Days back the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee – made up of presidents from each of the FBS conferences, and Notre Dame – approved a four-team seeded playoff system, within the current bowl structure.
The four-team playoff will be based on win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head and whether a team wins their conference. It is said that “emphasis” will be placed on conference champions.
The statement obviously leaves a bit of a gray area and loophole for powerful programs in big-time conferences, i.e. a Florida, Alabama or LSU in the SEC getting the nod as one- or two-loss division winner / conference title game loser, over a possibly undefeated team from a smaller conference, which would’ve been harder to avoid with an eight- or sixteen-team playoff system.
Regardless, it’s progress and a step in the right direction.
The new four-team playoff system will kick off in 2014 and will run through 2026, where the door will be opened for something more.
As for the semifinals games, they’ll rotate among six different bowl games, most-likely including the four big ones – Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar – as well as the Champions Bowl and Cotton Bowl, potentially. As of today, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl made a strong push for a semifinals game, as well as the national championship.
There is also talk that one of the semifinals games will take place on New Years Eve and the other on New Years Day, working up to “Championship Monday”, when the big game will be played.
“Where we’ve arrived I think is a consensus built on compromise,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford, who called the new system “a milestone that’s good for college football.”
Swofford is right in that it’s definitely a step forward. It’s not the sixteen-team playoff outlined in the book “Death To The BCS”, but it’s better than the flawed plan we saw in place since 1998.
Even more amazing, the fact that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney and his Cartel finally had to buckle. After opposing change for so long, the tidal wave against the BCS was too much. Everyone had to cave and a four-game playoff offers more resolution than what we’ve seen the past decade, or so.
From the perspective of a Miami fan, it’s interesting to look back at 2000-2003 and wonder how things would’ve played with the four-team solution over the standard BCS formula.
The Canes felt snubbed as the 2000 season played out, ranked second down the stretch but leapfrogged by Florida State in the final regular season BCS standings, pitting the Seminoles against the Sooners. Oklahoma pulled out the 13-2 victory while No. 3 Miami waxed No. 7 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, 37-20.
With the new formula, No. 1 Oklahoma would’ve played No. 4 Washington while No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Miami had a rematch, with the winners playing for it all.
In 2001, the Canes were an obvious No. 1 seed (as well as being labeled as one of the greatest teams ever). Top-ranked Miami took on Nebraska in the Rose Bowl and rolled, 37-14, but others felt snubbed, feeling the Cornhuskers were undeserving.
With the new system in play, a selection committee would’ve pitted No. 1 Miami against No. 4 Nebraska, while No. 2 Colorado and No. 3 Oregon faced off – which was actually how the Rose and Fiesta bowls played out. One more game would’ve had Miami and Oregon playing for it all.
Southern Cal felt like a snubbed squad in 2002, having lost two games but picked up steam as the season rolled on. The Trojans were No. 4 in the final BCS rankings, but would a selection committee have pitted them there over Iowa? Again, with the new formula, it’d have most-likely been No. 1 Miami against No. 4 Iowa / Southern Cal while No. 2 Ohio State took on No. 3 Georgia.
Recent years that would’ve benefitted most from the new system? 2008 and 2009.
In 2008, the top four regular season BCS teams were Oklahoma, Florida, Texas and Alabama, but with a committee that fourth spot would’ve probably been a toss-up between Bama and Southern Cal. Utah went undefeated in the regular season and wound up making noise when beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but prior to that didn’t have enough strength of schedule-wise to have inched their way into the top four.
Meanwhile, Florida and Alabama were two of the best that season, but once cancelled the other out in the SEC Championship, which eventually put the Gators in the title game against the Sooners.
As for 2009, the year of the ‘lesser’ unbeatens. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Texas were the big name, big money schools that played for it all – but No. 3 Cincinnati and No. 4 Texas Christian were undefeated and felt they were equally as deserving of their shot. With a proper system, Alabama would’ve opened with Texas Christian while Texas took on Cincinnati.
There was also No. 6 Boise State, also undefeated in the regular season – and after the bowl games, having knocked off No. 4 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, as well as a one-loss, Tim Tebow-led Florida team that fell to Alabama in the SEC Championship.
While the new system is a huge step up from the old, it took is still flawed. Some years it will work to perfection, in other cases, not so much. There will be cases where a fifth- or sixth-seed is worthy of title shot and other years where a third- or fourth-seed isn’t really worthy.
Either way, it’s progress and a few more meaningful post-season games as the system looks to crown a championship.