This Saturday could be the first weekend of Division-I college football playoff. This Saturday could play host to numerous epic, win or go home match-ups. College football could be the talk of the sports nation, just like basketball is every March. We could all be readying ourselves for match-ups between Arkansas and Michigan State, or Oklahoma and LSU, in which the winner would survive only long enough for a road-trip to Auburn, Ala. or Eugene, Ore. Teams like Stanford and Wisconsin could be licking their chops at a possible second round match-up for the right to advance closer to a National Championship.
We could be in the early stages of a month-long drama that would have seen a true National Champion crowned on New Years Day.
Of course we can only dream.
Instead we are mired in the grasp of archaic bowl games and a BCS championship system that does nothing but create fan apathy toward 95% of the now 37 bowl-games. Even in the BCS — which is supposed to pit the creme-de-la creme against one another — we wind up with match-ups like a meaningless Fiesta Bowl featuring #7 Oklahoma and a Connecticut team that, well, had to be placed somewhere.
“But what about the tradition!?”
Can this excuse get any more tired? Tradition? This year the BCS is sending #4 Stanford, the Pac 10 runner-up (Oregon will be in the BCS title game), to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl, while Texas Christian heads to Pasadena to smell the roses. Bowl tradition has been all-but-gone for some time. It’s time to put the old dog down.
It’s time for a playoff, and if people still want to put on bowl games for the teams that don’t make it, great. With a 16 team playoff there would still be enough teams (58) left for 29 bowls. Which could still take place right alongside the playoff tournament with little or no interference.
Anyway, enough with the ranting, let’s get back to that dream scenario.
College system needs a playoff, and not a plus-one game, and not even an 8 team tournament. Division I football needs a 16 team, four round, elimination tournament to crown it’s champion. It is the best for the fans, the television ratings, and for the schools involved.
Of the 16 teams selected 11 would be “automatic” qualifiers, and would earn that distinction by winning their conference championship. The remaining 5 teams would be chosen “at-large” either by a committee or by a predetermined system similar to the BCS or some other computer ranking.
Under this system every school in the country would have a tangible chance to win the national championship at the beginning of the regular season, and the best teams that fail to win their conference title would still have a shot to make the playoffs. This would differ from the current situation where a team like TCU squad literally no shot to win it all, even if they go undefeated.
Once the 16 teams are chosen then the committee or the predetermined system would seed them 1 to 16. Higher seeded teams would then have “home-field advantage,” up until the championship game, which would be held at a predetermined neutral site.
The whole tournament would have a total of 15 games and last four weeks. It would start the week after the conference championship games.
So how would it look?
If held this year the playoffs would begin this Saturday, Dec. 11., the second round on the 18th, the semi-finals — think Final Four — on Christmas Day. The Championship game could then be played on either New Years Day or it could be pushed back a week to allow to ease travel arrangements of teams, fans, and media.
A set-up like this would instantly transform December from one of the slower times in the sports world into a NCAA football bonanza.
But of Course this is only a dream.
Edit: Independent teams would qualify the same as At-Large teams.