Sunday, January 2, 2011

The NCAA Playoff Blueprint

Now that we've reached the New Year and the peak of Bowl Season, it's time to hear the annual chants for a playoff. "Do it for Boise and the TCUs of the World!" we hear. And I get that. Now realistically, I'm not a big believer in the argument that Boise and TCU would be able to really challenge the elite teams in a game that mattered. As much as I was impressed with TCU yesterday against Wisconsin, it seems fairly apparent that: (a) Wisconsin on its best day was probably 2-3 Touchdowns worse than Auburn or Oregon; (b) Wisconsin had no business losing that game, and only did because of a bizarre strategy of throwing the ball waaaayyy to much when its huge advantage was pounding the ball on the ground. Anyway, I digress.

Regardless of that game, the playoff is an entirely workable system that we can use--and still keep the bowl system in place. I get that the NCAA and the member schools love the bowls as a huge moneymaker and to really highlight the sport. Fine. Yet because the NCAA has opted against instituting a playoff, they come off as arrogant and unresponsive to public sentiment. (Note: I recognize that the NCAA is, and has always been, arrogant and unresponsive, but there's no need to emphasize the point.)

In working this out, it's imperative to keep the bowl system in place, protect the relevance of conference plays and championships, and not just add another 4 weeks to the season. If a team has to cut an early non-conference smackdown, so be it (so Oregon may need to let go of the 2011 match-up with Portland State that it won this year 69-0).

The Plan:
Everything is normal through the week of Thanksgiving. Everyone can play their rival game just like they have. The next weekend, teams play their conference championship games, if they have one. In the week after all conference championships, we go to the polls and grab the top 8 teams. Those are the playoff schools, and generally this will be similar to the BCS schools as it stands now.

The next week, normally the first Saturday in December, we play the first round of games, 1 vs. 8, etc. The next week, we have the semifinals, and we're still only about mid-December. By this point, we have a clearly defined Championship matchup, plus there are still 2 weeks to get the Major Bowl games filled. To simplify, you can even prearrange the rankings to certain bowl games in advance, with the only changes being the teams who make it to the Championship. Or just set the most preferable match-ups. Everyone who wasn't in the top 8 is unaffected by this, and just goes to the normal bowl game they would have anyway (Helloooo Alamo Bowl!). You really need to have at least 2 weeks before the bowl games to let the tickets be distributed, hotel rooms booked, etc.

How would this look? Let's play it out:

December 4, 2010: (1) Auburn vs. (8) Arkansas; (2) Oregon vs. (7) Oklahoma; (3) TCU vs. (6) Ohio State; (4) Wisconsin vs. (5) Stanford.

December 11, 2010: (1) Auburn vs. (5) Stanford; (2) Oregon vs. (3) TCU

January 1, 2011: Fiesta Bowl-(3) TCU vs. (7) Oklahoma; Rose Bowl-(4) Wisconsin vs. (5) Stanford; Orange Bowl- (8) Arkansas vs. (6) Ohio State

January 3, 2011: National Championship: (1) Auburn vs. (2) Oregon

And there it is.

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