Michael Adams almost got it right. His eight-team college football playoff plan, or a derivation of it, needs to happen. Probably won’t, but if it did college football would be better because of it.
The 2007 season, more so than any before, was one of parity in college football. If it were a blip on the radar, the NCAA could nestle right back into it’s 30-bowl system and sleep comfortably. Instead, the age of equivalency is streaking toward college football’s atmosphere like a renegade comet. Better wake up and act now before poll voting becomes the weekly game of Space Invaders we saw this season.
Before getting shot down, perennial afterthoughts Kansas, Boston College, Missouri and South Florida made runs at the top of the BCS standings in 2007. Sooner or later one of those middling teams from a BCS conference is going to slide through unbeaten and demand a spot in the national championship game against a Big Ten opponent that’s gotten fat on the Akrons and Youngstown States of the world, while some one-loss SEC champ will be left out.
Don’t think it can happen? Ask the 2006 Oklahoma Sooners or the 2007 Michigan Wolverines how quickly the talent gap between the haves and the have-nots is closing in the college ranks.
So, like him or not, Adams is on the right track with his playoff plan.
But a selection committee in college football? Spit.
There’s no need for such a blatant disregard of tradition. In fact, there’s a way to meld the past with the future, bowl games with playoffs, regular season importance with national championship clarity.
We’re sticking with the eight-team plan here, but first, let’s strip the regular season back to 11 games and go back to the old bowl system, minus the BCS title game. The six champions of the major conferences get in and we’ll let the BCS rankings decide who gets the two at-large bids.
The Big 10 and Pac 10 can quit their foot-stomping and keep their Rose Bowl. Then, let’s pit the Big East and ACC together in the Orange Bowl, the Sugar will take the SEC and an at-large and the Fiesta will get the Big 12 and the remaining at-large.
So, for example here’s what the system would have produced this year:
Rose Bowl, Ohio State vs. USC
Orange Bowl, West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
Sugar Bowl, LSU vs. Kansas
Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma vs. Georgia
That’s a bowl schedule any fan can get behind.
The winners would then advance to the "College Football Final Four" in one mega stadium with the games played back-to-back.
That’s a cash cow the NCAA should be clamoring for.
So, there are the pros: Better bowl games, an undisputed national champion and more money.
The first reservation most fans have regarding the invasion of a playoff system is that it would diminish the meaning of the regular season — a sensible argument.
Part of what makes college football great and much of the NFL mediocre is that every week college games have a must-win feel. Thus, the passion — the gut-wrenching need to win — among college players and fans is unmatched. Lose one in the NFL? No worries, you can still win the Super Bowl with six or seven blemishes on your record.
This shouldn’t be a concern with the proposed arrangement, though. To get in the mix, teams must be conference champions — the lack of this requirement is another flaw in Adams’ plan — or be one of the two best remaining teams in the country. That doesn’t leave much room for error.
The other qualm thrown around, mostly by university presidents, is that an eight-team playoff — as opposed the favored "plus-one" system — would make the season too long.
With the regular season back at 11 games, an eight-team playoff would result in a maximum of 15 games, and that’s only for schools with conference championship games that advanced to the national championship — a maximum of two per year, obviously.
This season nine teams, (LSU, Missouri, Oklahoma, Viriginia Tech, Boston College, Tennessee, Tulsa, Central Florida and Central Michigan) played 14-game schedules. So, the playoff system could actually shorten the season for the vast majority of teams, as 14 games would be possible only for the semifinalists that also played in conference championship games. Obviously, again, a maximum of four teams, and likely not even that.
So what are we left with? Anybody got a reason why it wouldn’t work?
I don’t, but I do realize the seismic fundamental shift that a college football playoff represents. It’s a lot to ask for, I know, so I’ll shoot lower.
Can we at least get on a moratorium on Big 10 teams in the BCS championship?