Six-team playoff best for college football
Everyone and their Aunt Edna have seemingly chimed in with ideas on what the new college football postseason should look like. And while most of the formats make total sense and are a great next step toward determining a true champion in a sport that has only offered mythical crownings in the past, this scribe has yet another take on the situation.
The “Plus-one” scenario would be great if it was all anyone was advancing because it would be a step forward from the current system. The Bowl Alliance, which later became the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in the late 1990s, were also significant improvements, even though they killed off the importance of the Cotton Bowl and somewhat diminished the Orange Bowl.
But we have had truer national champs since the mid-90s than at any time previously. Now it’s time to climb closer to the goal of having a true champ.
A four-team playoff is the likeliest winner in this next phase. Some in power and many pundits suggest an open format, that a selection committee, similar to the one used to lay out the 68-team NCAA men’s basketball tournament, should choose the field.
Some have said a four-team playoff of just conference champs, either from the same four 16-team super conferences that still must be formed, or just the top four conference champs according to a variation of human and computer polls is the best approach. Not bad, but this is better:
How about a six-team format, which will include the top two schools according to a similar system currently used now to determine the national title game matchup, and then four at-large teams chosen by a selection committee.
The top two teams currently meet in the national title game, so lets maintain the importance of those spots by automatically advancing them to the national semifinals. It will also add another weekend of television revenue to the tournament without a team playing a 16th game unless one of the opening-weekend clubs reaches the championship.
The No. 3 team will play No. 6 and Nos 4 and 5 will play, regardless of their conference, a week before New Year’s at bowl sites.
This will give the sport three weekends and two additional games. It will also create an opportunity for a non-power conference team, such as Boise State in recent years, to sneak into the field. More important, it should keep intact the current structure of the power conferences, including the Big 12 and ACC maintaining their 2014 forms when Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the ACC, while giving the Big East, or whatever that conglomerate becomes, a fighting chance at survival.
We are already losing many of the traditions that make college football so special. Texas and Texas A&M not playing this season is a travesty.
The move to four super conferences would kill off more notable rivalries that currently make games played by .500 clubs in November supremely important. Losing that will result in more programs’ fan bases caring only about wins and losses and national relevance once the leaves change instead of still having that neighborly grudge match to play plus second and third-tier rivalries. Rivalries keep dead and so-so seasons alive. Killing them off would crush a healthy portion of the season for too many programs.
In addition, conference title games will go away so an extra non-conference game can be added to everyone’s slate to better gauge the strength of leagues and teams. If the two teams that would play for a league title are so good, maybe they could meet in the national playoff. Conference title game cash will more than be made up by the extra two national playoff games. (Don’t ask how leagues would determine conference champs in this system, as it’s really a moot point because the entire field is open.)
The national semifinals will be New Year’s Day at 3:30 and 7 EST at two of the major bowls, and nine days later the national title game will be at a venue that pays an inordinate amount of money to host the event.
The bottom line is school presidents aren’t going to allow for a system where teams play more than 15 or 16 games, and to have an equitable enough playoff format that doesn’t make a mockery of 90 percent of college football’s relevance, it’s a must to include more than four teams while keeping game totals reasonable.
This isn’t a perfect solution, as there are none other than a full-blown tournament, which will never happen in any of our lives, but it’s the most inclusive and likely most lucrative advanced to date.