Give me your NCAA D1 football playoff system

The NCAA has just asked you to submit a proposal for a playoff system. What would you propose. You are also free to critique other proposals as well.
My playoff system. 8 teams and uses the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls.

Some combination of highest ranked conference champions (so you can earn your way in as a mid-major) and possibly highest ranked non-conference champions (wild cards). So for example in a 6-2 system the six highest ranked conference champions (LSU, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Boise State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech) make it in with two wild cards (Alabama and Stanford). All of the sudden, the major bowls are relevant again.

Oh and no seeding to determine opponents in the first round so that traditional matchups can be saved. Seedings based on regular-season poll results in the 2nd round and the Championship (to determine home team). Two teams from the same conference cannot play each other in the first round. This year the probable matchups
Rose: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Stanford vs. Boise St.
Sugar: LSU vs. Oklahoma St.
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama

My preferred system: 16 teams - you have to include all conference winners (especially if the NCAA is running it; that’s the way every other NCAA tournament works).
First round at home sites; after that, six bowl games (four for the quarters, two for the semis), and a “standalone” NCAA Championship Game.

A more “in the realm of possibilities” version: 8 teams, and let the tournament committee choose the teams it feels are the best eight at the end of the regular season (why not - they’re effectively meaningless, except for the Ivy League, in men’s basketball); six bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton (presumably in the new Cowboys stadium), and the sixth can change from year to year; each year, two of the “regular” five would be semi-finals) would be the first two rounds, and the championship game could stand on its own.

One thing for certain: polls and computer rankings would have no direct say in who qualifies. Only the committee chooses (and seeds) the teams.

You’d have to rely more on the home stadiums. Asking fans to take multiple bowl trips in successive weeks would be too much to fill 80,000-seat stadiums.

Imagine you’re a Virginia Tech fan, traveling to the Orange Bowl in Miami (hotel, airfare, tickets) and then the Rose Bowl in Pasadena the next.

Is this also the thread where we point out problems of a playoff?

From Saint Cad’s, VPI didn’t win their conference. It was a 2-loss Clemson team that won the ACC. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Oklahoma St. had indeed beaten Iowa St., and LSU and OSU are both unbeaten. What the hell is wrong with #1 vs #2? And why is Clemson, from a weak ACC, getting involved when 1-loss Alabama, Boise, and Stanford are clearly the teams more deserving a title shot. The season’s only 12 games long. There have been more unbeaten champions than a 1-loss champions in the BCS era: FSU, OU, Miami, OSU, USC (nevermind the ban, etc), Texas, Bama, and Auburn. One/two-loss teams: Tennessee, LSU (x2), Florida (x2), and Bama. 8 vs 6.

It gets even worse for a 16-team playoff as That Don Guy suggests. For example, last year we had unbeaten Auburn and unbeaten Oregon. They did what they had to do on the field. Why should a 4-loss UConn team be involved? They lost 33% of their regular season games last season, and they get a shot at the title?! I think it was Airman in another thread talking about how the NFL settles it on the field. When the Broncos back into the playoffs with 3 straight losses, clearly they’re settling it on the field, right? Conceivably, we could see the Broncos go 12-8 and be the champion, and the 17-2 Packers could be runners up. Awesome.

Also, from That Don Guy’s scenario, how does a committee make things better? There are big problems every year with March Madness. Nevermind who gets left out (I don’t feel bad for a 17-11 team missing the last at large spot). But seeding, where they send teams, who’s in which team’s region, etc. is clearly not a cut-and-dry scenario.

And to HubZilla’s point, many schools are out of session by the time of the playoffs. If Michigan or Wisconsin is a home team in December with a huge base of their fans away (and near the holidays, where people’s travels are already tight), who’s going to all these games. I’m sure the first few years would see sellouts all over, but the novelty would wear off. “Oh good, Ohio State hosting 3-loss Rutgers in round 1. I can’t wait! But OSU should win, so I’ll save my money for the trip to Miami to play the winner of Texas and the Pac12 surprise Oregon State.”

