How big to work?

Here’s something I’m curious about, based on a comment in a previous thread.

This is what the last 2008 regular season BCS standings for the top 16 teams looked like:

1 Oklahoma 12-1
2 Florida 12-1
3 Texas 11-1
4 Alabama 12-1
5 USC 11-1
6 Utah 12-0
7 Texas Tech 11-1
8 Penn State 11-1
9 Boise State 12-0
10 Ohio State 10-2
11 TCU 10-2
12 Cincinnati 11-2
13 Oklahoma State 9-3
14 Georgia Tech 9-3
15 Georgia 9-3
16 Brigham Young 10-2

What playoff format would you have found most satisfactory to settle the national championship debate last season?

There are flaws with any choice.  Mike Slive’s plus one would have omitted Southern Cal and both undefeated mid-majors.  (Ironically, it also would have rendered the SECCG a fairly meaningless exercise.)  BCS Guru’s playoff formula would have excluded Texas and Alabama.  An eight-team playoff would have kept Boise State out.  So would Brian Cook’s six-team proposal.  (More irony:  Cook’s format would have left out a one-loss Big Ten conference champ in Penn State.)  And a sixteen-team playoff would have included three three-loss teams, none of which even played in their respective conference title games.

With that in mind, what would have worked best?  I’m not asking this to make a point that playoffs suck.  I think, though, what we might have seen happen last season if a four-team format were in place would have been a lot of talk about the need to expand the size of the postseason.  Especially after 2007.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

39 responses to “How big to work?

  1. keith

    I read an article on Rivals the other day, wish I could find it, best proposal I have seen on the playoffs. Take all the major conference winners including Mountain West and so forth and add I think four at large bids and you have 16 teams. Play at the higher seed teams home field through to the finals and then rotated that game every year among the 5 top bowl sites. The bowl games would still go on as they do now cause seriously, who gives a crap about Wyoming vs Fresno St today, other than the most ardent college football fan or the fans of the schools involved, anyway.

    Lets say for instance this year, you have the same final Bama vs Texas at the Rose Bowl, but the day before you have the PAC 10 runner up Arizona vs the Big 10 runner up Iowa. The Sugar would be LSU vs an at large Penn St or an Orange Bowl with Miami vs West Va. It would still draw the fans of the respective teams and I would just as soon watch that Sugar Bowl match up as some others I have seen in recent years.

    The excitement of the playoffs would be unmatched and all this crap about the regular season being devalued would be debunked cause of opening the playoffs at home would be HUGE and the loser of the SECCG while still in the tourney this year, would have to open on the road, maybe even in Boise. Some years the loser of the SECCG may not even make it. Sounds like an exciting regular season to me. Maybe even more so.


    • Hackerdog

      Automatic bids for the conference champs render nonconference games much less important. So who cares about winning tough, out of conference games. Why should we even schedule them when a loss costs much more than a win could ever gain? We should drop Ga Tech, OSU, ASU, and the occasional Clemson matchup in favor of 4 FCS teams each season.

      The lesson here would be to keep your powder dry for the games that really count (playoffs).


  2. Matt dawg

    12 Teams:
    Autobids- Big 6
    Notre Dame-Top 16 in BCS Standings
    Mid-Majors-Top 16 in BCS Standing
    Re-seed based on Conference Championship, and not playing conference affiliate first two rounds
    1. Bama 2. Texas 3.Cincy 4. TCU 5. Boise St. 6. Oregon 7. Ohio St. 8.GT 9. Iowa 10. UF 11. VPI 12. LSU
    Round One 1-4 Bye 5-8 Home Game
    Losers from Round One go into Bowl Pool
    Round Two 1-4 Home Game
    Losers from Round Two go into Bowl Pool (Orange & Fiesta) Winners to Major Bowls (Rose & Sugar)
    Break til Bowls
    Round Three
    Rose and Sugar
    National Title Game January 8th


  3. Matt dawg

    Round One Games
    LSU at Boise, VPI at Oregon, UF at Ohio St., GT v. Iowa
    Round Two Potential
    LSU at TCU, Oregon at Cincy, UF at Texas, GT v. Bama
    Tell me that would not be more exciting than what we have now. This format keeps the value of regular season and bowls.


