Every year after the college football season has concluded, the debate on whether the NCAA needs to adopt a new way of determining their champion arises. Should a playoff system be introduced? If so, who gets to play? How would seeding be determined? Would the playoffs be watchable and entertaining? Would the system be fair and balanced?
Before detailing my plan for a playoff system, we need to know how the BCS system
works. It all starts with the polling system. There are two "human" polls, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and the USA Today/Coaches Poll. These are used weekly to determine each team's rank. There is also a computer ranking system, which takes in account various stats and performance data (including strength of schedule and margin of victory). Combining the computer system with the poll rankings determines each school's BCS ranking, illustrated by a decimal number. The closer to 1 that number is, the higher the school's rank.
At the end of the season, the BCS rankings are used to determine who gets to play in the BCS bowl games. There are an inordinate amount of bowl games, but there are only five BCS bowls
: The Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Rose Bowl, and the BCS Championship. The BCS Championship contenders are easy to determine, as the schools ranked #1 and #2 in the BCS rankings get in. The other four bowls are determined by the BCS Automatic Qualifiers, which are the champions of the major conferences: The SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12, and the Big East. Also, no more than one team from the smaller conferences can earn an automatic BCS bowl bid. A second team from the smaller conferences can earn an at-large bid, however.
The criticisms of the BCS system are numerous. The ranking system sometimes leaves out undefeated teams from competing for the championship, and one-win teams getting in. Also, other teams can easily get into a BCS bowl game with multiple losses, even though there are many other teams who performed better and had better records. The current heat about the BCS being against U.S. antitrust laws
does not help either. So how does the NCAA remedy some of these problems and make a fair, balanced, entertaining bowl system? Here is my BCS playoff system idea:
The biggest slight of the BCS in my book is the exclusion of the mid major conferences (MAC, WAC, MWC, Conference USA, SunBelt, and Independents). These conferences never get a chance to play for the National Championship simply because they are smaller and less wealthy. My playoff system will include the mid major conference champions as well as the major conference champs.
If we take the champions from each of the 11 conferences and the Independent school with the best record, we now have a 12 team playoff tree. Tiebreakers in seeding would depend on two things: conference record and/or whether the school is in a major or mid major conference. If teams have identical overall records, conference records, and are in the same conference classification, either margin of victory or points scored could be used. For the Independents, they will always be ranked after the team with the same record, since there is no conference standings for them. If this system were to have been used this year, this is how the seedings would stack up:
1. LSU 13-0
2. Oklahoma State 11-1
3. Oregon 11-2 (better conference record)
4. Wisconsin 11-2 (major conference)
5. Southern Miss 11-2 (mid major conference)
6. TCU 10-2 (scored more points)
7. Arkansas St. 10-2
8. Northern Illinois 10-3 (better conference record)
9. Clemson 10-3
10. West Virginia 9-3
11. BYU 9-3
12. Louisiana Tech 8-4
The first four seeds get a bye. Then in the next round, lowest remaining seed plays #1 and so on. Those four semifinal games can be the official bowl games.
The advantages of having this system would be immense, especially for the mid major schools. They would get national attention which will drive up school earnings and recruiting power. Also, the chances for a small school to pull off a huge upset would increase, making for some amazing football.
This is an all inclusive, fair and balanced system. While the major conferences still take a little precedence over the mid majors, the mid majors can overcome that bias by having better overall and/or conference records. Some conference tweaks will have to be added. All conferences would have to host a conference championship game instead of just those that have two divisions. The Independents are the only ones getting a bit of the shaft, as they do not have conference records, but they are included based on overall record. This is not a perfect system. There is no such thing. However, this system will truly determine what team is the best in the nation without excluding those teams that are smaller and less funded.
If this system were in place, I would definitely tune in to every game during the college football post-season.