Four-team BCS playoff on way, but it won't fix everything

Posted Saturday, May. 12, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Imagine this scenario:

TCU, ranked No. 3 in the nation, facing No. 2 Oregon in a national semifinal game at the Rose Bowl. The winner advances to the BCS National Championship Game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington a week later. The title opponent is Cam Newton-led Auburn, which defeated Stanford in the other national semifinal game at the Fiesta Bowl. Imagine the excitement for the fans and the sport.

That could have been how the 2010 college football season played out, had a four-team playoff format been in effect for the Bowl Championship Series.

After months of meetings, the BCS commissioners have agreed that a four-team playoff is better than the system as it stands now. BCS chief Bill Hancock said an official decision is likely to come in July after conference leaders agree on how to choose the four playoff opponents. The playoff format would begin in 2014.

Some say the four teams should be limited to conference champions. Others say keep it simple and use the top four teams ranked atop the final BCS standings at the conclusion of the regular season.

TCU coach Gary Patterson, who, like Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, has been reluctant to embrace a playoff in the past out of concern that it would hamper teams' bowl experiences, thinks the four-team format could work.

"I don't think it will ruin the experience if you keep all the bowls in place so everyone is basically playing a bowl game," Patterson said. "I think that's the best way without [adding] too many ballgames. It's hard when you get a month to prepare for that ballgame and then a week for the next one."

The most likely format would pit the top four teams in national semifinal games, probably at two existing BCS bowls (Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Rose) in No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3 pairings. The winners would then meet in the National Championship Game at another BCS bowl site a few weeks later.

Some have argued for campus sites, but that probably won't fly, because many campus stadiums would be unable to accommodate media requests for a national semifinal game.

Hancock has said that a likely scenario would have the semifinals played right after Christmas, with the championship game played the first week of January. The rest of the bowls would be paired and scheduled just like any other year.

Another alternative would be to have the semifinals played a week after the regular season, giving the title teams a month to prepare for the championship. In 2011, for instance, the semifinals would have fallen on Saturday, Dec. 10.

Nothing is official yet and there are still plenty of logistics to figure out, but by 2014, college football will take a step out of the dark ages toward progress, but you can count on this: The bickering, bellyaching and bloodletting over the BCS won't go away. It might be worse. Just take a gander at the last decade:

2011

1. LSU

13-0

2. Alabama

11-1

3. Oklahoma State

11-1

4. Stanford

11-1

Last season would have been one of the easier years to determine the four-team playoff. The top four teams are no-brainer seeds. But Boise State (11-1) and Houston (12-1) would have been out of luck. Houston defeated No. 22 Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl to finish 13-1. A four-team playoff would have netted the Cougars nothing more.

2010

1. Auburn

13-0

2. Oregon

12-0

3. TCU

12-0

4. Stanford

11-1

The top three were undefeated, including No. 3 TCU. That's easy. But who gets the fourth semifinal spot? Six teams finished with one loss, meaning five schools, including four in the top 10, would have been scorned: No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 10 Boise State.

2009

1. Alabama

13-0

2. Texas

13-0

3. Cincinnati

12-0

4. TCU

12-0

The season that screamed for a playoff more than any in memory would have, perhaps, been the easiest to seed in a four-team format. The standings were top-heavy with five unbeaten teams. One-loss Florida ranked fifth, ahead of No. 6 Boise State (13-0). Broncos fans surely would have felt burned, especially since Boise State defeated the Horned Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl.

2008

1. Oklahoma

12-1

2. Florida

12-1

3. Texas

11-1

4. Alabama

12-1

A pairings nightmare, too, with eight one-loss teams in the final BCS standings, and two undefeated teams (No. 6 Utah and No. 9 Boise State) not even ranked in the top five. Instead of one or two teams being snubbed for a chance to play for a title you would have had six fan bases ticked off. Four teams in the top 10 had one loss, including No. 7 Texas Tech.

2007

1. Ohio State

11-1

2. LSU

11-2

3. Virginia Tech

11-2

4. Oklahoma

11-2

Nine additional teams had two or fewer losses, including eighth-ranked Kansas (11-1) and No. 10 Hawaii (12-0).

2006

1. Ohio State

12-0

2. Florida

12-1

3. Michigan

11-1

4. LSU

10-2

No. 5 USC (10-2) was edged by LSU, and No. 6 Louisville and No. 7 Wisconsin both were 11-1. Boise State was 12-0 but ranked No. 8. Eight additional schools in the BCS Top 25 had two losses.

2005

1. USC

12-0

2. Texas

12-0

3. Penn State

10-1

4. Ohio State

9-2

No. 5 Oregon, No. 11 West Virginia and No. 14 TCU were all 10-1 but would have been left out of a playoff. Fans of 10 two-loss teams ranked in the top 19 of the final standings would have had a beef with the Buckeyes.

2004

1. USC

12-0

2. Oklahoma

12-0

3. Auburn

12-0

4. Texas

10-1

The non-automatic qualifiers would have been burned with No. 6 Utah (11-0) and No. 9 Boise State (11-0) getting little for undefeated seasons. Two one-loss teams, No. 5 California and No. 10 Louisville, also would have felt cheated.

2003

1. Oklahoma

12-1

2. LSU

12-1

3. USC

11-1

4. Michigan

10-2

The top three were clear-cut, but a mess of two-loss teams complicates the fourth-seed selection. Ohio State, Texas, Florida State and Tennessee were all top 10 teams with two losses. No. 11 Miami (Ohio), No. 17 Boise State and No. 18 TCU had just one loss each.

2002

1. Miami

12-0

2. Ohio State

13-0

3. Georgia

12-1

4. USC

10-2

No. 5 Iowa was stiff-armed out of contention despite an 11-1 record, and USC's tradition trumped five other two-loss teams, including No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 8 Kansas State and No. 10 Texas. This was the last year the BCS released a final Top 15 instead of a Top 25.

2001

1. Miami

12-0

2. Nebraska

11-1

3. Colorado

10-2

4. Oregon

10-1

Eight others in the Top 15 had two or fewer losses, including one-loss Illinois and Maryland. No. 5 Florida, No. 6 Tennessee, No. 7 Texas and No. 11 Oklahoma were all outside looking in.

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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