  4. Ausdawg85

    OK, FL, USC, Penn St., Cincy and Ga Tech and 2 out of Utah, TCU, Boise via conference championship games for all. This necessitates downsizing to 96 teams and aligning into 8 conferences of 12 teams each…effectively creating a round of 16 to begin with in the conference championship games.

    Good thing about this approach is that every game is important. That’s why TX, Bama, TT, Ok St. and OSU would still find every game as critical as they do now to make their conference championship game…and win it. These teams still feed a pretty impressive “minor” bowl game schedule.

    Unresolved issues would be the downsizing of 24 teams (but I’d bet 12 – 16 schools would love to rid themselves of the cost and $$$ would incent the rest) as well as the championship game means a 15 game season, or you have to shorten the regular season to 10. Neither approach seems appealing.

    You still use the “minor” bowl system as a reward for the losers of the conference championship games and other highly rated teams (ie. UGA in this scenario), and I think school fans specifically, and CFB fans in general, will turn-out in 3 successive bowl game sites (regionally adjusted in the first round) to watch teams go through an 8 team playoff.

    This also eliminates the damn polls!


  5. My system is simple, with 2 alternatives.

    6 BCS conference champs, top 2 seeds get a bye week.

    6 BCS champs plus top 2 ranked non-BCS conference champs. 8 teams total.

    Going with conference champs versus a bunch of at-large bids keeps with the theme of things being decided on the field.


    • Also, I prefer 8 teams to 16 for the playoffs.


    • me

      Your second option is the one I have always liked. That option just seems like the most fair to the mid majors (include ND in that field). Let the league champions determine the R(eal)NC. I would seed according to the polls. If no mid -major or ND is ranked in the top 25 go with the highest ranked non-conference winner from a BCS conference.


  6. nycDawg

    But, Senator, you are correct; playoffs would suck. And you point out what I’ve been saying the problem would be. Controversy at any and all levels of a playoff format. The only thing is, the more you expand the field, the more teams there are clamoring for those final spots and the more teams that have records to prove they could/should be there. At least with the BCS you only have to look at 3 undefeateds or a few one loss teams. Imagine all the 3 loss teams at the end of each year who could/would say they should be ranked 16th.


    • DawgBiscuit

      While I personally favor the 8 team model Muckbeast talked about, even a 16 team model would be better that what we have now. Who cares if 3 loss teams complains about being left out of the tournament? They should have won their games/conference and then they’d be assured a shot at the national title. That’s not the case with the BCS, as evidenced by USC 03, Auburn 04, Boise 06, Utah 08, TCU 09, Boise 09…


      • Hackerdog

        In your statement above, replace 3 loss with 1 loss, or undefeated team playing a joke of a schedule, and we have the current system.

        Do you want to argue that Boise State should be playing in the championship game? Well if they played a harder schedule, they would be.


  7. nycDawg

    Looking at the top 16 you’ve posted I noticed UGA would be included in a 16 team playoff. But, given the knowledge that the top 16 are going to a playoff at seasons end ask yourself this:

    Do the voters take into consideration the embarrassing quality in which UGA lost it’s last regular season game. As the lowest rated 3 loss team on that list, how easy would it be for voters to push us down to 18 or 20 and, in place, put a more deserving 3 loss team that was able to beat their rival and end the season on a hot streak.

