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An 8-Team Playoff Solution

Mario writes his own blog on the topic of craft and home brewing at Brewed For Thought. Today, he is guest blogging with Bracket Dobber for a change of pace and a chance to write about another one of his passions, sports. If you like what he has to say, give his site a visit.

The conference championships have come to an end, and we are left to stare blankly at the BCS Bowl Games and wonder what could be. There has to be a better way. You’re right, and I have a solution.

We all know the word, say it with me, "Playoff." That seems to be a point everyone can agree on. The problem is that there can’t be a playoff that makes everyone happy. Someone will always be left out. So here is my proposal.

  • Conference champions only - I realize Texas has a big problem with this, but that would be an issue with the Big 12 and not with the playoff structure. Win your conference and you will be able to claim a right to be the National Champion. This maintains, if not strengthens, the regular season, as it will directly decide who is eligible for the playoffs.

  • 8 teams, 6 BCS, 2 At-large "Champions" – We have to play nice with the BCS, they control everything now and they aren’t going anywhere. Keep the 6 BCS conferences involved then leave the remaining 2 spots open to at large conferences. I put champions in quotations for one reason, and one reason only: Notre Dame. Notre Dame is still a powerful school off the field, despite their weak performance on it. Of the Independent teams, the team with the highest rating would be considered champion. How would you determine the highest rating?

  • Keep the BCS Rankings – What?! Why keep the heart of the beast beating? It’s a system people have accepted, even if grudgingly. This ranking would only be used to seed teams in the 8 team playoff. Remember, with only conference champions gaining eligibility for the playoff, the heavy lifting won’t be done by this system. Would the AP be willing to replace the Harris poll again? Who knows.

So now that we have a playoff, here’s how it shakes out this year. The teams would be seeded as such: #1 Oklahoma, #2 Florida, #3 USC, #4 Utah, #5 Penn State, #6 Boise St, #7 Cincinnati, #8 Virginia Tech. Notice, while some teams get "left out," the top 8 ranked conference champions all make it (thank you for losing Ball State).

We have the format, we have the teams seeded, now, how do they play? This is important, because the sites are big money, and you have to make sure these bowl committees are happy as well. We will address that shortly, first, we have to complete the First Round.

First Round games will be played as home games for the top ranked teams.

  • #8 Virginia Tech @ #1 Oklahoma

  • #7 Cincinnati @ #2 Florida

  • #6 Boise State @ #3 USC

  • #5 Penn State @ #4 Utah

Schools will like this because it gives them an opportunity to host a big money game. BCS power conferences (SEC, Big 12, Pac-10 and Big Ten) will especially support this as in most years, this guarantees them the hosting gig. As you'll notice, Utah actually would have earned a hosting spot this year. This would be great motivation for the at large schools to chase the higher BCS ranking, as well as convince conference that they need to encourage well rounded non-conference schedules to help their conference win the hosting spot. These games can be played the weekend before the Christmas holiday. A Friday Night prime time slot and a full day of college football would provide good slots for ratings and exposure.

After the First Round we move on to New Year's Day. This is where the traditional BCS bowl sites come back. In the first two games, you have the losers bracket from the First Round. While this might not be ideal, a potential Penn State/Virginia Tech or Boise State/Cincinnati match-up isn't much worse than the Virginia Tech/Cincinnati game we're getting in Miami this year. The second set of games would obviously be the winners bracket, with the eventual winners moving on to play a Monday night National Championship Game as we currently have. The Bowls would need to work a rotation, which would only be fair. Given the established National Championship Game rotation, the following cycle would be fair to all teams:

  • 2008 - National Championship Game (NCG): Orange Bowl; Winner's Bracket (WB): Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl; Loser's Bracket (LB): Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl.

  • 2009 - NCG: Rose; WB: Fiesta, Sugar; LB: Orange, Rose.

  • 2010 - NCG: Fiesta; WB: Sugar, Orange; LB: Rose, Fiesta.

  • 2011 - NCG: Sugar; WB: Orange, Rose; LB: Fiesta, Sugar.

There you have it. The BCS could go with this idea because, for the most part, nothing changes for them. They have 5 bowl games (the biggest 5) and play a crucial role during the regular season in the way of deciding the final seeding. Also, this doesn't cut their balls off, and you have to take into account the egos of the people involved. They don't have to make any changes, the contracts are signed. Have some of the First Roud money make it's way back to the BCS and this would be additional encouragement to make it happen.

The BCS Conferences and schools would agree to this for one reason: money. You give them a shot at hosting the First Round and they see nothing but dollar signs. Toss a little something to the visiting team and you're gauranteeing 2 big pay days at the end of the season as opposed to just one New Years game.

The At-large conferences would be happy with this idea because now they actually have a chance. Not just a chance, they could host a big money game. This would appeal to the viewing public because now there's the chance to root for the Cinderella. Utah having to travel to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl is hard to get excited about, as there's nothing on the line in this all-but-home game for the Tide. If they were to be coming off a win into a New Years Day game, the venue would be less important as fans would likely follow their team for such a big opportunity.

Lastly, why would the bowl committees agree? We all know how hard headed the Rose Bowl can be. Besides the money that would come in, offer an olive branch to each site. If a Big Ten/Pac-10 match-up were to emerge, it would default to the Rose Bowl. Give the Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls first crack at their traditional conferences when hosting winner's bracket games. Allow these games to maintain some sort of tradition, when it fits into the schedule, and that won't be any different than what we have now.

Before anyone adds in their opinion on the fact that Alabama and Texas would be left out, I just have to say that they missed their opportunity by not taking care of business in the regular season. Yes, the season would seem bittersweet, but they had their opportunities. Texas may have been screwed by the Big 12, but that's an issue each conference would have to address, independent of a playoff system. As a fan of the Giants in 1993, I know what it's like to see a team with a claim to being the best eventually be left out of the playoffs. As a fan of the Golden Bears in 2004, I also know what it's like to have a deserving team get shafted by the existing BCS system (and shameless begging by head coaches during post game press conferences). As a fan of that 2004 team, I also know that had they beaten USC, Mack Brown's crocodile tears wouldn't have mattered. Take care of business on the field and you will have nothing to complain about.

An 8-team playoff provides an opportunity for legitimate closure on the College Football season. Non-BCS teams would have an equal shot at the prize in this format which would no doubt encourage greater enthusiasm in the sport. Not only would the BCS see a benefit, the non-BCS affiliated bowls would reap the benefits of some of the elite teams still being available for other bowl games. This is a system which improves the quality of the regular and post season and deserves a serious look by the BCS.