Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Konformist College Playoff Bowl III: Part 1

Robert Sterling

December is here, and it's time for The Konformist annual push for a college football playoff to decide a champion over the current BCS system.

Let's give the BCS some credit this year: since The Konformist has covered this story in 2007, this is actually the least controversial solution for who should play in the BCS championship. LSU, the nation's only undefeated FBS team even while playing in the toughest conference, is as non-controversial choice you can have, and Alabama, who had its only loss against LSU, has a strong case as well. Certainly Oklahoma State (who won its conference, something Alabama can't claim) has a great argument it its favor, but as BCS outrages go, it's pretty minimal, Furthermore, there are no undefeated non-BCS conference teams, and none of the non-BCS conference champs have less than two losses. For this year, then, the most offensive nature of the BCS system, that it violates anti-trust laws by depriving certain teams any opportunity to play in the college championship, is not an issue. (In fact, in the first two years of a playoff simulation, the winners, TCU in 2009 and Boise State in 2010, were non-BCS conference teams.)

This doesn't excuse the BCS system. If this is the least objectionable solution over the last five years, and the solution still has the controversy over Alabama or Oklahoma State, that is pretty indicting. Likewise, this year's results are a decided aberration, and overall the system is still decidedly unfair, unjust and in violation of federal anti-trust laws.

The solution still is a playoff, which is how every other major sport (professional and college) decides its annual champ. The Konformist playoff plan meets the four main goals The Konformist laid out in 2007:

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 the playoff plan would work out in 2011, aided by game simulations made via, in the third annual college football playoff.

The playoff would involve sixteen teams, so the champions from all eleven conferences can be included. The other five spaces would include Notre Dame if it's in the top 25, then the top AP ranked teams that aren't conference winners, limited to one per conference unless the team was in the top 10. This year, it would be Alabama, Stanford, Arkansas, Boise State and South Carolina. (USC is number 5, but was barred from playing any bowl games this year. Though the NCAA is a politically biased group, the penalty will be honored in this playoff. Meanwhile, the SEC, cementing its rep as the toughest conference is college football, earns three of the five wild-card teams.)

For the first round (held the week ending December 17th) 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 the highest ranked non-Conference winner. The two brackets would then be placed in order of their AP ranking.

In a surprise move, West Virginia protests, and argues that Stanford, being one of the top four teams, deserves the upper bracket more than TCU, which is ranked 16th. (West Virginia would rather play Arkansas than Stanford.) After a debate, it is ruled in favor of West Virginia that a top four wild card should earn an upper bracket over a non-BCS conference champ with a lower ranking. (As precedent it is cited the top four have had an insider track to BCS games.)

So here's how it would look in 2011:

LSU (1, SEC)
Alabama (2)
Oklahoma State (3, Big 12)
Stanford (4)
Oregon (6, PAC-12)
Wisconsin (9, Big Ten)
Clemson (14, ACC)
West Virginia (23, Big East)

Arkansas (7)
Boise State (8)
South Carolina (10)
TCU (16)
Southern Miss (22)
Arkansas State
Northern Illinois
Louisiana Tech

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:

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio) Stanford (4) - Southern Miss (22)

Fiesta Bowl (Phoenix) Pac-10 Host
Oregon (6, PAC-12) - TCU (16)

Florida Citrus Bowl (Orlando) Big Ten Host
Wisconsin (9, Big Ten) - South Carolina (10)

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) SEC Host
LSU (1, SEC) - Louisiana Tech

Hall of Fame Bowl (Tampa)
Alabama (2) - Northern Illinois

Liberty Bowl (Memphis) Big East Host
West Virginia (23, Big East) - Arkansas (7)

Peach Bowl (Atlanta) ACC Host
Clemson (14, ACC) - Boise State (8)

Sun Bowl (El Paso) Big 12 Host
Oklahoma State (3, Big 12) - Arkansas State

Not that it changes anything in the simulation, but the sites for the bowls have changed this year. The biggest change: the Fiesta Bowl has been downgraded from one of the big four bowls, replaced by the Cotton Bowl. (This is both due to corruption by the Fiesta Bowl administrators and as punishment for Arizona passing an anti-Latino racial profiling law.) So now the eight game hosts for the playoff opening round are the Fiesta Bowl and the five minor bowls founded before 1970, plus the two most economically succesful bowls remaining: the Alamo Bowl (replacing the Holiday Bowl) and the Hall of Fame Bowl (aka the Outback Bowl: sorry, I refuse to recognize bowl names that are due to corporate sponsorship.) These sites are free to host other bowl games afterwards if they want, but it at least recognizes these sites as places of historical importance. (The NCAA would no doubt come up with its own plan on where these games would be played, probably based on the highest bidder, but it wouldn't look too different than this. In any case, this is our simulation, so The Konformist decides where the games are played.)

From top down, this is the most competitive group of teams since we've started this simulation. Even the bottom team, Louisiana Tech, at 8-4, is a talented team with an outside chance of upsetting its neighbor LSU. Four of the games look extremely competitive, with the host playing a top 20 team. So who are the winners?

Stay tuned for part two, when we reveal the winners of round one...


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