    Everyone is so worried about what’s happening at the top but really, the same arguments would filter through to any playoff we have… and to make matters worse, sure everybody who really deserves to be in it (top 3/5/6 whatever) will be there, but any games between top teams at the end of the year will mean nothing.. SEC championship game, Big XII championship game, even UF/FSU or UGA/GT Mich/OSU (these teams won’t be down forever)


  8. dave

    Hey – why not just make CF like every other sport. Why be unique? Personally, I find the current format just fine. I love the fact that you get one shot at Florida, and ONLY one, and that the winner of that game generally decides the SEC East. It makes the rivalry that much better. Simple fact is I prefer a more important regular season. If you want more meaningul matchups, two things can be done: 1) All conferences need a championship game, which HEY! lo and behold is currently happening because the Big 12 and SEC are getting a leg up on strength of schedule. And/or 2) Make strength of schedule a bigger determinate in the BCS rankings…this would probably not be as important as #1 would take care of a lot of this.

    I prefer the most beautiful regular season in all of sports. The Giants/Patriots debacle two years ago says it all for me.


  9. kckd

    I still don’t understand why you continue to ask these questions over and over. I think everyone has admitted that if you have a four team then a fifth would feel left out, or if you have an eighth team then a ninth would feel left out.

    My only contention has been that a playoff that leaves out someone who has a great claim of being the best team in the country based on their season of work is a flawed one and that can be fixed.

    It’s been common that the third or fourth ranked team at the end of the regular season could make a good claim of that multiple years in this century.

    Every now and again a fifth team might have a decent claim (usually not a very strong one) that they are actually the best.

    A ninth team??? pretty confident in saying never on this one.

    The point is not to find the best four, eight, 16 teams.

    The point is to find out who is the best team. And two teams in most years just hasn’t been that great at showing it.

    Will a four team playoff sometimes mean a team or two who really hasn’t had as good a season as the no. 1 get a chance of redemption? Sure.

    But a two team doesn’t exactly solve that either. If LSU had gone undefeated in 2007 and OSU had lost two, they would’ve had to have played a two loss team for the MNC with an unblemished record in the toughest conference in the country. Would that have been any less of a travesty than having a two loss four seed get to the championship and win it against three teams who were undefeated?


    • I’m not arguing with your logic. I just question whether things would play out as you’d prefer.

      Also, I’m curious to hear from my readers what sort of playoff format they’d like to see.


  10. rbubp

    I say conference winners only, including Boise’s conference, and one spot for the highest-ranked independent (you’d never get away with this without Notre Dame). I don’t care if Florida and USC don’t get in; number 1 rule is win your conference.

    If we’re serious about the integrity and passion of the regular season you have to make the conferences the key to the playoff kingdom. Then a home and away seed system skewed for conference strength will ensure that Alabama never opens the playoff at Boise.


  11. KingDawg

    The win your conference requirement is unworkable.

    You could and would end up with a top 2 team being left out.

    The following examples could easily happen:
    (1) Any SEC/Big 12 teams loses its one game to an in division rival in a very close game at a neutral site at or on the road. The team they lose to loses another conference game plus a game or two out of conference.
    (2) All teams except this one-loss team have two losses.
    (3) The only one-loss team in the country is left out of the playoff.

    Just wait for the outcry when this happens.

    At the same time, a requirement that a team at least tie for its division (SEC, ACC, Big 12, MAC) or conference title (All the rest) would be workable.
    This could be additional criteria necessary to be considered for a “wild card” spot.

    If you want to decide things on the field, tiebreakers should not be a major component like they were in the Big 12 South last year.

    In my opinion, anything greater than 8 teams is too much. Also, there should be no automatic conference bids. All teams would have to be the conference champion or fall into the tiebreaker provision to be considered.


    • rbubp



      • rbubp

        I just don’t get this “we love the regular season” stuff and then the “but a team that didn’t win its conference would eb left out.”

        So…….f’ing…..what??? How many teams in the last 30, 40, 50 years have won a mythical national championship but not their conference title? I haven’t looked up it up but I do bet that the answer is ZERO.

        Arguing for non-conf winners to be included is just putting in extra teams for the fun of it. You don’t win your conference, you don’t get in. Mandate EITHER round-robin conf schedule or a championship game. It’s still decided on the field.

        You don’t win, you don’t play.


