Monday, December 08, 2008

College Playoff: 2008-2009 Edition

Every year, I trot out my own version of a college playoff, and plug in the teams from this year, to show everyone exactly how awesome a college playoff system could be.

I tweaked the system a bit from my last posting, as I had the Big 12 and SEC playing too soon in my older version. I like this one better.

Here is how my system would play out for this season, with my picks (or actual winners) in bold:

Week 1: Championship Week
- require all conferences to have a championship game
- this is the first round of the playoffs, championship losers are out (but are free to play in a lesser bowl game if they choose)
- All at-large spots are filled first according to record, and then according to ranking.

ACC Championship game: Virginia Tech vs. Boston College

Big East Championship game: Cincinatti vs. Pittsburgh

Big Ten Championship game: Penn State vs. Ohio State

Big 12 Championship game: Oklahoma vs. Missouri

Pac-10 Championship game: Southern Cal vs. Oregon

SEC Championship Game: Florida vs. Alabama

Independence Bowl: Independent/BCS at-large Texas vs. Non-BCS #1 Utah
Storyline: After the pollsters decided to launch Oklahoma over the Longhorns into the Big 12 Championship, Texas gets their chance for redemption by playing one of the only undefeated teams in the country.

Capital One Bowl: BCS at-large Texas Tech vs. Non-BCS #2 Boise State
Storyline: Boise State plays spoiler for Texas Tech, and gets their shot at the big boys - AP #1 Florida.

SNUBS: Ball State could have complained about being snubbed here, but then they went and lost their conference championship, leaving them with one loss, to Buffalo. Had they won, they would have gotten into the at-large pool over Texas, by virtue of a better record. Next highest ranked team without a shot? 10-2 TCU. Are the Horned Frogs really getting screwed? They lost to two of the tourney teams - Oklahoma and Utah - they could have played their way in.

Second Round
- played over Christmas week

Sugar Bowl: SEC Champion vs. Capital One Bowl Champion
Florida vs. Boise State
Storyline: Can Boise State put on the glass slipper and spoil Florida's championship run? Almost - the Broncos lose in overtime.

Gator Bowl: Independence Bowl Champion vs. Big 12 Champion
Texas vs. Oklahoma
Storyline: Texas already beat Oklahoma on a neutral field once this year. Can they pull it off again? Not this time - OK wins 63-62 with a walk-off TD as time expires.

Fiesta Bowl: ACC Champion vs. Big 10 Champion
Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
Storyline: JoePa gets his chance to make a run at the title, and begins by dispatching the ACC champ.

Orange Bowl: Big East Champion vs. Pac-10 Champion
Cincinatti vs. Southern Cal
Storyline: Welcome to big time football, Cinci. Blowout time.

Third Round
- played on New Year's Day

Rose Bowl: Fiesta Bowl Champion vs. Orange Bowl Champion
Penn State vs. Southern Cal
Storyline: The granddaddy of them all gets their traditional Big Ten - Pac-10 matchup, on New Year's Day. Is anyone complaining?

Cotton Bowl: Sugar Bowl Champion vs. Fiesta Bowl Champion
Florida vs. Oklahoma
Storyline: #1 meets #2. Do we need anything more? Oklahoma's offense outscores Florida's in another track meet.

Championship game (played the week after New Year's, just like it is now):

Rose Bowl Champion vs. Sugar Bowl Champion
Southern Cal vs. Oklahoma
Storyline: Oklahoma's offense vs. Southern Cal's defense? For all the marbles? That would be epic. Oklahoma wins a (relatively) low scoring close game, 28-21.

This system allows the remaining bowl games to remain in place, comprising the teams that are bowl eligible that did not get into the playoffs and the championship week losers.

The games are all played during traditional bowl times, except some New Year's bowls are being moved to Christmas week. The other bowls could be used to fill up the season between Championship week and the second round, as they are now. I'd also move up the bowl eligibility to 7 wins - no need to reward mediocrity, and that way there aren't too many bowls to clutter the schedule.

There are no complaints from non-BCS schools, as they get two slots (from five conferences). There may be some complaints about who gets the at-large BCS slots, but this system had the same number of at-large spots this year as the BCS bowls did. This allows the team that didn't win their conference but were really good (ala Texas and Texas Tech) to get a shot at the championship. And because record matters more than ranking or conference affiliation, the Big 12 get 4 teams in.

It maintains traditional bowl matchups in most seasons (SEC-Big 12 Cotton; Big 10-Pac-10 Rose, etc.).

And, most importantly, it gets decided on the field.

Now we just need to make it happen.


Paul said...

This is a pretty good model, but I'm going to quibble with what seem like some unnecessary changes from the current system (i.e. the parts of the current system having nothing to do with the BCS).

1) Why force every conference into having a championship game? Conference championship games are a relatively recent innovation (at least in some conferences) and as the Big 12 discovered, a system of divisions and a championship game doesn't necessarily produce satisfying results. Make it like the old pre-playoff baseball system: best record wins the pennant, ties broken by a one-game playoff (or maybe pick your tiebreaker).

2) I get that you've stuck the Rose Bowl in the semi-final round because it's the most famous bowl game. But wouldn't it be better to guarantee the traditional match-up here at the cost of bumping the Rose Bowl to the quarter finals? Seems that the traditional paring is a more substantial tradition than the bowl's relative prestige.

3) Here's a substantive gripe -- the segregation of the football world into the have conferences and the have-not conferences. Your system of giving good-record non-BCS conference teams automatic berths is an improvement, but given the pitiful mediocrity of the Big East and the ACC, I don't see their conference winners being any more deserving than Ball State. Also, if the Irish ever figure out how to win again, it puts the have-not teams farther in the hole because we'd be taking up one of their spots. Here -- we can keep a system of automatic berths for X number of conferences, but there should be a rule that if your conference champion is horrible, or perhaps if your conference's overall record is too low, you get supplanted by another conference with a better total record. There would be some kinks to work out, but if this thing is going to be conference-based, there should be carrots and sticks attached to the strength of your conference.

Wacko said...

I had a system that included every conference champion, but that system got a little bulky, as you can't just ignore the conference championship games that are already in place - it takes too much time to play it all out.

That system would have all 11 conference champs and 5 at-large teams, leaving nobody on the outside looking in.

That system would inject Troy, Buffalo, and East Carolina into the system. Out of the playoffs would be Oregon, Boston College, and Pitt. I'm not so sure that's an improvement.

If you use my record-then-ranking system, you'd get Texas, Alabama, Texas Tech, and Ball State as one loss teams. Ohio State would get the final at-large by virtue of their ranking.

And as for Notre Dame taking the non-BCS spots - they would not go ahead of a team with a poorer record, and the non-BCS teams (with their weaker schedules) are also permitted to take an at-large spot if they have an equal record and higher ranking than a BCS school.

There are numerous permutations, but the one I laid out above I think is the easiest to implement.

Wacko said...

Also, the Rose Bowl is where it is because it MUST be played on New Year's Day - I can't in good faith place it during Christmas week.

That is more important to me than getting the Big 10 - Pac 10 matchup every single year.

Anonymous said...

Only one problem with the system that you have

If a team loses the first game in the conference championship (Alabama) are they worse than Texas Tech and do not deserve a playoff spot