Devil's Advocate: What Would've Been So Bad About A Plus-One Playoff?

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei #80 of the Oregon Ducks runs after a catch past Chris Borland #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers in the fourth quarter at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The plus-one game isn't going to be the playoff answer, much to the college football fan's delight. But what did we hate about the plus-one so much, anyway?

This is a terrible time to start arguing for a plus-one format. After Tuesday's playoff meeting between conferences and school presidents, we might never use the term again. College football's getting a four-team playoff, no matter how big a show Nebraska's chancellor makes of fearing the future. The playoffs will be distinct from the bowls, and won't simply be an extra game bolted on the end.

But have we articulated to ourselves just what would be so unacceptable about a plus-one?

It wouldn't mean any less football -- it might even mean more. It would mean a far more legit No. 1-vs.-No. 2 championship than we've ever had. And it would completely preserve the entire bowl system, or at least the parts anybody cares about preserving. It would even make the bowls better all the way down by bumping out the two worst teams.

The only real difference: in a playoff, there would be no room for intervention between the opening of the postseason and the title game, even if the TV networks are stuck with a Cincinnati vs. TCU final. In a plus-one, the whole thing gets reset after the bowls, and a selection committee or poll picks the top two teams, which would require an even more carefully selected group of selectors.


Shutdown Fullback: Should we worry about playoff letdown?

And it wouldn't look like a bracket. It would be hard to make a visual. You could come up with one on your own, but it would just be a big glob.

Just for the sake of understanding evil before we cast it out (I'm on your side!), let's look back at two things. First, what last year's bowl lineup could've looked like -- you'll note moving LSU and Alabama back into the bowl pool means no room for 6-6 Purdue and 6-7 UCLA (they might still make it in, due to a lack of eligible Pac-12 teams, but ain't nobody got time for that), along with no suspect BCS invite for Virginia Tech.

Basically, in this particular year, every game with a Big Ten or ACC tie gets better if a plus-one system moves No. 1 and No. 2 back into regular bowls. We still get an actual championship game afterward, but now multiple bowls have direct title implications.

Bowl IRL Matchup Plus-One Matchup

New Mexico Wyoming vs. Temple Wyoming vs. Toledo

Idaho Potato Ohio vs. Utah State Ohio vs. Utah State

New Orleans San Diego State vs. UL-Lafayette San Diego State vs. UL-Lafayette

Beef 'O' Brady's Florida International vs. Marshall Florida International vs. Marshall

Poinsettia TCU vs. Louisiana Tech TCU vs. Louisiana Tech

Las Vegas Boise State vs. Arizona State Boise State vs. Arizona State

Hawai'i Southern Miss vs. Nevada Southern Miss vs. Nevada

Independence North Carolina vs. Missouri Wake Forest vs. Missouri

Little Caesars Purdue vs. Western Michigan Penn State vs. Western Michigan

Belk N.C. State vs. Louisville Georgia Tech vs. Louisville

Military Toledo vs. Air Force North Carolina vs. Air Force

Holiday California vs. Texas California vs. Texas

Champs Sports Florida State vs. Notre Dame Florida State vs. Notre Dame

Alamo Baylor vs. Washington Baylor vs. Washington

Armed Forces BYU vs. Tulsa BYU vs. Tulsa

Pinstripe Iowa State vs. Rutgers Iowa State vs. Rutgers

Music City Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State N.C. State vs. Mississippi State

Insight Iowa vs. Oklahoma Nebraska vs. Oklahoma

Meineke Northwestern vs. Texas A&M Iowa vs. Texas A&M

Sun Georgia Tech vs. Utah Virginia vs. Utah

Liberty Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt

Hunger Illinois vs. UCLA Illinois vs. Temple

Chick-fil-A Virginia vs. Auburn Virginia Tech vs. Auburn

TicketCity Penn State vs. Houston Northwestern vs. Houston

Outback Michigan State vs. Georgia Michigan vs. Georgia

Capital One Nebraska vs. South Carolina Michigan State vs. South Carolina

Gator Ohio State vs. Florida Ohio State vs. Florida

Cotton Kansas State vs. Arkansas Kansas State vs. Arkansas

BBVA Compass Pittsburgh vs. SMU Pittsburgh vs. SMU

GoDaddy Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State

Rose Wisconsin vs. Oregon Wisconsin vs. Oregon

Fiesta Oklahoma State vs. Stanford Oklahoma State vs. Alabama

Sugar Michigan vs. Virginia Tech LSU vs. Stanford

Orange Clemson vs. West Virginia Clemson vs. West Virginia

BCS Championship LSU vs. Alabama

This would be worth it just to get Nebraska and Oklahoma playing again, right? That looks better than what we got before, and we'd get a game between Nos. 2 and 3 for a shot at LSU, provided the Tigers' defense could stop Andrew Luck. That's pretty much the same thing as what the playoffs would've given us.