No matter what, whether you’re just using polls, computers, committees, or combinations, you’re going to have the 2 best teams in the end of the season, but before the bowls/playoffs. The BCS gets them to play each other, and we didn’t have that with the old bowl system or the Bowl Alliance. The only thing I would change is to get rid of the BCS involvement with 5 games each year, and go back to the old system, but have #1 vs #2 on, say, January 3rd. If the B1G has a top-2 team, there’s an at large spot for the Rose Bowl. Sugar Bowl is for the SEC and an at large, and in some (most) years, 2 at large teams.

My version would have the top 16 teams based on W-L records, without regard for conference affiliations, play in a setup much like the one that That Don Guy’s “preferred” idea has.

Conference champions remain conference champs as another measure of excellence, but the National Champ would not be bound by conference placement.

All 120 FBS teams (or however many there are in the future) would have equal footing at the season’s start, and when and to whom they lose is less a factor. Total performance would be the main thing. It would become more a burden on the scheduling of each school’s games to shoot for the best combination of opponents for Conference Champs and highest likelihood of the best W-L record for the Nationals.

Ties at the #16 slot would need some clever tie-break, but the Top 16 would be in the running for National Champ.

Four teams. Both semifinals and the finals are played at the same venue. Whether the games are a week or two weeks apart is open to debate.

IMO eight or even sixteen teams is too many. You’re going to either make the season go on too long, or open players up to injury, fans will never travel to that many games, etc. With four teams, the logistics are a lot easier, and the teams have more of an argument for being there than team #8 or team #16.

I’d set some ground rules for a playoff first, before describing the actual system.

  1. Firstly, the coaches poll has to go. There’s too much potential for mischief in a system where a [strikethrough]coach[/strikethrough] sports information director can vote for his own team, or, just as importantly, a team in his own conference (because that means a bigger payday for his own school).

  2. I’m tempted to take the human element out of it entirely but I don’t think realistically that’s going to happen. On the one hand, it would be a good thing to do because even a school from an AQ conference faces a Herculean task to reach the top reaches of the polls if they’re unranked to start the year. There’s no reason, other than lazy sportswriters, as to why a ranked 12-1 team at the start of the year should be finish higher than a 12-1 team unranked in the preseason polls. But it happens.

What can we do about that? Not a whole lot. People like to see where their team is ranked, even at the beginning of the year. And, although they don’t want to admit it, the computer guys don’t have a clue where teams are ranked the first few weeks because the schedule is “unconnected” (remember that term: you’ll need it).

  1. No matter what form a playoff system will take, I can guarantee one thing: people will bitch up and down about it. “It wasn’t decided on the field”…even if it was. “The regular season means nothing now”…even though this year’s regular season didn’t mean a whole heck of a lot, seeing how the only undefeated major team dropped a fat one in the championship game, losing to a team who couldn’t score a touchdown, at home, to them. “There are too many teams in the playoff”…and these are the same people who call the current system a 117-team playoff (despite the fact that about 57 of that teams are out of the running before the first game).

  2. Alumni like to go to bowl games, they sure do. Do you know what they like even more? Seeing their team at home. During football season, not in, say, Madison or Provo in December.

  3. One of the stupidest things about college sports is that teams can choose their own schedule. Think about it. Pro teams don’t get to do that, so what that means is everybody gets about the same strength of schedule (at least in their own division). For college basketball, it’s not such a big deal because a great team will likely make the bracket no matter how many games they lost to great out-of-conference opponents. But in college football, if you schedule great out-of-conference teams, and you lose to even one of them, your season could be dead. So why bother to schedule those tough games? As a result the first four games of the season might as well be scrimmages for a lot of teams.

So I got to thinking, you know…college basketball has this thing called “bracketbuster.” The idea is, you schedule two mid-major teams who are close to making the bracket together, so that the winner has a stronger record and a better shot at making it. And the beauty of the bracketbuster is that those games aren’t scheduled by the schools themselves–they’re scheduled so that teams of relatively equal strength will play each other. The result is that not only do you get a great game, but you also get a lot better idea of how good your team actually is against real out-of-conference play. You don’t know who you’re going to be playing until a few weeks before the game, but you do know whether you’re getting a home or away game.