        • KingDawg

          A non-conference winner has played for it twice in the last decade. Conference co-champs have won it. Tiebreakers are not “settling it on the field”. Look at the Big 12 South last year – Texas beat OU, OU won the tiebreaker despite the fact that they had identical records. That’s really settling it on the field.


          • rbubp

            Again, so what? You can play that game forever. Texas should have beaten the Big 12 team they lost to. Or perhaps they can complain to the Big 12.


  12. JasonC

    Take the following conference champs:
    ACC, Big East, Big 11, Big 12, Pac 10, MWC, WAC, CUSA, MAC, SunBelt

    CUSA plays SunBelt, winner moves on:

    Take the highest Big 5 team and put them aside:

    The remaining Big 4 play the lower 4:
    Cincy-Boise St.
    Ohio St-CMU
    Oregon-ECU (predicted winner)

    Winners play winners:
    Ohio St.-Oregon


    Winner plays top rated Big 5 school not in previous tournament:

    Winner replaces Vandy in the SEC the following year.

    Bama plays Florida at the end of the season for SEC & National Championship:
    Bama = SEC & National Championship

    The following season Texas has a legitimate chance to win the National Championship since they are now part of the SEC.


  13. dawgfan17

    I don’t want a playoff at all. I love that in college football, unlike any other sport, that 1 regular season loss can ruin your entire year. Take for example Texas last year. That loss to TT meant their season for them, same for Bama losing to UF. If there was a playoff then either of those teams could have come back and won it. The pros are ok but did Dallas beating New Orleans really mean anything at all tonight? I love that you have to be near perfect to win it all. I can’t stand that in the NFL you can go 9-7 (Cardinals) and almost win it all. That would be like UGA(7-5) this year having a shot at the title. That would be a joke. You can have your post season like every other sport but as for me, I love college football and the only thing I would change about it is to have a panel of people who lock themselves in a room after everything is said and down and pick the two most deserving teams to play of it all.


    • CFBnot NFL

      Anyone who doesn’t see the difference between the NFL’s percentage of teams in the playoffs with a 16 game schedule and what is being discussed about 8/16 of the 112 teams in just 11 or 12 games, is just closing their eyes. You must be parroting others who use the concerns about the regular season as their fear because you couldn’t have arrived at the same erroneous conclusion when looking at the facts. If you think about it, it is horrible comparison just like the NCAA basketball comparison.

      With only the top rated teams getting home field advantage for the opening round (s), it defies all logic to be concerned about meaningless games. There just will not be any in the college version. Unlike the pros we are dealing with less than 7% earning a spot with 8 teams involved, or 13 % with a 16 teamer, only one half of which would earn homefield advantage! Where are the games that don’t matter? Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. This is an idiotic reason when you study it. Pretend like you are concerned about missing class time, it is harder to refute for those who are actually serious.


      • dawgfan17

        I came up with those reasons well before anyone else did. If a playoff involves 16 teams you would for sure have at least all of the BCS conference champs. It is possible for a team with 3 even 4 losses to then make it into a playoff. If that team gets hot at the right time they could be champs meaning their 3/4 losses would mean nothing. Yes I do understand the difference in the number of teams that make the NFL playoffs versus college playoffs, but I will stand by my opinion that I like a system in which every game can make or break your season, unlike the next two games for the Colts which they could play you and me and it would make no difference in the grand scheme of things. You can disagree with me but trust me I do all my own thinking, always have, always will.


        • CFBnotNFL

          OK, we just disagree. Every game is critical under the CFB playoff, no taking games off, or resting players. Extremely unlikely anyone could lose more than 2, and in some conferences that is tougher than being unbeaten in others. In fact, the disparity in strength of schedule is why we need playoffs.


