December 6, 2013

New Playoff Format in College Football Will Cause More Questions Than it Answers

By - Keith Smith

For the past 30-plus years, I've been an advocate for a college football playoff system. And I still am, just not the one being implemented next year.

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I believe this hybrid four-team playoff, which replaces the BCS, will cause more questions than it answers.

Let's imagine that the system started this season, for example. Currently, the top five teams are Florida State, Ohio State, Auburn, Alabama and Missouri. Four of those teams play in conference championship games on Saturday, while one (Alabama), anxiously awaits the outcomes. Three of them, potentially, could lose. But even if they don't, the Tide is probably in by default.

Unless you wear crimson, that probably seems unfair. Alabama would have the easiest path to the playoff by missing their conference championship. Hardly seems right for the No. 4 team to get a bye into the tourney.

Granted, a committee will make that decision. If you are a Tide fan, your argument (and I don't discount it at all) will be that you've owned the No. 1 position all season long, and you lost it on an amazing, last-second play. Going through the vaunted SEC with only one loss has to be worth something, right?

Not according to the Big 12 and PAC 12 teams, I'm sure. Oklahoma State has cruised to a 10-1 record so far (they also play Saturday, but in a rivalry game vs. Oklahoma, not a conference championship game). Next year, they very well could be sitting at home come playoff time, even if Florida State or Ohio State loses on Saturday. The PAC 12 does have a title game, but this season, everyone out there has 2 losses already.

That won't be the case every year.

And before you Bama fans get angry with me, I think you have one of the four best teams in the country. But if you look at it objectively, and you were sitting in Missouri or Auburn's position, you probably wouldn't be too thrilled with someone sitting out this week and getting in.

Let's look at last year as another example. In late November, Alabama was No. 1, Oregon No. 2, Kansas State No. 3 and Notre Dame No. 4. The excitement that was generated when Alabama lost, then Oregon and Kansas State lost was electric. The Tide fans went from crushing disappointment to ecstatic excitement over a couple of weeks. Watching those games and following the highs and lows, as a fan, was phenomenal.

But if next year's playoff format was in play, guess what? None of those late season losses mean anything. All four teams that were ranked at the beginning of November, even though there was a lot of shake up in where they were ranked, still make the playoff.

That seems like a letdown to me.

I say all this simply to argue that I think a four-team playoff is too small. I live in constant hope that it expands to eight teams in the near future. Just take the top eight teams using the current BCS formula, seed them so that 1 plays 8, rotating the 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 games through the current "Big Four" bowls (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange). Those games can go back to their historic January 1st dates, then allow cities to bid for the semi-final and final games (additional revenue for the NCAA), played a week and two weeks later.

Would there still be controversies? Maybe, but there really shouldn't be. If you are outside the top eight, you have almost no possibility of winning that three-game playoff, anyway. You'll be into at least one or two teams with two losses, and I'll bet 99 times out of 100 the No. 1 seed will knock off No. 8, so while there will be some teams that want in that slot, almost no one will ever advance out of the position.

It's not perfect, but it's better than what comes in play next year. I see that creating more nightmare scenarios and controversies than the BCS ever did.

And that scares me.


  1. Four teams is definitely not enough. Why does Alabama essentially get a bye when they lost more recently? Plus what's the difference between an undefeated team and a team with one loss? Or a one loss team and a team with two losses? This playoff off is a joke.

  2. Still better than the BCS. At some point in the future it will probably expand to like 16 teams.

  3. Definitely needs to be expanded, but atleast it's a start.

  4. 16 team is too many but a 8 team tourney would be fitting