Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ian's College Football Playoff Proposal

In response to the Mountain West's proposal for an 8-team playoff (rather than the current bowl system) to determine the national champion, here's my latest proposal on how to fix college football. This idea came out of a conversation I had with a friend of mine from high school, so this is mainly his idea, but with a few of my thoughts intermixed.

This idea works perfectly with my Mid-Major Play-in Game proposal.

This system has a few different prongs (both of which are equally improbable because of the issue of money in the bowl system and that teams make from having extra home games against crappy teams).

Part I: 8 Team Playoff

The Bowl system already takes almost 3 weeks (19 days last year from Dec 20-Jan 8), so having an 8-team playoff really wouldn't be that hard, because each round would be each weekend of Bowl season.

To determine the 8 teams, the 6 major conference champions would get automatic bids as they do now in the BCS, plus the winner of my Mid-Major Championship Game would make 7. From there, the next highest ranked team in the BCS Standings would fill out the bracket and be seeded as the #8 team, regardless of their BCS ranking. Now, I know this could be controversial, but so is picking the "top two" like they do currently. And there is a BIG difference between debating over whether or not a team deserved to be the 65th team in the NCAA Tournament or the 8th team in a football playoff and picking one team to play for the national championship and excluding everyone else. In the former instances, the last teams in still have to play their way to the championship whereas in the later instance the teams chosen are the only two with a chance to win the title in a one-game scenario.

The hosting sites for the first round would still be the four major bowls (Sugar, Orange, Rose, Fiesta). Since the Rose Bowl has a longstanding tradition of having the Pac-10 and Big 10 Champs play, they could still have that game and it would be exempt from the seeding in the rest of the bracket. The other 3 games could rotate hosting the #1 seed in the first round in 3-year cycles. Teams would be seeded by BCS Standings.

So, this past year, here is how it would have looked:
1. Oklahoma (Big XII Champ, BCS #1)
2. Florida (SEC Champ, BCS #2)
3. USC (Pac 10 Champ, BCS #4)
4. Utah (presumed winner of Mid-Major Championship game over Boise St, BCS #6)
5. Penn St (Big 10 Champ, BCS #8)
6. Cincinnati (Big East Champ, BCS #12)
7. Virginia Tech (ACC Champ, BCS #19)
8. Texas (at-large bid, BCS #3)

From there, the Big 10 and Pac 10 champ automatically go to the Rose Bowl, regardless of seed.
Rose Bowl: 3. USC v. 5. Penn St

Then, the highest-seeded team is matched up with the at-large team at the bowl site geographically closest to the highest seeded team.
Fiesta Bowl: 1. Oklahoma v. 8. Texas

The same applies for the other two teams.
Orange Bowl: 2. Florida v. 7. Virginia Tech
Sugar Bowl: 4. Utah v. 6. Cincinnati

After the first round games were played, the teams would be reseeded so that the highest BCS-ranked team advancing plays the lowest BCS-ranked team advancing. These games would be played at, say, the newly rennovated Cotton Bowl and the Capital One Bowl.
(For this example, I assumed that Oklahoma beat Texas in the rematch)
Cotton Bowl: Florida v. USC
Capital One Bowl: Oklahoma v. Utah

The winner of these two games would play in the championship game, which could be hosted by the "Big 3" (Sugar, Orange, Fiesta) in rotation.

For the record, here's what the semi-finals would have looked like if Texas had beaten Oklahoma:
Cotton Bowl: Texas v. USC
Capital One Bowl: Florida v. Utah

Part II: Shortening the Season

Now, I realize this is just me being idealistic and that it would be very, very hard to shorten the season, but let's just suspend the money factor for a moment and assume that the season be shortened. My proposal? Shorten the season to 10 or 11 games. This will differ by conferences based on the number of teams in each conference. Most conferences play 8 conference games currently, while the Pac-10 plays 9 (each team plays every other team). The basic proposal here is to cut out one non-conference game so that each team only has two non-conference games.

Really, what is the point of Penn State playing Coastal Carolina or Ohio State playing Youngstown State besides money? Nothing.

Under my proposal, these games will be eliminated. To ensure this, two rules will be needed.

First: Every "Big Six Conference" team (teams from the Big 10, Big 12, Big East, ACC, SEC, Pac 10) MUST play one out of conference game against a team from another Big Six Conference. Currently, there are 65 teams in the Big Six conferences, plus Notre Dame would make 66.

This would create a situation where the 65 teams from "Major Conferences" plus Notre Dame all had one game against each other on the schedule. The 54 teams from Mid-Major (for lack of a better term) Conferences would also get one game against another Mid-Major team.

Second: Major Conference teams will be allowed one non-conference game against Mid-Major schools. Obviously there would be details that would have to be worked out here because there are only 54 Mid-Major schools and there are 66 Major Conference schools. The way I forsee it, the independent schools would be exempt from the requirements (except Notre Dame, which I will address in a moment) and the schedules of the independent schools could be used to fill out the scheduling gap created here.

Teams that are traditional rivals of Notre Dame will be permitted to play the Fighting Irish as their second non-conference game. The game against Notre Dame will NOT count as their game against a Major Conference school. These teams include: Michigan, Michigan St, Boston College, USC, Purdue, Stanford. One team per season that is not listed (aka a team that is not a rival of Notre Dame) may count their game against the Irish as their Major Conference opponent.

So how would this system work?

With each team playing one legit opponent per year, the BCS would better be able to compute the relative strengths of conferences (particularly since mid-major conferences all have games against major conferences as well). This would also prevent teams from having a non-conference schedule like Texas Tech had last year (Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU, UMass). What a joke of a schedule. Wouldn't you rather see Texas Tech play Cal...or Auburn...or Wisconsin? I know I would.

So a team's schedule would have this basic look:
Major Conference Opponent
Mid-Major Conference Opponent
8-9 Conference Games

The Big XII, ACC, and SEC would be permitted to keep their championship games, which would still take place on Thanksgiving.

The shorter season would also work well in conjunction with the longer Bowl Season. Though there are a lot of worthless bowls (honestly, do we need 3 Bowl games played in Jacksonville?), for now the Bowl season would only be shortened by two games (the Cotton Bowl and Capital One Bowl would be gone, since they are the semi-finals in the tournament). The rest of the bowls could remain in place so that teams not making the post-season Tournament could still participate in a post-season game.

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