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A Better Alternative to the Current Playoff System

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Literally the best way to do this. And it’s not close.

Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt - News Conference
This is Kirby Hocutt. We’ve done his job for him. You’re welcome, Kirby.
Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

With the amount of complaining that is sure to come from Sunday’s playoff matchups and seedings, it’s crystal clear that the system we have is broken. Maybe not as fundamentally flawed as its BCS predecessor, but a not-as-broken-system is still broken. Which makes no sense, of course, because figuring out a system that would allow for max eyeballs, may equity, and max opportunity along with max money (which is really what most people with the power to enact this ultimately care about) is so simple even a blogger can do it. And I didn’t even need the easy button.

There are some changes that would need to occur, assuming the half truth arguments that are constructed under the sham of “student first philosophy” are going to get flung at whatever tries to edit the status quo, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s figure out what we’re trying to accomplish first:

GOAL: A playoff structure that allows for a national champion to be crowned in the most equitable and fair way possible.

Subgoal: A playoff structure that doesn’t extend the season, ruin the rest of the bowls, or fundamentally edit the spirit of college football

Subgoal: A playoff structure that rewards season-long performance (most notably through conference championships) as well as X factors like head to head matchups

Subgoal: A playoff structure that allows a human element that allows at-large teams who may not make it in via a conference championship or who choose to remain independent should their on-field performance indicate it.

The argument this year is that under the current system, at least one of the P5 conference champs is getting left out. This year, someone in a P5 conference who didn’t win their conference and lost head to head to who did is likely to get in while the other is not. So, to solve this let’s make a blanket statement that if you win your conference championship, you’re in. There isn’t a P5/G5 distinction. Win and in, just like March Madness, which works out pretty well for all of us each spring.

So, this season, we’d have 10 conference champs. In no order, that would be Temple (AAC), Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Penn State (Big 10), Western Kentucky (CUSA), Western Michigan (MAC), San Diego State (Mountain West), Washington (PAC12), Alabama (SEC), Appalachian State (Sun Belt, though admittedly a coin flip since they shared the title with Arkansas State).

It would be up to the conferences to figure out how to crown their champion. Championship game? Great. Regular season round robin? Awesome. Coin flip? Less than ideal, but you do you, booboo. Ultimately the conferences would submit to the selection committee who their champion is by whatever metric they decide, publish, and stand by.

And then the work of the selection committee would begin to get us to a field of 16. For those not awesome at math, that would be 6 additional teams. I’ll go ahead and speculate on this year’s 6 at-large given all the slap fighting and taking heads would be Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oklahoma State, and USC. That may not be exact, but let’s just say it is for argument’s sake. The selection committee would then seed their 16 tournament entrants and bracket them off. 1-16, 2-15, 3-14, so on and so forth, just like the NCAA basketball regionals.

One of the arguments for a long while when a playoff was discussed was that it adds length to the season and these athletes have classes and such to worry about. Of course, that argument is complete hogwash, but let’s go with it for the sake of Crotchety Mc. Sassypants who doesn’t want any outsiders in his sandbox. If we are hell bent and determined to keep the system the same length, then playoff games would occur weekly, and replace the month or so lead up to the national championship like we have now.

All told, to run this system, we’d need 15 bowls to act as “Playoff Games”, including the final one which would just be the National Championship. Currently, there are 6 bowls that rotate the semi finals (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Peach, Orange, and Cotton). Great there’s your two Final Four games and your four Final 8 games. Let them rotate who does what, just like they do now. The additional 8 games could be the Outback, the Taxslayer/Gator, Citrus, Music City, Sun, Alamo, Holiday, Cactus or some random combination of others. In truth, it could rotate between multiple locations each year, you know, for fairness.

This as a nice benefit also of reducing the number of teams needed to fill the current bowl spots and should eradicate the whole 5-7 APR bowl invite, which philosophically, I’m completely against. SIDE BENEFITS FOR THE WIN!

So with all of the above let’s use this year as an example:

Saturday December 17: 8 First round games (Outback, TaxSlayer, Citrus, Music City, Sun, Alamo, Holiday, Cactus)
Saturday December 24: 4 Quarter Finals (Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Rose)
Saturday December 31: 2 Semi Finals (Peach Bowl & Fiesta Bowl)
Monday January 9: National Championship Game

All the other bowls can do their other bowl things and life can continue on for those not in the playoff.

Our bracket (assuming my seeding)?

Hustle Belt Playoff Proposal

First rounders like USC/Michigan and Oklahoma/Wisconsin? Yeah, go ahead and sign me up.