Monday, December 7, 2009

It's that time of year...

...and, no, I'm not talking about Christmas or the holidays. Once again, the college football season is over and once again we have controversy over the current bowl system with more rumblings about the need for some sort of playoff system. As has become common the past couple of years, the latest howls are coming from those who feel that they're not being invited to the national champion consideration party--notably TCU and Cincinnati. And, don't forget Boise State--also undefeated yet on the outside looking in.

In case you missed it, Alabama, by virtue of its win over Florida on Saturday in the SEC Championship, and Texas, given its win over Nebraska on Saturday evening in the Big 12 Championship, will play for the national championship on January 7 in Pasadena, CA at the Rose Bowl. That matchup of two undefeated teams promises to be a great game between two perennial powers from two powerhouse conferences--the SEC and the Big 12.

But wait, there are other undefeated teams who aren't being given a chance to play for the national championship! Cincinnati and TCU are ranked #3 and #4 in the latest BCS power ratings but yet get the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, respectively, as the consolation prizes in lieu of a date to play for the national crown in Pasadena. Boise State is 13-0 yet also is headed to the Fiesta Bowl where they will play TCU--we won't even get a chance to see how either of those teams fares against a squad from a power conference.

According to the Wall Street Journal today, this lack of love for TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State has caused Washington lawmakers to again suggest that they might get involved in order to right this injustice. Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) is sponsoring legislation which would force a college football playoff. And, yes, Barton's district includes Fort Worth, where TCU is located. Even President Barack Obama said last year that "we should be creating a playoff system" for college football.

It's everyone favorite exercise at this time of year--how would you structure a football playoff? Given that everyone else is weighing in, why shouldn't we? Here goes...

One, the playoff system would have to be as minimally disruptive to the current system as possible in order to get Football Bowl Subdivision schools in alignment.

Two, the system would have to also minimally disrupt the current bowl system--a system founded, and still steeped, in old boy croneyism and the desired economic impact dollars being recruited by all major U.S. markets these days.

Three, the system cannot add on a series of weekends after the regular season--it must try to occur and be finished between the fall and spring semesters of most schools.

Finally, the playoff system must fit around the ratings and attendance competition offered by the NFL due to the league's playoff games and Super Bowl.

Here is our proposed solution to the problem.

- Who's in: The top four teams, per the Final BCS Standings, would compete in the playoff. The teams this year would be, in order of BCS finish, Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati and TCU.

- How many games: Two semi-final games would take place: #1 Alabama versus #4 TCU and #2 Texas versus #3 Cincinnati. The winners would then meet for the national championship.

- When: The semi-final games would occur this season on Sunday afternoon, January 3. This date works given that the vast majority of bowls are completed by January 1-2. This date is also the last regular season date of the NFL--while there will be competition it does not compete with the NFL playoffs. And, as an alternative, there is always the opportunity to play one semi-final on Sunday evening, January 3, and another on Monday evening, January 4. (The beauty of playing both on Sunday afternoon, back-to-back, is scheduling an afternoon of football much in the vein of the semi-final games of the NCAA Mens Final Four in college basketball.)

- National Championship game: The national championship would be played on Monday evening, January 11, in prime time. This date does not compete with the NFL playoffs, allows the national championship game to occur between semesters, and provides a fitting end--and showcase--for the two best teams in the country.

So, what's not to like? Well, I know Florida fans will likely contend that their team is better than Cincy and TCU, and maybe even Texas, and they may be right. But, they lost their shot when they lost to Alabama. And, yes, I know that this system still relies upon computers and humans for the design and management of the BCS standings. But, can you say Ratings Percentage Index (RPI)? We have the same thing in place for the NCAA Basketball Championship and each year some deserving teams are left out...but it's a far better playoff approach than that which currently exists in the sport of college football.

I know that current bowls will likely growl and whine about the playoff system but there need not be major change from what currently is planned for this bowl season. Here are the current matchups and how they might be changed to accommodate this system:

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (ACC champ--#9 BCS) versus Iowa (#10 BCS)

Sugar Bowl: Currently Florida versus Cincinnati but could shift to Florida (SEC runner-up--#5 BCS) versus Virginia Tech (#11 BCS)

Rose Bowl: Ohio State (Big Ten champ--#8 BCS) versus Oregon (Pac 10 champ--#7 BCS)

Fiesta Bowl: Currently TCU versus Boise State; shifts to Boise State (#6 BCS) versus LSU (#12 BCS)

There...what do you think? Take your shots but, personally, I think this is the best way to institute a playoff.

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