Wednesday, July 11, 2012

8 is enough

I will now reveal the perfect playoff system for NCAA football, and throw in some recommendations for the regular season too. NCAA presidents always listen to fans like me, except when they are looking out for the well being of student athletes that pay their salaries, so I'm sure these recommendations will go into effect post haste.
First, the perfect number of playoff teams is 8. Not 4, not 12, not 16. Although I agree with Bart that the nature of playoffs is to expand, I sure hope they make it 8 and stay there. 8 teams allows for both conference champions and great at large teams to participate. 8 teams means a team has to win 3 games to win the title. A long enough run that even if an 8 seed wins, it would be impossible to say they didn't deserve it after running a 3 game gauntlet. 8 teams means the kids won't be playing football into February. 8 teams means there won't be 3 loss teams in the playoffs, retaining at least some of the value of the regular season.
Let's talk automatic bids. I like the idea of conference champions getting automatic bids. I don't like the idea of a 24th ranked, 5 loss Big East team getting an automatic bid. There also could be a conference that has 2 divisions and one is great and the other sucks, and the sucky division team pulls off an upset in the championship game sending another 4 loss, low ranked team to the playoffs. The solution to this is simple. The 6 power conferences get to pick how their conference chooses it's champion, either by regular season or championship game. However they choose, if their representative is not ranked in the top 10, or maybe 15, they lose the automatic bid.
I can hear people right now saying coaches that vote in the polls will change their votes to get teams in. One, they already do that. Two, the NCAA could come up with some type of RPI like ranking system from the remnants of the BCS to rank the teams.
Some people might like the idea of Cinderella teams making the playoff, just like in Basketball. I don't. Basketball plays 2 games in 3 days, and gets rid of those most of those teams fast. Football does not have that luxury.
So in any given year there will be a max of 6 automatic bids, if the Big East is able to maintain enough quality teams to keep one (I'm not sure they deserve one anymore unless they make some changes like adding Notre Dame for football). In any given year there would likely not be more then 2 conferences without an automatic qualifier. That would leave 2-4 teams to get at large bids. I like the idea of a selection committee to both pick and seed the teams. Teams not in the big 6 conferences would have to finish in the top 3-5 for an automatic bid.
Here's how the new season would go:
Teams have to be done with the regular season by the last weekend in November. Championship games have to be done by the first weekend in December. Selection Sunday is the next day. First round games are played 2 weeks later at the higher seeded team's home field, second round games are played 2 weeks later at a neutral site, and the Championship is played 2 weeks later at a neutral site. The Bowl season would sprinkle games in between the playoffs for fun.
As long as I'm at it, I would also have conferences expand the conference season to 10 games, and only have 2 non-conference games. That recommendation probably has about as much chance of being enacted as the rest of my plan, so why not throw it in.
There you have it. The perfect playoff system. Commence the criticism.

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