Replacing 2012's college football bowl games with a 16-team playoff

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

College football doesn't have a playoff yet, and the one we'll get will (at first) just be a four-team tournament bolted onto the BCS. Let's scrap the whole thing in favor of a 16-team field. We have that power. No, we don't.

If it's the third week of December, it must be time for the 16-team FBS playoffs. The selection committee has made its at-large selections, now it's just a matter of putting together the matchups of the eight first-round games.

(OK, this is a dream-world scenario, though we can't take full credit for this format. This 16-team playoff setup was made famous by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan in their bestseller, Death to the BCS.)

By rule, each of the 11 FBS conference champions automatically qualify for the playoff, leaving five at-large selections to the committee. Using computer rankings and strength as schedule as the primary guidelines, the committee members decided on Notre Dame, Oregon, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma as the five at-large entries. Keep in mind that a maximum of two teams per conference may qualify as wild cards, so no more than three per conference in the 16-team field.

Then these 16 teams were seeded accordingly:


College football playoffs coverage || Bowl TV schedule, picks, games to watch

  1. Notre Dame (at-large, Independent)
  2. Alabama (SEC champion)
  3. Oregon (at-large, Pac-12)
  4. Florida (at-large, SEC)
  5. Stanford (Pac-12 champion)
  6. Kansas State (Big 12 champion)
  7. Oklahoma (at-large, Big 12)
  8. Georgia (at-large, SEC)
  9. Florida State (ACC champion)
  10. Utah State (WAC champion)
  11. Wisconsin (Big Ten champion)
  12. Boise State (MWC champion)
  13. Northern Illinois (MAC champion)
  14. Louisville (Big East champion)
  15. Arkansas State (Sun Belt champion)
  16. Tulsa (C-USA champion)

The first- and second-round games would be played on campus sites, with semifinals hosted by bowls, followed by a championship game contracted out in the fashion of the Final Four. This year's semifinal bowls would be the Fiesta and Sugar, with the FBS Championship to be played at JerryWorld, a.k.a. Cowboys Stadium.

The 8-9 matchup in Athens would project to be the most competitive of the eight first-round games, with the winner advancing to blustery-to-frigid South Bend for a date with top-seeded Notre Dame. Assuming all the higher seeds won their opening games, we'd also have three other very attractive second-round games in Oklahoma at Alabama, Kansas State at Oregon and Stanford at Florida.

But, nah, who needs playoffs when you can have the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl? Ask Arkansas State or Tulsa whether they'd rather have a shot at taking down mighty Notre Dame and Alabama or collect trinkets at the Autozone Liberty Bowl and GoDaddy.com Bowl. And besides, even with a playoff, the bowl system can stay largely intact, so 6-6 teams failing to make the playoffs can still go spend the holidays in Hawaii or Vegas.

(Now, reality check. A 16-team playoff just ain't gonna happen any time soon, not before wings start growing on Razorbacks. What will happen, though, is a four-team playoff as part of a 12-team, six-bowl rotation. So let's take a look at what would've happened this season had BCS 2.0 had been implemented two years early.)

A selection committee in the style that governs most of the NCAA's championships will be used to pick the final four for college football's four-team playoffs. Chances are, the BCS standings as we know it will be done away with, but a combination of computer rankings and maybe polls will be used to determine the top four teams.

The top four teams for this season are actually pretty cut-and-dried, if you allow for margin of victory to be used as a component in the computer ratings, Both Sagarin and Massey, the two BCS computers that publish separate rankings featuring MOV, have Notre Dame, Alabama, Oregon and Florida as their top four - as does RealTime RPI, as well as all the major polls (excluding ineligible Ohio State in the AP poll).

There probably will be rules that stipulate that a team isn't required to be a conference champion in order to be selected and that no more than two teams per conference may be included in the four-team field. Also, teams from the same conference probably will be prevented from facing each other in the semifinals.

With those parameters, and keeping in mind of the current BCS bowl rotations, these would likely be the matchups for the six BCS 2.0 bowls:

  • Fiesta Bowl (national semifinal): 1. Notre Dame vs. 4. Florida
  • Sugar Bowl (national semifinal): 2. Alabama vs. 3. Oregon
  • Rose Bowl (Pac-12 vs. Big Ten): Stanford vs. Wisconsin
  • Orange Bowl (ACC vs. SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame): Florida State vs. Texas A&M
  • Cotton Bowl (Big 12 vs. at-large): Kansas State vs. Georgia
  • Chick-fil-A Bowl (Group of Five vs. at-large): Northern Illinois vs. Oklahoma

The most significant changes from the current format would be that the Big East champion would no longer receive an automatic bid to one of the BCS bowls, and that there no longer would be a two-team restriction placed on any conference with regard to access to the BCS bowls.

As you can see, BCS 2.0 is hardly perfect, and it falls short of the extravaganza that a 16-team playoff might be. You know what, though? It's actually a heck of an improvement over what we have right now. Maybe that's not saying much, but at least we're making some progress.

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