Well, New Years is almost here, and it's time for me to pick up a hobby horse for the third year in a row: a push for a college football playoff to decide a champion over the current BCS system.
This year, once again, the absurdity of the current system appears almost too blatant. Five teams are undefeated, and when the Bowl games are over, 2 or 3 teams will remain so. So let me repeat what most sport fans think: there is something terribly wrong with a system where someone can go undefeated the whole year and not end up as champion.
The solution, therefore, is a playoff, which is how every other major sport (professional and college) decides its annual champ. My playoff plan meets the four main goals I laid out two years ago:
1. Respect the traditions of the big four bowl games as much as possible, even more so than the current system does;
2. Make sure that the big four bowls actually are a central part of crowning the championship;
3. Allow bowl games with notable histories of their own to be included in the mix; and, perhaps most important:
4. Create a playoff system that produces an actual season championship.
With that in mind, here's how my playoff plan (perfected after two years of testing formulas) would play out in 2009, aided by game simulations found at WhatIfSports.com. (That's right, not only am I pushing for a playoff this year, I am totally geeking out on a playoff simulation.)
The playoff would involve sixteen teams, so the champions from all eleven conferences can be included. The other five spaces would include the top ranked independent team if it's in the top 25, then the top AP ranked teams that weren't conference winners, limited to one per conference unless the team was in the top 10. This year, it would be Florida, Iowa, Virginia Tech, BYU and Oregon State.
For the first round (held this year December 19th, with two of the games on December 16th and 18th) the sixteen teams would be put in upper and lower brackets. In the upper bracket would be the winners of the six BCS conferences, the highest ranked non-BCS conference champ and either the highest ranked Independent if it's in the top 25 or the highest ranked non-Conference winner. The two brackets would then be placed in order of their AP ranking. Here's how'd it look in 2009:
Alabama (1, SEC)
Texas (2, Big 12)
Cincinnati (4, Big East)
Oregon (7, Pac-10)
Ohio State (8, Big Ten)
Georgia Tech (9, ACC)
Boise State (6)
Virginia Tech (12)
Oregon State (16)
Central Michigan (25)
The teams would then pair off in eight opening round playoff games, with the one seed playing the 16, two playing 15, etc. Below is how it'd look this year, with WhatIfSports.com's results for the game:
Cotton Bowl (Dallas) Big 12 Host - Texas (2, Big 12) - East Carolina
Texas 51 - East Carolina 13
Florida Citrus Bowl (Orlando) Big East Host - Cincinnati (4, Big East) - Oregon State (16)
Oregon State 49 - Cincinnati 38
Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) - Florida (5) - BYU (15)
Florida 54 - BYU 7
Hall of Fame Bowl (Tampa) Big Ten Host - Ohio State (8, Big Ten) - Iowa (10)
Ohio State 22 - Iowa 7
Holiday Bowl (San Diego) Pac-10 Host - Oregon (7, Pac-10) - Virginia Tech (12)
Oregon 33 - Virginia Tech 10
Liberty Bowl (Memphis) SEC Host - Alabama (1, SEC) - Troy
Alabama 81 - Troy 7
Peach Bowl (Atlanta) ACC Host - Georgia Tech (9, ACC) - Boise State (6)
Boise State 65 - Georgia Tech 29
Sun Bowl (El Paso) - TCU (3) - Central Michigan (25)
TCU 16 - Central Michigan 3
The big shocker here, of course, is the upset of undefeated Cincinnati by Oregon State.
The remaining eight teams would then be matched in the four major bowls played on January 1-2, with teams picked to best fit the traditions of the bowl games. Here's how it would turn out in this simulation, with the results below:
Rose Bowl - Oregon (7, Pac-10) - Ohio State (8, Big Ten)
Ohio State 35 - Oregon 20
Fiesta Bowl - Texas (2, Big 12) - Oregon State (16)
Texas 49 - Oregon State 13
Orange Bowl - TCU (3) - Florida (5)
TCU 32 - Florida 26
Sugar Bowl - Alabama (1, SEC) - Boise State (6)
Alabama 52 - Boise State 19
Perhaps the biggest surprise from above: TCU beating Florida, a surprise even if it's higher ranked than the Gators.
On January 14-15, the semi-finals would be played, with Alabama facing TCU on Thursday, and Texas vs. Ohio State on Sunday. (Normally, the top ranked seed would placed the lowest, but I give the Rose Bowl winner a pass against the top ranked team.) Here's again how it would turn out.
Alabama (1, SEC) - TCU (3)
TCU 26 - Alabama 9
Texas (2, Big 12) - Ohio State (8, Big Ten)
Texas 17 - Ohio State 0
At this point, TCU fever would be off the charts. Could a non-BCS team actually win the college football championship? Here's the result for the game, played the night before the NFL conference championships:
Texas (2, Big 12) - TCU (3)
TCU 20 - Texas 13
And no, I didn't fix anything for this result: the computers at WhatIfSports.com did all the work for me.
In short, as this simulation shows, this system really works well. It strengthens the value of the traditional big four bowls. It strengthens the value of eight traditionally noted bowl games. And it ultimately creates a playoff system that would likely boost college football television revenues substantially. That's probably the biggest key of all, and why I think my proposed system would be a smashing success.