And here we have what the last 25 years of top bowls would've looked like under a BCSified plus-one. And, to keep things simple, we'll modify it in a few ways:

  • The Rose Bowl gets the Big Ten and Pac-[number] champs. In the event of a tie in years without conference championship games, it gets the highest-rated AP team. I ignored BCS rankings for this whole thing, since there were some years in there during which we hated the formula more than we did during others.
  • The Sugar gets the SEC champ, the Orange the ACC, and the Fiesta either the Big 12 or the higher-rated Big 8 or Southwest champ. The Big 12 didn't exist until 1996, you'll recall.
  • Just to keep it simple, the bowl with the lowest-ranked automatic entrant gets the highest-ranked remaining at-large, and so on. In the 2000s, this usually means, like, the Orange Bowl gets the No. 3 team.

That's it. After that, the two top-ranked teams play at a neutral site that was bid out in advance, and that's the title game. Let's breeze through the last 25 years of such a system.

The Miami Era

Rose Sugar Orange Fiesta Plus-One Prediction

1987 8 Michigan State vs. 10 UCLA 3 Florida State vs. 6 Auburn 2 Miami vs. 14 Clemson 1 Oklahoma vs. 4 Syracuse Oklahoma vs. Miami

1988 5 USC vs. 11 Michigan 2 Miami vs. 7 Auburn 1 Notre Dame vs. 13 Clemson 3 West Virginia vs. 6 Nebraska Notre Dame vs. Miami

1989 3 Michigan vs. 12 USC 4 Notre Dame vs. 7 Alabama 2 Miami vs. 15 Virginia 1 Colorado vs. 5 Florida State Colorado vs. Miami

1990 8 Washington vs. 12 Michigan 3 Texas vs. 10 Tennessee 2 Georgia Tech vs. 4 Miami 1 Colorado vs. 5 Notre Dame Texas vs. Miami

1991 2 Washington vs. 4 Michigan 3 Florida vs. 6 Penn State 1 Miami vs. 13 Clemson 5 Florida State vs. 9 Texas A&M Miami vs. Washington

1992 7 Michigan vs. 9 Washington 2 Alabama vs. 6 Syracuse 3 Florida State vs. 5 Notre Dame 1 Miami vs. 4 Texas A&M Miami vs. Alabama

Yeah, Miami all over the place. If you actually went back to 1985, I think Miami would be favored to make all those title games too.

The 1987 game actually happened, with the Canes beating Barry Switzer in the Orange Bowl -- that Syracuse team would've been tough in the Fiesta, but the Sooners ranked first in both offense and defense and had just won a "Game of the Century" against No. 1 Nebraska.

In 1988, if Miami could get past Auburn's tough defense, we'd get to see a Canes team that beat five top-15 squads try and avenge its only loss, a one-pointer to Notre Dame. Elsewhere in Convicts-Catholics action, the 1989 Hurricanes get either a Colorado team that was 11-0 before losing to No. 4 Notre Dame in the Orange or Elvis Grbac's Michigan Wolverines, who'd lost only to the Irish.

And then there's 1990.

Here we have the biggest mess on the whole chart and a split title year in real life. That's the 11-1-1, Fifth Down Colorado team at No. 1, and "Rocket" Ismail's Notre Dame team essentially beat Colorado in real life, so we're marking it Irish. (You see, with all of this plus-one money coming in, we've been able to afford better refs.) On the other side, I do not see a Miami team that beat a previously 10-1 Texas team by 43 points in the Cotton Bowl losing to a Georgia Tech team that was tied by 6-4-1 North Carolina. Thus, our 1990 title game is this masterpiece, but with even higher stakes:

1991 gave us another split championship, between Don James' crowning glory at Washington and Dennis Erickson's unbeaten Canes. The Huskies ranked second in the country in both offense and defense despite playing three top-10 teams, while Miami beat four top-11 teams and had the nation's best defense. I think they'd meet in the title round.

And in 1992, another one that actually happened -- Alabama beat Miami, 34-13, in the Sugar. Both should make it back in this scenario as well. Miami's bowl opponent, Texas A&M, had beaten only one ranked team all year, while Syracuse had already lost twice.

