A Six-team Playoff Format
By Jeremy Hillman
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Here is a college football playoff format which rewards conference champions, without diluting the regular season.
Like most college football fans, I would like to see some sort of playoff system to determine the national championship each season.
I have seen many playoff formats being written about and talked about over the last few years. From the “plus-one”, to the “four-team” playoff, to other formulas and plans, there are many scenarios out there that could possibly work, all of which would probably be better than what we have now.
After looking at the situation at hand, I figured I would throw in my two cents about a playoff format I believe would be great for everyone involved in college football: My format would be called “The Super Six for The College Football National Championship.”
Yes, my plan includes six teams. Let me share with you how it would work and why it could be a great plan for the sport.
For a playoff plan to work, I believe you have to include each of the five major conferences: The SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten and a merged Big East and ACC conference (a conference created that includes Notre Dame, once Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and N.C. State leave for the Big 12 and the SEC, respectively).
I also believe there is no way a major college football playoff plan can exclude the small conference teams that may not make it into one of the big five conferences. Teams such as Boise State, SMU, BYU, Tulsa, Arkansas State, Colorado State, Air Force, Navy, San Diego State, Houston, Ohio and Southern Miss to name a few. I just do not see the NCAA, the government and the presidents of those schools allowing that to happen very easily.
Therefore, the “at-large” selection will be the very best non-major conference winner in the nation. Whether that is 2010 Boise State from a mid-major (so that mid-majors aren’t left out of this completely) or a 2011 Alabama as a deserving second team in the SEC, an at-large spot is needed to make any playoff format in college football legit.
Also, I like big out-of-conference games where neither team can afford to lose. College football is great partly because the regular season is great. With a playoff that includes only conference champions, that huge out-of-conference game “must-win” feel could be lost. Who cares if Alabama beats Michigan in week one (for an example), if they can still get to the national title playoffs by winning the SEC? The way to fix that is to give the top two teams a bonus for playing tough games and finishing the season #1 and #2 in the nation. Even if it isn’t an automatic national title game berth like it stands today, teams will fight for one of the top two slots (and a first round bye) just like teams do in the NFL. This will make the regular season and major out-of-conference games still mean a lot.
Lastly, I do agree with SEC coaches who support “the best four teams” idea. However, if you win a major conference title, I believe you should be rewarded. That isn’t an easy thing to do in any major conference. Winners of the five major conferences should be rewarded (without leaving a deserving Alabama from last season out of the mix) and thus, you need more than four playoff teams to make this really work. With a six-team format, you can pick up that team that deserves to be in, but failed to win a conference title (see Boise State and Alabama examples) and still make it fair and competitive across the college football landscape.
Instead of a confusing stats driven BCS formula determining the seeding, a committee appointed by the NCAA would select the order of the conference champions and the selection of the at-large team. This committee could use a BCS-type formula for reference, much like they use RPI in March Madness bracket seeding, but it would be a human selection and not a computer selection.
This committee would NOT be made up of retired coaches like Bobby Bowden, as has been talked about in the media recently. That would be ridiculous. Coaches like Bowden were bad voters that didn’t watch all of the games when they coached. I can’t imagine they are much more connected now.
Instead, the committee would be made up of contemporary football “experts” who know college football inside and out. It would be similar to what occurs for the basketball version each March.
All that being said, here is my Super Six playoff (with annual rotating of the bowl locations):
ROUND ONE (December 22nd):
#1 Seed: Bye
Game 1: Fiesta Bowl- Glendale, AZ
#4 Seed (Major Conference Champion) Vs.
#5 Seed (Major Conference Champion)
Game 2: Orange Bowl- Miami, FL
#3 Seed (Major Conference Champion) Vs.
#6 Seed (Top At Large team)
#2 Seed Bye
ROUND TWO (January 1st):
Game 3: Sugar Bowl- New Orleans, LA
# 1 Seed Vs.
Winner of Game 1
Game 4: Cotton Bowl- Dallas, TX
#2 Seed Vs.
Winner of Game 2
ROUND THREE (January 12th)
Rose Bowl- National Championship Game Pasadena, CA
Game 3 Winner Vs
Game 4 Winner
Five games. One true champion. This format would , in my opinion, be an awesome event that would engage the entire natio, no matter the conference they play in.
For an example, last season could have looked like this:
#1 Seed LSU BYE
#4 Seed Stanford Vs #5 Seed Wisconsin
#3 Seed Oklahoma State Vs #6 Clemson
#2 Seed Alabama BYE
How much fun would that have been to watch those great matchups and crown a true champion. Alabama was a great team and may have won it all either way, but sure would have loved to see how Oklahoma State fared and how far a Stanford could go?
You are telling me second round games that could have been Stanford Vs LSU and Oklahoma State Vs Alabama would not have been amazing to see?
The ratings would be huge and fans from EVERY conference would be watching with interest, because they are involved in the format.
A four-team playoff would leave out too many teams and too many conferences to truly work.
But to be clear, eight teams is too many, because it dilutes the need to win your conference even further. I want the regular season to still mean a ton. Again, a tense regular season where a loss can ruin you is a big part of what makes college football great.
Six teams, in the structure I laid out, could be the best format for all involved, including the fans, teams, bowl sites, and TV networks.
No matter what format they use, anything would be better than the BCS system we have in place now. No other sport crowns a champion in this ridiculous way.
Hopefully college football joins them and makes a change for the better.