This may not be the best season to suggest a college football playoff, seeing as how most teams don't seem to want to play for a national championship. But I still find it ridiculous that Hawaii, which finished off an undefeated regular season this weekend, had to hope the numbers work out for them to even qualify for a major postseason bowl game.
There's no reason for this. Humans and computers who rank Hawaii so low are idiots, plain and simple. This team has not lost a game. When you rank a school with 1 or 2 (or 3!) losses ahead of Hawaii, you're no longer ranking teams. You're ranking strengths of schedule, which has nothing to do with the players on the field and everything to do with athletic departments and university presidents. What kind of assessment is that? Please find a new job or recalibrate yourself.
This kind of faulty reasoning -- Hawaii hasn't lost a game, and you might let them play in January?! -- is why BCS-level college football so desperately needs a playoff system. The problem is, no playoff suggestion has ever galvanized the NCAA and other authorities to make a change. Frankly, that's because none of these systems are as good as mine.
I hereby introduce the "8-PLUS" College Football Playoff, by which at least 8 teams figure into a postseason bracket. Sounds complicated, but it's mind-bogglingly simple. Here's how it works.
1. There are 6 major (BCS) conferences: the ACC, Big East, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-10, and Big 12. So, in my system, each of the six conference champions receives an automatic berth to the playoffs.
2. Now the BCS rankings (as they exist now, though they could always use some tweaking) come into play. Give two at-large bids to the highest ranked teams that have not already received an automatic berth. This is how independent Notre Dame would likely make the field, were they having an exceptional year.
3. So, why 8-plus? Now we look further down the rankings to add any undefeated teams that have not already been invited. Obviously, an undefeated team from a BCS conference would already have an automatic berth (or, in cases too rare to explain, an at-large berth). So these slots would be taken up by teams from other conferences -- like Hawaii from the WAC this year.
4. As for seeding the 8-plus teams, let the BCS rankings serve as your guide again. All that computation should count for something.
Let's use this year as an example. Here are Sunday's final BCS rankings:
1. Ohio State (11-1)
2. LSU (11-2)
3. Virginia Tech (11-2)
4. Oklahoma (11-2)
5. Georgia (10-2)
6. Missouri (11-2)
7. USC (10-2)
8. Kansas (11-1)
9. West Virginia (10-2)
10. Hawaii (12-0)
As it stands now, Ohio State and LSU are assigned to play what they're calling a national championship game, and the other bowls' authorities get to pick and choose their participants based on who's left. This year the Rose Bowl opted for #13 Illinois and the Orange Bowl chose #8 Kansas, leaving #6 Missouri, for whatever reason, out of a BCS bowl. Whatever.
Under my playoff plan, 9 teams would theoretically vie for the 2007-2008 national championship, in this seeding order:
(1) Ohio State, Big Ten champ
(2) LSU, SEC champ
(3) Virginia Tech, ACC champ
(4) Oklahoma, Big 12 champ
(5) Georgia, 1st at-large team
(6) Missouri, 2nd at-large team
(7) USC, Pac-10 champ
(8) West Virginia, Big East champ
(9) Hawaii, undefeated
Now place them in a standard bracket, in which the Hawaii/West Virginia winner plays Ohio State, USC faces LSU, Missouri battles Virginia Tech, and Georgia takes on Oklahoma.
So who complains? I admit that 11-1 Kansas has a fair argument, but that one loss prevented them from playing for their conference championship. It seems somewhat unfair that a 2-loss Georgia team that also didn't play in its conference championship could make the cut instead, but really, this is a voting issue. And an anomalous situation, in my opinion. (With a playoff system in place, I should hope voters would start being more careful about which at-large teams most deserve the highest ranking.)
Now that I've explained my plan, let me point out the main flaw: location, location, location. At least 7 games must take place, which raises a simple question. Where do they take place? I think that the number of BCS bowls should expand from 5 to 7, and that the NCAA creates a system by which these 7 bowl locations take turns hosting a quarterfinal, semifinal, or final.
Any additional play-in games (#8 vs. undefeated #9, #7 vs. undefeated #10, and so on) should still receive a BCS bowl-level purse, but for convenience be hosted by the higher seed. While I can see how Hawaii might complain about having to play against West Virginia in Morgantown (to use a hypothetical example using this season's numbers), they still get to play toward a national championship, which is better than just getting to play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Another concern is time; how would a playoff stretch an already lengthy college football season? It wouldn't. The bowl season is already at least 4 weeks long. Play-in games and quarterfinals can take place at the same time as those December bowls, with the semifinals and final game scheduled for January. The season gets no longer because the existing timetable is perfect.
I fully realize that I'm a nobody, but it doesn't take a background in university athletics to just possess some damn common sense. This plan works, and better yet, favors the monolithic BCS conferences in every turn. Were these conference's commissioners presented with such a plan -- and frankly, I don't care who tells them -- they'd have to see that a good playoff system doesn't have to take them out of their comfort zone. Get their recommendations, and who knows what could happen?
I don't even want the credit for this or any similar playoff system. I just want college football to start mattering.