Tune into ESPN or listen to sports radio and almost every time college football is discussed, the term “playoffs” soon surfaces.
For a while, I wasn’t on board with a playoff system. I thought the season would simply be too long. Too much work and too much risk of injuries. But, something I think very few people realize is that there are playoffs in college football. Division-II and Division-III, even Division-IAA (now called Division I FCS) all have playoffs. 16 teams, 4 games for the top 2 teams. Why not Division-IA (or Division I FBS)? Not only that, high school football as playoffs. My high school’s division had 32 teams, 5 games. How can one say that a playoff is too taxing for college football’s top division when even high schoolers seem capable of handling it?
So if we decide playoffs are the best way, the question is who and how many?
Option 1) The best 8 or 16 teams get in, regardless of conference. The BCS or AP would select who they are.
Option 2) Playoffs are composed of the conference champs, period.
Option 3) Playoffs are composed of the conference champs and a few wild card picks. This is how the playoffs work for any major sport. Division/conference leaders get in automatically, and the best teams left get picked. A variation of this would be that only the champs of the BCS conferences got in, and the rest are at-large (similar to the BCS bowl system now).
The problem I have with Option 1 is that it still allows a high degree of subjectivity in football. The polls and even the BCS rankings are very subjective. I prefer either option 2 or 3 because it allows everyone a shot regardless of the conference. Yes, some conferences are weaker, but if that is the case, it would be proven in the playoffs. Who cares if, say Michigan or Georgia is better than Hawaii? The point is, they aren’t better than the best team in their own respective conference, and the whole point of the playoffs is to determine the best team overall.
The problem with option 3 is it still leaves room for some subjectivity. Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel points this out in his blog:
If the NCAA would adopt my playoff plan — an 11-team playoff, with only conference champions involved — think how great would be not just the playoff, but the regular season. That’s the problem with all the 16-team or 8-team playoffs. When you bring in the wild cards and at-large berths, you’ve got just as big a mess as we’ve got now, and you’ve watered down the regular season.
I agree with Tramel, and think that a tournament solely composed of the conference champs would be the best. The top 5 teams would get a first round bye. You would get 4 rounds, a total of 10 games.