In short, my playoff idea is a non-playoff playoff. Every NCAA team gets 12/13 games: two games of the school’s choosing, eight conference games, and two “flex games” (one each home and away). The flex games are played in the first week of November and the week after the conference championships, which will likely be moved up a week. The week before each flex game, the matchups are announced by the NCAA, using any formula they care to use (as long as they don’t use the ratbastard coaches’ poll), with the only proviso being that the teams can’t be in the same conference and the teams need to be ranked as closely as possible. If at all possible, for the last flex game team #1 plays team #4, and team #2 plays team #3.

After the last flex game: no need to change anything. We’ll have already had national semifinals of sorts. The other bowls will look pretty sharp.

I’m sure this will be picked apart, but I want to stress one thing: alumni like to travel to bowls but given all else they’d probably rather see their team at home. That’s where the tailgates are, that’s where they see their friends and their old hangouts. A bracket playoff would put their team at a neutral site, and can they really afford two trips out?

The biggest thing to me here is that the flex games make teams play real out-of-conference games. The schedule “connects” in a way it didn’t before: with more AQ schools playing against each other, we get a real sense of strength of conference. There are still ample opportunities for old rivals to play each other in the two optional games, or for non-AQ schools to play guarantee games if the AQ schools want to go that way. But no longer can a team schedule four creampuffs, either. And those flex games are going to be tight. When you schedule a game years in advance, you have no idea how good a team is going to be. Schedule it during the year, and you’ve got a showdown. Even New Mexico vs. Akron might be worth seeing for the “who can finish worst” aspect…even for the teams finishing outside of the top four, that last flex game is going to be a nailbiter as it will determine whether your team plays its bowl game in Miami or Shreveport.

The more I typed that, the more I liked it. Let’s go.

8 team playoff. Based on rankings similar to now. (BCS/poll - rankings)
Round 1: 1v8,2v7,3v6,4v5 in a home field setting for the lower seed.
Round 2: 2 games - teams re seeded (best v worst) and sent to the 4 big bowls. (Fiesta, Rose, Sugar, Orange)
Round 3: championship game in a rotating bowl. (same 4…like now)

To be the top you have to beat someone on their turf. And seats will sell for a lower seeded team. (the top team will travel better, and the lower team will come out to cheer on their team)

Round 2 and on is pretty close to what we’ve got now, with 2 teams playing twice.

I’ve done this before, we have this thread every year during Bowl season, and my opinion hasn’t changed. I’ll give this caveat, the National Championship is a fictitious concept. No matter what the system, it’s not a representation of what the best program in the country is. There’s just too many teams and to few common opponents to give it that much credit. It’s a media spectacle, further beefing up what was originally nothing than the opinion of a handful of sportswriters desperate to squeeze one last story out about college football for the off season.

For 90% of the colleges in the nation they have no chance of winning a national title. A playoff system dos nothing to change that fact, perhaps it moves the needle to 80%, but for the vast majority of the alumni, students and athletes in the NCAA the national championship isn’t the goal. Winning their conference title is the goal, and it’s absolutely critical that that is maintained as valuable. Secondarily, making it to a traditional Bowl game is the reward for that accomplishment. Making that a annual and reliable outcome is critical. Long story short, traditional Bowl tie-ins are very valuable to the majority of the NCAA middle class. So, keeping that in mind here’s the solution.

First, for the “Power” conferences very little will change. The Big Ten will have a Conference Title game. For all intents and purposes this is a First Round playoff game. The Pac-12 is the same, and so on with the SEC, Big 12, ACC etc. The Quarter Final game will be the a traditional Bowl tie in. The Big Ten champ will face the Pac-12 champ in the Rose Bowl in what is now both a traditional Bowl game and a reward for those schools and also a Quarter Final game. Playoff seeding be damned, this traditional tie-in and the ability for fans of the Big Ten and Pac-12 to plan vacation travel around a set date and location is more important. A similar scenario is in place for the SEC champ and the Big-12 champ, they meet in a Quarter Final game in the Sugar Bowl. The ACC and Big East can land in the Orange Bowl. Of course with realignment happening these might change, but the premise is sound.

For the mid-major conferences they’ll have to play an inter-conference battle in their First Round game. Say the MWC and MAC suit up to play in the Liberty Bowl, Motor City Bowl, Potato Bowl or whatever. They can have conference title games which are “play-in” games or not, their call. These games and rotate sites if they prefer. Say have the game in MAC country one year and MWC country the next, and have a consolation game between the 2nd place finishers in the other site. Here we create a new traditional tie-in and add value to those lesser bowl games and give the teams fans a destination to plan for. The winner of this game goes to the Fiesta Bowl to face an At-Large team, Norte Dame or a 2nd place team from a major conference. This year this is where Alabama would have snuck in for a second bite at the apple.

