In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on December 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

Part 2 (see post on 12/15/11 for Part 1)

Okay, here’s is the plan:

The playoffs would involve 12 teams. The champions of the six major conferences (Big East, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and PAC-12), along with Notre Dame/Independents and the non-major conference champs, if they rank among the top 12 in the final BCS poll. There would be a maximum of 3 teams per conference in the playoff picture (good news Arkansas, bad news South Carolina). Non-champions must be in the top 12 of the final BCS standings, but they cannot participate at the expense of an automatic champion of a major conference who is not ranked in the top 12. If an automatic champion is ranked outside of the top 12, it will replace the lowest ranked non-champion regardless of conference affiliation. Any fourth place teams ranked among the top 12 would be passed over and replaced by either a non-top 12 automatic champion or, if none, the next highest non-champion from any conference with 2 or fewer teams ranked in the top 12, or a major independent like Notre Dame (whichever is ranked higher).

Notre Dame would be an automatic playoff participant when ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS poll and would receive an automatic first round playoff bye when it finishes fourth or higher in the final poll.  Notre Dame cannot be bumped from the playoffs by a non-top 12 automatic major conference champion. No more than two major independents can participate in the playoffs, but only the highest ranked independent is guaranteed not to be bumped from the playoffs by a non-top 12 automatic major conference champion, unless the lowest rated independent is Notre Dame, or both independents are ranked in the top 4 (this could require the lowest ranked non-major champion to be bumped). Also, no team ranked first or second in the final BCS poll can be bumped from the playoff picture.

The top four conference champions (major or non-major) from the BCS poll will receive automatic byes into the second round of the playoffs. The exception is that if Notre Dame (or another independent) finishes in the top four of the final BCS poll, it will receive an automatic bye to the second round along with the top 3 league champions. No more than one major independent can receive a bye in any single year. In any case, remember that the four teams receiving byes might not necessarily be the top four in the poll. The remaining 8 playoff teams will meet in round one with the four highest ranked teams according to the BCS hosting the games. Round two would then send the four round one winners to the home sites of the four which received byes with the lowest ranked surviving team visiting the top seed, and so on.

For example (using a modified next-to-last BCS poll—I’ll explain later), the four byes would go to LSU, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and Houston as the highest ranked conference champions. The other 8 in order of the BCS rankings (seeds 5 thru 12): Alabama, Stanford, Boise State, Kansas State, Arkansas, Oregon, Michigan State, and West Virginia. Under this system, 3 SEC teams make the playoffs along with two non-major conference teams, and one of them scores a bye! South Carolina was actually ranked 11th in the BCS poll I used and was bumped as the fourth team from SEC. Sorry Gamecocks. Had Notre Dame been ranked anywhere among the top 12, then Arkansas would have been bumped as the lowest non-champion. (For the record: 3-loss Oklahoma and 2-loss Wisconsin were ranked outside my BCS top 12—sounds like the Big Ten needs to ratchet-up the PR campaign a tad to squeeze in a second team.)

Okay, here’s the explanation of not using the final BCS poll in the example.

NO CONFERENCE TITLE GAMES. Yay!!! In my happy, little 2011 playoff world, Houston never lost to Southern Miss in the C-USA title game, Michigan State never lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten, and Virginia Tech never lost to Clemson a second time in the ACC Championship. League title games are no longer needed in a playoff scenario since more than one team from each conference can make the field. In fact, continued play of conference title games could cost a major conference its second or third place team in a playoff scenario. As for money issues, lost conference championship revenue should be made up by the playoff game money from television, gate receipts, etc. Of course, conferences which choose to operate in two divisions will have to create their own procedures for determining an overall champion in the event of identical records. Conference champs will have to be determined for the purpose of the first round byes and for possible elimination by non-top 12 major conference champs.

Had 2011 been a BCS playoff year, round one would have sent West Virginia to Alabama, Michigan State to Stanford, Oregon to Boise State (talk about some fireworks), and Arkansas to Kansas State. (The BCS standings would be manipulated, if needed, to avoid first round meetings involving teams from the same conference). The first round participants and the four teams receiving byes would also be guaranteed berths in a BCS Bowl Game (which include the Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, and the newly promoted Capital One and Cotton Bowls—we’ll need 6 now). All bowl-eligible teams not participating in the playoffs would be fed into the existing non-BCS bowl picture based on conference agreements, etc. (Although, I would love to see fewer than 34 total bowl games, and hey, how about a minimum of 7 wins for bowl eligibility—no more 6 and 6’s, or worse. And, I mean you, UCLA and Ohio State.)

For the purpose of this example, we will assume that Alabama, Stanford, Boise and K-State win round one games. The four champions with byes would be ranked by their BCS position. So, in round two (lowest seed at highest), Kansas State at (1) LSU, Boise at (2) Oklahoma State, Stanford at (3) Virginia Tech, and Alabama at (4) Houston (what a test for the Tide). The four second round winners would then be placed into the two of the six BCS Bowls that will serve as semi-finals on a rotating basis. The losers will be seeded into the other 4 BCS bowls with consideration for longstanding conference bowl tie-ins. (Efforts would also be made to avoid re-matches in the bowl games.)

December 31, 2011, January 1st and 2nd, 2012 would see the 6 BCS bowls played (what a great weekend of college football). For this example, the Sugar and Cotton serve as the semi-finals and would be played as a doubleheader on the 2nd. Sugar Semi-Final: Alabama and LSU (see, I told you this wasn’t the national title game). Cotton Semi-Final: Stanford and Oklahoma State. Fiesta: Kansas State and Boise State. Rose: Michigan State and Oregon. Orange: West Virginia and Virginia Tech.  Capital One: Arkansas and Houston. Again, all remaining non-BCS bowls would operate as we’re used to seeing.

Saturday, January 14th then brings the BCS national title game which, in this example, would feature the winners of the Sugar and Cotton Bowls. The location would be up for bids among the many warm weather and domed stadiums around the country. (Somewhere, Jerry Jones is smiling.)

Only two teams have their seasons extended beyond New Year’s weekend which limits conflict with the start of classes in the second semester.

To have made this work, the 2011 regular season would have begun around August 27th, and concluded by November 26th. This allowed roughly 14 weekends to play 12 games. The playoffs would have opened December 3rd, and round two would have taken place on December 10th. This avoids, in most cases, playing through finals week of the first semester. The BCS bowls would take place on, or about, January 1st. And the national title game follows approximately two weeks later. Seems so simple.

Again… I admit, this is not perfect.  Nothing is. It might not result in the so-called “best” team winning the title, but it’s better than a simple popularity vote and a system that frequently leaves unbeaten (and deserving once-beaten) teams on the outside looking in. If you doubt this, just ask any longtime fan of Auburn, Penn State, Utah, Boise State, and, this year’s victim of the BCS, Oklahoma State.

They all just wanted one more shot at #1. And, they all deserved it more than Alabama.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at:


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