“You…uhhhh, and you, hmmm, you right there in the red, and also the big guy right behind you. Everyone else, thanks for playing and try again next year!”
What? Did that not encapsulate the process of picking the four contenders for the college football playoff? All failed attempts at an accurate analogy aside, this college football season, the one that was destined to alleviate all doubt, to depart from that God-awful BCS into a positive playoff direction, still left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. And it wasn’t just because Oregon played in black and white unis (those aren’t even your school colors Mariota!).
Don’t misinterpret my stance – I’m optimistic for this collegiate sport, but as a follower I can write a JK Rowling novel on the foreseeable circumstances that will surface come postseason time. There’s going to be a team that shouldn’t have been snubbed (2015 TCU Horned Frogs) and a team that has no reason/business being included (2015 Florida State Seminoles) in the first place. Some might argue that this trend is imminent and inescapable in this unpredictable game. True enough, how can the committee possibly justify inviting the Horned Frogs, a one-loss squad that didn’t even play in a conference championship, or excluding Winston’s Seminoles, undefeated-reigning NCAAF champions? Yet, as we now all know, Boykin & co. went nuts against Ole Miss, and Mariota and the Ducks bowed their heads before eating every last crumb of the Seminole unit. I’m not faulting the 13-man CFB Playoff committee, not at all, in fact. Their rationale was consistent with what’s it’s always been. Unfortunately, all that really means is they’ve been approaching the sport incorrectly for virtually its entire existence and are perpetuating these foolishly constructed CFB archetypes, to be concise. Revision is needed, and it extends far past an emphasis on solely postseason reform. Let’s avoid missing insanely entertaining matchups. Let’s start a new stigma for a great football team. Let’s fix college football.
Contrary to popular belief, the C in CFB doesn’t stand for controversy. You wouldn’t know with the sheer mass of debate that surrounds every single ruling, every single week. My proposed utopian college football structure isn’t going to relinquish all doubt, there’s no chance for that; but it will relieve the bulk of it. Like any preparatory process, let’s take the preliminary steps: scheduling for the season.
Proposal: 8-9 Game Conference Schedule/3-4 Inter-Conference Games; No Conference Championship Games
So sorry SEC, no more cupcakes. Let’s picture this: the Alabama Crimson Tide commence their season playing Wisconsin (as they did this year) but instead of turning the plane around to bully FCS Middle Tennessee they alter their route to Waco to battle the Baylor Bears, play a gruesome 8 game conference schedule, and finish the season at University of Texas and Michigan State in what fulfills the Big 12 vs SEC vs B1G inaugural inter-conference play. Next year it will be SEC vs B1G vs MW and the season after SEC vs MW vs Pac-12 and so on. This structure is eerily similar to what the NFL adheres to, and for good reason. In 2015-16, the NFC East will play 6 games in their respective division, 4 games vs NFC South and 4 games vs AFC East. Nice and organized. And in a new CFB where strength of schedule is far and away the most prioritized aspect of judgment, teams won’t object to a centralized scheduling method. We’d probably sacrifice perfect seasons record-wise, but it would undoubtedly reveal who’s really real and who’s really, really not. Yes, it’s a little unfair to ask the boys from ‘Bama to play Baylor but it’s equally unfair to ask Baylor to play Alabama. As the old idiom goes, if it’s equally unfair for everyone, it’s fairness, and it’ll be fair for every Division 1 CFB team/conference. The non-conference games are an important supplement to regular season conference play that will, through 8-9 games, decide a champion in the regular season. Baylor/TCU weren’t forgotten out of the Playoff because they didn’t have a Conference Championship game, it was because everyone else did. If there is consistency, there really is no issue with the format itself. The game that would normally be reserved for the Conference Championship could easily be substituted with the third playoff game/first playoff round.
Proposal: 8-team College Football Playoff Bracket; No Conference Non-Champions
AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference-USA, Mid Atlantic, Mountain West, Pac-12, Southeastern Conference, Sun Belt. 10 Conference Champions, 8 Playoff Spots. If you don’t win your conference, how do you expect to win the college football season? To defend/justify the non-Power 5 conference champion I remind myself that a certain other collegiate sport’s playoff (NCAAB) is rampant with mid-major teams who quite simply make the whole thing so entertaining, which is what the success of every sports industry is predicated upon. If Memphis is booked to clash with Ohio State, I say we let them fight, just for the gamble that Memphis pulls of that upset. The task of determining the quality of conference champion is a much more feasible and pragmatic task, with the addition of non-conference games, than the task currently employed by the committee.
Bowl Count Reduction
Last and least, let’s reduce the number of bowl games from the current 41-bowl slate. I’m speaking entirely from an intuitive stance, but I can’t imagine a team that has already counted itself out as a playoff contender and has secured a bowl-qualifying season is going to have a particularly imperative sense of urgency. Any game not considered worth playing is not worth watching and vice versa and versa vice.
Proposal: 25-32 NCAA Bowl Games (Reduction from 41)
And just like that, college football is fixed.