Once all that shakes out, you are in line for a +3 format. The Rose Bowl champ, Orange Bowl Champ, Sugar Bowl champ and Fiesta Bowl champ all play a Semi Final round game, the winners play a Title game. I think it works best if these games are treated as a Final 4 and played in one site starting New Years week and finishing the week after.

Here’s a mock up of what the bracket would look like.

First Round
Big Ten East champ
Big Ten West champ

Pac12 North champ
Pac-12 South champ

SEC East champ
SEC West champ

Big 12 North champ
Big 12 South champ

ACC 1 champ
ACC 2 champ

MWC/WAC champ
MAC champ

At Large
C-USA champ

Quarter Finals
Rose Bowl
Big Ten champ
Pac-12 champ

Sugar Bowl
SEC champ
Big-12 champ

Orange Bowl
ACC champ
Big East champ

Fiesta Bowl
MWC/MAC champ
At-Large

There’s some jiggering that would need to take place to get those First Round games between the mid-tier conferences and at large teams to be fair and the conference realignment makes it tough to project now. Maybe the MAC and Sun Belt champs have to play a play in game before the first round to make room for an extra at large team. Maybe the Big East or C-USA and MWC or WAC need to have a play in. But the basic format works.

Troy has a chance to get in. They’d have to win a bunch of do or die games, but there’s no chance that Troy kicks a Big Ten team out of the Rose Bowl. You eliminate the chances of a SEC rematch in the title game based on nothing more than votes and a soft non-conference schedule. You keep the Bowl tie ins and you keep travel to a managable amount. You give meaning to some of the lower tier Bowls that are struggling for attendance. Book it, it’s perfect.

Thanks for saving me a lot of typing, Omniscient. Thats almost exactly my idea. Only difference is I’d have Conf USA champ play Mid Amer conf champ to be team #7, and WAC champ play Mountain West champ to be team #8.

Get rid of rankings completely - win your conference and you’re in.

The other beauty is it can be sold as an 8 team playoff, when in actuality it’s a 16 teamer (due to the Conf Champ games).

Here are some specifics to consider in this discussion. These are the records of the top teams in the final week of the regular season. The bowls they went to and their bowl results can help make whatever case you have for ways to improve the system.



++ WEEK 14 ++

                                                           Bowl    Result

*** Last Week's Top 25 ***

LSU (1)              8-0 13-0  Southeastern West          BCSCG        L

Houston (7)          8-0 12-1  Conference USA West        TicketCity   W

Oklahoma State (3)   8-1 11-1  Big 12                     Fiesta       W
Stanford (4)         8-1 11-1  Pac-12 North               Fiesta       L
Alabama (2)          7-1 11-1  Southeastern West          BCSCG        W
Boise State (9)      6-1 11-1  Mountain West              MAACO        W

Oregon (8)           8-1 11-2  Pac-12 North               Rose         W 
Virginia Tech (5)    7-2 11-2  Atlantic Coast Coastal     Sugar        L
Wisconsin (15)       6-2 11-2  Big Ten Leaders            Rose         L 
Southern Miss (24)   6-2 11-2  Conference USA East        Hawaii       W    

TCU (18)             7-0 10-2  Mountain West              Poinsettia   W 
Kansas State (16)    7-2 10-2  Big 12                     Cotton       L
USC (9)              7-2 10-2  Pac-12 South               ---          -

Michigan (17)        6-2 10-2  Big Ten Legends            Sugar        W
South Carolina (14)  6-2 10-2  Southeastern East          Capital One  W
Arkansas (6)         6-2 10-2  Southeastern West          Cotton       W

Michigan State (11)  7-1 10-3  Big Ten Legends            Outback      W
Georgia (12)         7-1 10-3  Southeastern East          Outback      L 
Clemson (21)         7-2 10-3  Atlantic Coast Atlantic    Orange       L
 