The Nebraska Era

Rose Sugar Orange Fiesta Plus-One Prediction

1993 9 Wisconsin vs. 14 UCLA 3 West Virginia vs. 8 Florida 1 Florida State vs. 5 Auburn 2 Nebraska vs. 4 Notre Dame Florida State vs. Nebraska

1994 2 Penn State vs. 12 Oregon 4 Colorado vs. 5 Florida 3 Miami vs. 7 Florida State 1 Nebraska vs. 6 Alabama Nebraska vs. Penn State

1995 3 Northwestern vs. 17 USC 2 Florida vs. 4t Ohio State 4t Tennessee vs. 8 Florida State 1 Nebraska vs. 6 Notre Dame Nebraska vs. Florida

1996 2 Arizona State vs. 4 Ohio State 3 Florida vs. 6 Nebraska 1 Florida State vs. 7 Penn State 5 BYU vs. 20 Texas Florida State vs. Florida

1997 1 Michigan vs. 5 UCLA 3 Tennessee vs. 7 North Carolina 4 Florida State vs. 6 Florida 2 Nebraska vs. 8 Washington State Michigan vs. Nebraska

Florida State's best team ever really did face Nebraska in 1993, winning 18-16. But that 1994 game never happened, despite Tom Osborne's attempt to sway Joe Paterno into lobbying for it. Still more Nebraska in 1995, with another game that actually happened.

I've got 1996 Florida getting vengeance on the Huskers in the first post-Tommie Frazier year and earning a rematch (ewwwwww!) with FSU, just as they did in the Sugar that year. This was a pretty easy call, since No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 2 Arizona State for realsies in the Rose and had a much better defense.

1997 marked the last-ever year without a championship game, so of course it went down as another split title. It would've given us a sure classic with a plus-one. The top defense against the top offense, Charles Woodson vs. Ahman Green, and the plus-one's starting to seem more and more okay. I apologize.

Everything's Mostly The Same Here On Out

Rose Sugar Orange Fiesta Plus-One Prediction

1998 3 Ohio State vs. 6 UCLA 1 Tennessee vs. 7 Florida 2 Florida State vs. 5 Arizona 4 Kansas State vs. 8 Texas A&M Tennessee vs. Ohio State

1999 4 Wisconsin vs. 22 Stanford 2 Virginia Tech vs. 5 Alabama 1 Florida State vs. 7 Kansas State 3 Nebraska vs 6. Tennessee Florida State vs. Virginia Tech

2000 4 Washington vs. 14 Purdue 2 Miami vs. 7 Florida 3 Florida State vs. 5 Oregon State 1 Oklahoma vs. 6 Virginia Tech Oklahoma vs. Miami

2001 2 Oregon vs. 7 Illinois 1 Miami vs. 12 LSU 4 Nebraska vs. 6 Maryland 3 Colorado vs. 5 Florida Miami vs. Oregon

2002 2 Ohio State vs. 5 USC 4 Georgia vs. 6 Kansas State 1 Miami vs. 16 Florida State 3 Iowa vs. 8 Oklahoma Miami vs. Ohio State

2003 1 USC vs. 4 Michigan 2 LSU vs. 6 Tennessee 3 Oklahoma vs. 9 Florida State 5 Texas vs. 8 Kansas State USC vs. LSU

2004 1 USC vs. 11 Iowa 3 Auburn vs. 5 Utah 4 California vs. 9 Virginia Tech 2 Oklahoma vs. 6 Texas USC vs. Oklahoma

2005 1 USC vs. 3 Penn State 5 Notre Dame vs. 8 Georgia 4 Ohio State vs. 22 Florida State 2 Texas vs. 6 Oregon USC vs. Texas

2006 1 Ohio State vs. 8 USC 2 Florida vs. 5 Louisville 3 Michigan vs. 15 Wake Forest 4 LSU vs. 7 Oklahoma Ohio State vs. Florida

2007 1 Ohio State vs. 6 USC 2 LSU vs. 8 Kansas 4 Georgia vs. 5 Virginia Tech 3 Oklahoma vs. 7 Missouri LSU vs. Oklahoma

2008 5 USC vs. 6 Penn State 1 Florida vs. 7 Utah 3 Texas vs. 21 Virginia Tech 2 Oklahoma vs. 4 Alabama Florida vs. Texas

2009 7 Oregon vs. 8 Ohio State 1 Alabama vs. 5 Florida 3 TCU vs. 9 Georgia Tech 2 Texas vs. 4 Cincinnati Alabama vs. Texas

2010 2 Oregon vs. 4 Wisconsin 1 Auburn vs. 6 Ohio State 3 TCU vs. 12 Virginia Tech 5 Stanford vs. 9 Oklahoma Auburn vs. Oregon

2011 6 Oregon vs. 9 Wisconsin 1 LSU vs. 4 Stanford 7 Arkansas vs. 14 Clemson 2 Alabama vs. 3 Oklahoma State LSU vs. Alabama

So that's that. Now that we've given the plus-one our full attention for a moment, we can now dismiss it forever, right?

While we’re here, let’s watch some college football videos from SB Nation’s new YouTube channel together:

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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