Starting with the 2014 season, College Football's Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) will move to a single-elimination tournament to crown its end-of-season champion. The first iteration (we all know that, eventually, there will be evolution) will feature a four-team structure.
There is already speculation of, or at least cries for, expanding the field of participating teams. Most of the playoff proposals out there are for an 8-team or 16-team structure. While both are probably an improvement over the current approved 4-team structure, both still have their faults.
The 16-team structure is just too expansive and cumbersome in my opinion. Even if one were to include all 10 Conference Champions and the top Independent that would still require the inclusion of at least five at-large non-conference winners and the truth is that the college ranks are just not that deep.
The 8-team structure is still too small to be fully inclusive of all the Conference Champions so the dilemma of which Conference Champions to include and which not include is still there. Also, the dilemma of whether or not some at-large teams get in over Conference Champions still exists.
There are those who argue that there are different levels within the FBS, and whether this is true or not in reality, the fact is that the FBS is organized and PROMOTED as a SINGLE LEVEL of football. So, if College Football's FBS is going to TALK one-level, then it needs to WALK one-level, and provide an equitable playoff structure that is inclusive of all 10 of its Conferences.
Because we all know that the world of College Football sits in a cosmos of molasses, I decided to try to expedite justice and have gone ahead and outlined a 12-Team Playoff Proposal that I refer to simply as the North Coast Plan.
Establishing the New World: NO MORE POLLS, or at least the polls' influence on the post-season. The Coaches Poll needs to be done away with. If the Media wants to continue issuing polls it most certainly can, as it is great conversation fodder and an interest generator, but any direct ties to determining the composition of the College Football post-season needs to be severed.
North Coast Plan - In a Nutshell
- Playoff Field will include 10 Conference Champions plus 2 At-Large Selections chosen by a Selection Committee.
- 10 Conference Champions will be ranked 1-10 with 1-4 receiving 1st Round Byes and 5-8 hosting 1st Round Games.
- Teams NOT receiving a 1st Round Bye will be ranked A-H.
- Highest Letter Ranked Team not hosting a 1st Round Game will travel to the Lowest Number Ranked Team hosting a 1st Round game, and so on.
- For the 2nd Round, Highest Letter Ranked Team remaining will play the Lowest Number Ranked Team, and so on.
- Brackets will be set up with 1 and 4 on one side and 2 and 3 on the other side.
- Rounds 2 and 3 will be played at predetermined host bowl sites (6 total bowl games/sites).
- National Championship Game will be played at a winning-bid neutral site.
Top 4 Conference Champions
1st Round Bye
Next 4 Conference Champions
Host 1st Round Game
Teams that do not have a 1st Round Bye
Bowl Considerations: When drafting the North Coast Plan, I took certain things into consideration that seem to be important to "the Powers that be" even though these things don't carry any weight with me, such as preserving the integrity of the traditional bowls by accommodating the approved provision that rotates the semifinal games among six bowl sites and rotates the championship game among neutral sites.
Independents: An anticipated criticism of this proposal involves the accessibility and equitability to Independents. Accessibility is there in the form of the two available at-large selections. In regards to equitability, to the Independent I say, embrace your maverick roots. To quote a former Vice-Presidential candidate (or at least someone who portrayed her on the television), if you want to be all mavericky, then expect the tougher road, and get to mavericking.
This proposal does not, and will not, make concessions for a home game or bye week for the Independent. If the Independent covets a 1st Round bye or home game, the solution to that is simple and twofold.
- Join a conference.
- Win that conference.
Value of the Regular Season: Some of the original detractors of a college football playoff system cited the fear of losing the value of the regular season as a reason for the reluctance to move to a playoff. The North Coast Plan's tiered system almost ensures that the regular season games do not lose any of their significance.
Even in the case where a team has "run away" with its conference the incentive to try to attain a bye week or first-round home game will function as a motivator and preserve the regular season intrigue. Having only two at-large spots serves as an incentive for teams that do not win their conference.
The dual-seeding incentivises teams not winning their conference and conference champions not in the running for a bye week by providing the opportunity to get a more favorable matchup in the opening round.
Calendar: The whole playoff could fit into a 4-week window, which is approximately the time frame of the current Bowl Season. The 1st Round would kickoff the festivities at the same time that the first of the Bowl Games start. The 2nd Round would happen around Christmas time. The 3rd Round/Semi-Finals would take place at around New Year's Eve/Day. And the National Championship Game would be played during roughly the same part of January that it is now.
IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY Scenario*
Using Projected BCS Standings (Dated: 9.30.12)
Seeds 1-4 - 1st Round Bye
3) Florida State
4) Kansas State
Seeds 5-8 - Host 1st Round Games
7) Boise State
8) Louisiana Tech
B) South Carolina
E) Boise State
F) Louisiana Tech
1st Round Games - Home Sites
Louisiana-Monroe at Louisville
Ohio at Northwestern
South Carolina at Boise State
LSU at Louisiana Tech
2nd Round Games - Predetermined Bowls (assuming that the favored/higher letter ranked team wins)
Alabama vs Northwestern
Oregon vs Louisville
Florida State vs South Carolina
Kansas State vs LSU
3rd Round Games - Predetermined Bowls (assuming that the highest BCS ranked team wins)
Alabama vs LSU
Oregon vs Florida State
National Championship Game - Neutral Site (assuming that the highest BCS ranked team wins)
Alabama vs Oregon
The scenario above, I think, plays out well with some intriguing 1st Round games. ULM fans I'm sure would be thrilled to play Louisville in the first round and are a reasonable driving distance away. The same thing plays out with the MAC's Ohio Bobcats visiting Northwestern in Evanston. South Carolina at Boise State would be a sellout as well. And LSU at Louisiana Tech would give us all enough Terry Bradshaw to last us until the next life. There really is not a single bad game in the bunch.
Then of course there is always the added element of the upset and the Cinderella factor that March Madness so thoroughly enjoys can come TWICE a year.
So, when can we start this?
Comments welcomed and encouraged. ¡Salud!
* Since there are currently 11 FBS conferences and not the 10 there will be when the playoffs take effect, only the top 10 projected conference leaders were used in the simulation.