Penn State (23)      6-2  9-3  Big Ten Leaders            TicketCity   L
Oklahoma (13)        6-3  9-3  Big 12                     Insight      W
Baylor (19)          6-3  9-3  Big 12                     Alamo        W 
West Virginia (22)   5-2  9-3  Big East                   Orange       W 
Nebraska (20)        5-3  9-3  Big Ten Legends            Capital One  L

Florida State (25)   5-3  8-4  Atlantic Coast Atlantic    Champs       W

*** NOT Last Week's Top 25 ***

Arkansas State       8-0 10-2  Sun Belt                   GoDaddy      L 

Northern Illinois    7-1 10-3  Mid-American West          GoDaddy      W 



Yeah, I’m by no means married to how I’m filling those Fiesta Bowl slots. And with realignment going hog wild the relevance of C-USA, Sun, MAC, WAC, MWC and Big East is liable to change. We can sort that out once the dust settles. Plus, we do need a slot for an At-Large team or two. Whether they play a mid-major team in the First Round or if they play each other in say the Cotton or Peach bowl as a first round game isn’t really important, but they need a crack at being in the Fiesta. We need a scenario where AFA, Notre Dame and the rare Alabama have a chance to get into the Semis. In the end that’s not that important, so long as it’s predictable and those First round games are in locations that make sense and have regional significance to the fan bases of the conference champs sent to them.

I have no sympathy for the independants. There are plenty of conferences that will take them. Get in a conference if you want a crack at the NC.

Same for conference non champs - if you can’t win your own conference, you’re not the best team.

Here’s the bracket from this years NCAA Football Division I playoff. 20 teams, games played at home stadiums except the final game.

I would like to see the top seeds to have real advantages, they have earned it in my opinion. Because of the frequency of injuries in Football, you don’t want a dominating team losing key players against a cheap-shotting last seed.

I was thinking about go with a Bowling type Format.

3 plays 4
winner plays 2
winner plays 1.

But I’d like to see more than 4 seeds, and that would take to long with more than 4, and start to jeopardize the health of exhausted 18-20 year olds. I know I’ve seen brackets that might work, but I can’t find an example now of slotting higher seeds in after byes, without getting too extreme.

When BYU or Notre Dame goes undefeated and is left out the system will implode just like the BCS is doing. That’s not a solution. Plus, I see no reason to give more power than is necessary to these conferences who can be as corrupt and counterproductive as the BCS committee is. If a conference is mismanaged badly, teams shouldn’t have to forgo a NC if they want out. ND is a petulant little twat, but BYU seems to simply be refusing to be a pawn in this conference power struggle, for that I respect them.

All bowl games go back to their traditional alignments featuring conference champs:

Big 10 and Pac 10 in the Rose Bowl
Big 12 vs. ACC in Orange Bowl
SEC vs. the next highest-rated team in the Sugar Bowl
All on 1/1

Fuck the Fiesta.

After the Bowl games, there’s a poll, and the NC game is played on about 1/15.

Since there is not a perfect system, I am going with the current 2 team playoff.

In every scenario I see, there are teams that are going to be slighted in more often than not.

16 teams. 12 conference winners and 4 wild cards.

16 teams is four extra weeks, but for only two teams. Dump the 1-AA cupcake and scale back to an 11 game schedule. Only two teams will have to deal with a 15 game schedule and only two others will have to deal with a 14 game schedule. Most teams play 13 games already.

You get rid of the dead space between the end of November and the beginning of January. Championship teams no longer have to wait over a month to decide their contest, without playing.

The difficulty will be choosing the four wildcard teams. There are sure to be many contenders and applying tie breakers (head-to-head, common opponents, etc.) isn’t very easy in college football, with so many teams. For the wild card teams, you’re still going to have to apply some kind of subjective judgment, like BCS ranking based on several factors including strength of schedule, point differential and the like).

You can still keep the major bowl games. Just call the Quarter-finals the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Holiday Bowl, the Gator Bowl. Call the semi-finals the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. Call the Championship game the Orange Bowl.----for example. You can rotate the Bowls for fairness.

And as you increase the number of teams in the playoff, each slighted team’s claim to be a national title contender gets that much weaker.

If you had a 16 team playoff, do you really think the #17 team can complain that they were worthy of the title? Think about this compared with the current system and the #3 team.