How the NCAA Football Playoffs Should Have Been Crafted
Even with the playoff era of college football approaching, the debate of how many teams should be included will never stop. While the number is currently four, it is very possible that in the near future the number will expand. One of the biggest detractors of playoff expansion is that the players will have to play too many games. However this problem could have been avoided if the NCAA had thought through their decision before the mega shift in conferences, which created three conference championship games. The best way to create an NCAA football playoff is to eliminate conference championship games.
Before the turn of the century the SEC and Big XII were the only BCS conferences with championship games. After seeing what a championship game can do for revenue, conferences that previously did not have a championship game scrambled to get to twelve teams and created one. In 2005 the ACC had their inaugural championship game and in 2011 the Pac 12 and Big 10 had theirs. Having a championship game means that the top teams in each conference will play 12 regular season games, a championship game, and a Bowl game giving them a season total of 14. With the 4-team playoff system now in use teams can play up to 15 games (that number could even jump to 16 in unique circumstances.) If the playoffs expand to eight teams, schools could play up to 16 games which some say is too many.
The NCAA and its conferences dropped the ball in the early 2000s by refusing a playoff system. If the conference championship games did not exist and the conferences stayed smaller an 8-team playoff could have been possible. This would be the most optimal way for a champion to be crowned…
5 Power Conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, SEC) with preferably 10 teams.
Each power conference plays a round robin schedule and a champion is crowned based upon intra-conference record using head to head match up as a tie-breaker.
Each power conference champion advances to the playoffs as well as three at-large bids.
The first round of games is played at the higher seed’s home field. (The revenue generated by this game will replace the lost revenue from losing a conference championship game.)
The losers of the first round games become eligible for regular bowls.
The final four teams will be placed into semi-finals bowl games as they are now.
The two winners of the semi-finals play the championship game.
It is not too late for the NCAA to ban conference championship games and switch to this 8-team playoff model. It will be more difficult now since the conferences have expanded which would create difficulties in naming a true conference champion but it would be prudent. If this 8-team model had been put in to place this year there would have been no debate about who is the conference champion even without a championship game. The playoff teams would have been:
- Florida State
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
The teams that earned conference championship games that would have been left out of the playoffs were: Georgia Tech, Missouri, and Wisconsin. None of those three teams were in the top 10 of the playoff standings going into their conference championship games and would not have had an argument as to why they should be in the playoffs.
Currently every year at least one power conference commissioner is upset that they don’t have a team in the playoffs. Switching to eight teams solves the problem and eliminating conference championship games avoids the issue of having too many games.