          • dawgfan17

            I personally believe that if you had a playoff SOS would get even worse. If you are in a major conference and know that you can get in even if you don’t win your conference as long as you only have 1 maybe even 2 losses then you there is even less reason to play any good OOC games. Personally I would like to see rule that does not allow teams to play 1-AA teams at all and that says that 50% of OOC games must be on the road (maybe not in a given year but say over a 3 or 4 year span). I think there are tweaks to improve scheduling such as these and if there is a playoff I would be very interested in seeing the games, I just feel that college football has a a more passionate regular season week in and week out than any other sport and I would hate to see anything done to take away from it, even if only slightly.
            Not to mention if it ever went to a 16 team playoff then a year like this us beating GT would have meant nothing as they would still be in the playoffs and if they went on to win the title it would just be sickening that our win over them would have meant so little in the big picture.


            • CFBnotNFL

              I totally agree about CFB’s passionate regular season. I don’t see that diminished by a football playoff, I think just the opposite: I feel it will get more intense because now there would be a point to it (bigger than a conference title.)

              Nationally we will never agree about conference strength, or SOS, but let the conference winners settle it on the field and you have something. I say give out only eight tickets to the dance and let 120 teams fight it out for those rare invitations.


      • Hackerdog

        What is idiotic is ignoring the facts in favor of your beliefs.

        An 8 or 16-team playoff this year would include Florida. That means the SECCG didn’t mean much beyond bragging rights.

        Conference champs getting automatic bids in a playoff means the UGA/GA Tech (or UF/FSU) game wouldn’t mean much.

        Maybe you think that a playoff would be so great that diminishing the value of regular season games would be worth it. But don’t insult our intelligence by stupidly claiming that a playoff is only upside and no downside.


  14. wheaton4prez

    Ideally, we could see reform of the ranking system in addition to an 8 team play-off.

    If we used an objective system like Sagarin’s, I believe that the results from last year would have seeded the teams without any of the “problems” noted in this post.


  15. paul westerdawg

    Kcmd – what people don’t get is that we have a playoff now of the top 2. That’s the problem. The next expansion will simply be to 4. That will probably last longer than the period in which they expand to 8. We’ll go to 1e after 8 in maybe 2 years.

    Rbubp – why should you have to win your conference? Notre Dame doesn’t. Why should we?


    • rbubp

      Because it limits the number of teams in the playoff, silly. I mean, what is up with this?? Two teams playing each other is a play-off GAME. In order to get to that GAME we had to have an opinionoff.

      “I want the regular season to matter and playoffs will ruin that” + “playoffs should include teams that didn’t have to win their conference” = absolute contradiction. What is the easiest way for a playoff to get over-large? Let in teams based on arbitrary secondary criteria. There are no balanced schedules in CFB and few common opponents–hence very, very few legit tie-breakers. Let in more than conference winners and there’s no rationale for slowing the snowball of expansion.

      As far as Notre Dame, you have to do something with the independents to allow them to have a chance, and there is now way ND will ever join a conference. It could, however, be a top independent or higher-ranked at large team, however, if they don’t win, say, ten games or some other arbitrary cut off.


      • What is the easiest way for a playoff to get over-large? Let in teams based on arbitrary secondary criteria.

        Add allowing winners of mediocre conferences to obtain absolute bids to the postseason, and I think you’ve got it.


  16. Sam

    10 team playoff. Essentially an 8 team playoff with two play-in games. I think 8 is too few – you can have a very good team ranked #9 – but there’s no reason to expand to a 16 team playoff as I can’t ever see a 16 seed winning the national championship. Here are some guidelines.

    – Automatic bids go to the champions of conferences to win the last 3 national championships and the other 7 or more bids are at-large. Automatic bids are exempted from play-in games. This rewards recent success in the conferences; in this case, everyone but the SEC has to get an at-large bid. Want your conference to have an automatic bid? Want your conference champ to have an exemption from the play-in games? Earn it. And there are no limits to this. If TCU ran the table under this system, the Mountain West champ would get an automatic bid and exemption from a play-in game the next two years. It also means that weak “major” conferences aren’t assured an automatic bid. Why should the ACC or the Big East get an automatic bid every year?

