smaller conferences eligible? What if the fourth conference champion is nowhere near the top 4? What do you do about Notre Dame? “If the conference champion only format was in place last season a four-team playoff would have consisted of No. 10Wisconsin (Big Ten) against No. 1 LSU(SEC) and No. 5 Oregon (Pac-12) against No. 3 Oklahoma State (Big 12).” That just seems wrong!
Not to worry, there is a perfect balance. Evidently, they’ve discussed a situation where the conference champions will get the first look, but only teams in the top six will be considered. In this scenario a 10th ranked Wisconsin doesn’t get a playoff spot over a superior Alabama team, but conference championships are still highly valued. With this system, if Clemson were to win the ACC with a 12-1 record, and were ranked fifth, below a Georgia team that did not win their conference, Clemson would take the playoff spot. This seems like the perfect solution. There will be a lot of money and power (Notre Dame and the SEC) pushing the conference championships don’t matter banner, but hopefully we end here with this happy medium.
I mentioned that the SEC commissioner was simply supporting what’s best for his conference. ACC Commissioner John Swofford was not one who supported the conference champions only or the hybrid model. Like the SEC commissioner, he supports a straight top four playoff system.
His position is amazing, not because the opinion is completely ridiculous, but because it is the least advantageous for his conference. As currently comprised, it is almost inconceivable for the ACC to get two teams into the top four, but it’s very conceivable that another conference could find one of their non-champion teams in the playoffs in lieu of the ACC champion. Swofford’s position is mind-boggling in that it is not in the best interest of his conference. Clemson fans loathe the UNC graduate, and this position is just fuel for the fire. To be fair, I only read the one sentence on his position from a CBS Sports article.
Next they’ll have to decide the playoff locations and how to salvage the bowl games. Regardless of the details, the move to a small playoff is great news… as long as they don’t get addicted to playoff money and progressively expand into a giant bracket like FCS football.
With all that said, which seeding method do you prefer? Please share your thought in the comments below. Be sure to copy them to your clipboard before you post in case there is trouble with log in.
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