The college football world was turned upside down by the news that they will finally have a playoff starting in 2014. After years of controversy from the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) and before that the Bowl Alliance, the winner will finally be determined on the field. There will be a 4 team playoff with the 4 best teams getting into the tournament, the AQ (Automatic Qualifying) status that was used in the BCS will not be used in this new format. Meaning that you don’t necessarily need to win your conference to qualify for being one of the four teams selected. If this format was used last season, the four teams selected would have been LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, and Oregon.
It would work as a regular tournament. The number 1 seed would play the four seed and the 2 would play the 3. They would bid to one of the major bowl games and play one of the semi-finals on New Year’s Eve and the next on January 1st. Then the winners of both of those games would play the following week and play for the National Championship. This solves a lot of the controversy. With four teams playing it would allow an equal opportunity and won’t diminish the regular season. What makes college football the best sport is that every week counts. Going to four teams makes the regular season that much more critical because in order to be in national championship contention, teams will still need to finish in the top four.
There will be a committee of 15 members that will decide how the rankings will be determined. The committee will be comprised of college presidents, athletic directors, former coaches, and one prominent member of the media. As with every system there will be pros and cons. Will members of the committee try to help their particular school or conference? You can bet that as long as this happens there will be politics and it will clearly benefit the power conferences. But in terms of where we are currently with the BCS this system is a step in the right direction and gives a better opportunity for the champion to be played out on the field and not decided by a computer.
Strength of schedule and margin of victory will be taken into account. If teams finish undefeated from a power conference they are likely to be ranked in the top four. The only time that a team from a power conference went undefeated during the BCS era and was shut out of the National Championship was Auburn in 2004. The problem that remains is when there are multiple 1 loss teams that are in contention. When thinking of this problem 2008 comes to mind as one of the messier years when multiple 1 loss teams could have argued for the national championship.
The top 2 ranked teams in the final BCS that ended up playing for the national championship were Florida and Oklahoma teams from AQ (automatic qualifying) conferences. That year in particular there were multiple teams from the Big 12 that were unfairly shut out of their own conference championship game because of the new rule. Under that rule a tie breaker occurred and the team with the highest ranking by the BCS would go to the conference championship. In 2008 Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech all finished the regular season with an 11-1 record. The BCS had Oklahoma as the highest ranked team. They went on to blow out Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game and went on to play Florida for the national title.
USC also finished the regular season 11-1, the one game that they lost during the regular season was a road contest to Oregon State by 6 points. Utah from a non-AQ conference, the Mountain West went undefeated with a 12-0 regular season, Penn State from the Big 10 finished 11-1 and won the Big 10. That year a 4 team playoff wouldn’t have helped. In fact it would make the outcry that much stronger for more teams to be included. With the exception of this one example, almost every year in the BCS since its inception in 1998, a 4 team playoff would have avoided the contention.
It’s not a perfect system, nothing will ever be but the more you keep trying to tweak it and add more teams. Is that really what’s best for the student-athletes who are competing? Just for argument’s sake, if they were to go from four teams to eight that would mean the two teams that play for the National Championship would be playing 16 games. How are they supposed to get the best grades when they have such a long a stressful season? Four teams allow for greater opportunity and makes the most sense in trying to solve the national championship in a fair manner. I expect that this system will run the course of its 12-year contract. Everyone should be in celebration since college football has done what the fans have clamored for all these years … a playoff.
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