    – No conference is allowed more than two of the top 6 slots but a third may be assigned a play-in spot. This covers those rare years like last year’s Big 12 where there are 3 very deserving teams, but it doesn’t allow one conference to soak up half of the byes.

    – No two teams from the same conference plays each other in play-in games. It’s doubtful that you’d get 3 teams from the same conference in the #7-#10 slots, but if you had two – as you would this year with Ohio State and Iowa – the conference shouldn’t be penalized by having them play each other in the play-in round.

    – Re-seed after the play-in games. If a 3rd team from a major conference or a “BCS buster” unexpectedly blasts someone by 40 points, it should move up.

    – Higher seeds get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Seeds are assigned independently of automatic bids; in other words, if you’d had a 2-loss SEC champ coming in this year, it would get an automatic bid but would not be seeded #1. It would, however, be exempt from a play-in game.

    Here’s how it plays out with this year’s teams.

    Automatic bids:

    Alabama (SEC has won the last 3 national championships)

    Texas, Cincinnati, TCU, Florida, Boise State, Oregon, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Iowa

    Play-in participants:
    Oregon, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Iowa

    Assign seeds as follows:

    1 Alabama
    2 Texas
    3 Cincinnati
    4 TCU
    5 Florida
    6 Boise State
    7 Oregon
    8 Ohio State
    9 Georgia Tech
    10 Iowa

    Play in (wild-card) round:
    #10 Iowa at #7 Oregon
    #9 Georgia Tech at #8 Ohio State

    Under normal circumstances, it would have been #10 vs #8 and #7 vs #9 but as per the rules, the two Big 10 teams don’t play each other in the play-in game. Let’s say Oregon and Georgia Tech win and get 7 and 8 seeds, respectively (sorry, Big 10 fans, this is just how I think it’d play out). Re-seed the teams after the games (I think the seeds would stay the same in this case). Then the matchups are:

    #8 Georgia Tech at #1 Alabama
    #7 Oregon at #2 Texas
    #6 Boise State at #3 Cincinnati
    #5 Florida at #4 TCU

    You can’t tell me THIS wouldn’t be one hell of an exciting playoff! Think of the game scripts! Georgia Tech’s unstoppable option vs. Alabama’s immovable defense. Oregon brings the West Coast offense to Texas. Cincinnati hosts a deadly BCS buster. And it’s Texas Christian University vs. Tebow Christian Eyeblack.

    Final game to be held at a neutral site (cities could bid on this or perhaps it could be rotated between the four big bowl sites).

    This model makes regular season games VERY important for seeding and the resultant home field advantage. Use the BCS system to seed the teams. Add the AP poll to the BCS formula. Given a playoff, there’s no split championship for the AP to provide.

    Notice: the two “BCS busters” got a bye under my system, and one of them even got home field advantage.

    So, there it is. Best. College. Football. Playoff. Model. Period. Look how things would have been done in 2008.

    Automatic bids:

    Florida, Oklahoma

    Texas, Alabama, Southern Cal, Utah, Texas Tech, Boise State, Penn State, Ohio State

    Play-in participants:
    Texas Tech, Penn State, Boise State, Ohio State

    Assign seeds as follows:

    1 Oklahoma
    2 Florida
    3 Texas
    4 Alabama
    5 USC
    6 Utah
    7 Texas Tech
    8 Penn State
    9 Boise State
    10 Ohio State

    Play in round:
    #10 Ohio State at #7 Texas Tech
    #9 Boise State at #8 Penn State

    Let’s say Boise State and Texas Tech win and get 8 and 7 seeds, respectively. Then the matchups are:

    #8 Boise State at #1 Oklahoma
    #7 Texas Tech at #2 Florida
    #6 Utah at #3 Texas
    #5 USC at #4 Alabama

    That would have been a great playoff, too. Think of the scripts there: Oklahoma gets a shot at revenge on Boise State. Texas Tech’s high-flying offense comes into the Swamp. Utah’s spread offense comes to Austin. And two very traditional powers meet when the Trojans come into Tuscaloosa.