Pick a team and defend a position. You can’t be wrong.
Pick Penn State, as I would, because the Nittany Lions won the best conference in the land (not the SEC) and defeated a team (Ohio State) that didn’t even make it into its own conference title game, yet somehow was knighted as the college football’s third best team. In my four-team bracket, Penn State would be in and Ohio State would be out.
Pick Michigan because it had a strong resume, or Washington, because winning the Pacific 12 actually meant something this season, or, hell, Western Michigan, because they’re the only team other than Alabama that didn’t lose a game this season.
No matter what four schools were picked Sunday for this year’s college football playoffs, there were going to be arguments. That’s fine. Arguments have been fueled by rankings and driven interest in college football for decades.
A two-team playoff (BCS) wasn’t going to change that. A four-team playoff isn’t much better.
This system still needs fixing. What I’m proposing would not create perfection but it would go a long way toward determining what schools really deserve to compete for college football’s championship. So this is what I would do:
• Eliminate conference championship games: Hang with me here. It’s clear the college football playoff rankings committee isn’t going to give serious weight to a team that wins a conference championship anyway. So what’s the point of playing them? The loser of the game might get penalized for winning its division. These title games are played for only one reason: money. But eliminating the extra week of the season when conference championships are played will more easily accommodate what I’m going to propose and there will be more money at the end for all of the conferences and schools to share. Conference champions can still be determined by standings. Whether conferences would want to divide teams into divisions or play rotating schedules is completely up to them.
• Shorten the regular season: Teams play 12 regular season games now. That goes to 13 if they’re in the conference championship game. That’s too many. Let’s go back to 11, even 10. That would get rid of one or two non-conference games that most fans don’t want to watch, anyway. If you don’t believe me, look at attendance figures for those games. Look at television ratings. Again, I understand this is a money issue. Schools from Power 5 conferences don’t want to give up a likely victory and an extra home game, even with a reduced gate, against a Sun Belt or FCS opponent. But the end goal here makes it worth it, in my view.
• Expand the playoff system: Really, isn’t this what everybody wants? Shortening the regular season and eliminating conference championship games opens more weeks for the postseason games and diminishes potential wear on players (who, yes, also still have to attend classes, at least in theory).
Coaches and players scream all the time about letting teams settle things on the field. Well, what just happened? Penn State settled it on the field against Ohio State and was left out of the equation.
I propose an eight-team playoff (three rounds). I believe a 16-team playoff would be too much but I would favor something similar to the NCAA basketball tournament where the top six teams are selected and seeded and four other teams try to play their way into the bracket for the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds in the eight-team field.
So it’s more like a field of 10 — a top 10, if you will.
This proposal would not eliminate all of the arguments. But if the nation’s 11th best college football program screams, “We should’ve been in,” it’s not going to create much of a ripple outside of that campus.
In my plan, there would be no automatic playoff berths awarded to conference champions, but it’s logical to assume with the big of a field all of them will get in.
This plan goes against what I’ve always believed was best for college football. I’m old school. Also old. I actually liked the old rankings system and old bowl set up but hated the BCS. It took all of the fun out of the bowls and accomplished little as a “playoff.” The bowl matchups were far better in the ancient bowl system. Now, most bowls are unwatchable.
I would not fold the playoffs into existing bowls. It’s asking too much of college fans and students to expect them to travel each week. I would put all of the playoff games on campuses of the higher seeded teams in playoff games except for the championship, like the Super Bowl. When the current playoff system was announced, I favored semifinals being played on campus. But nobody listened to me. Again.
As for the existing bowls, my hope is that some of them will just go away, especially with the perceived 10 best FBS programs in playoff games. Or allow early playoff losers to still play in a bowl game. It doesn’t matter to me and probably doesn’t matter to most, except the title sponsor of the game.
Tradition left college football long ago. If the objective here is to let the most deserving teams plays for a championship, it’s time to legitimize this thing.
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