The Playoff System That College Football Is About To Adopt Could Be An Utter Disaster

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Photo: AP

The BCS could approve a four-team playoff next week, appeasing fans who feel the current BCS model of selecting the two best teams in the nation is an unfair and controversial task.Well, selecting the top-four teams won’t be any less unfair or controversial.

The BCS is setting itself up for more criticism by the time the 2014 season rolls around.

Given the overall strength of college football, there will always be at least four teams with very good records, and there will likely be a few teams from small conferences with outstanding records (see: Boise State over the last six years, TCU in 2010 or Utah in 2004 or 2008).

Even with a playoff, all the same debates about how to value wins in a power conference over wins in mid-major conference, or if one loss in the SEC is still better to a perfect season in the Big East, remain.

The fact is, separating No. 2 from No. 3 in the nation is just as hard as separating No. 4 from No. 5, whereas it would be much easier to differentiate the top-10 or top-20 from the rest.

Take a look at how the BCS rankings looked over the last two years, just after conference championship week (when a committee would select the four teams for a playoff, under the proposed new model):


  • 1. LSU
  • 2. Alabama
  • 3. Oklahoma State
  • 4. Stanford
  • 5. Oregon
  • 6. Arkansas
  • 7. Boise State

Retrospectively, LSU and Alabama were clearly the top two teams in the nation and deserved to be in the national championship game. After those two, however, the argument that a four-team playoff would have done the rest of the nation justice doesn’t hold. Oklahoma State and Stanford faced off in a closely contested Fiesta Bowl that neither team looked particularly impressive in. Oregon put up 621 yards of offence in a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. Arkansas rolled over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl and Boise State beat Arizona State by 32 points in the MAACO Bowl.

Given how each team performed in their respective bowl games, it is impossible to say that Oklahoma State or Stanford — the two teams that would have been included in a four-team playoff — would have definitely beaten Oregon, Arkansas or Boise State in a playoff game.


  • 1. Auburn
  • 2. Oregon
  • 3. TCU
  • 4. Stanford
  • 5. Wisconsin
  • 6. Ohio State
  • 7. Oklahoma

2010 seems like a year that would fit a four-team playoff, but the impressive finishes by No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Oklahoma bring in some doubt.

Auburn beat Oregon in a thrilling national championship game, while TCU edged Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Stanford annihilated Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Ohio State paid the price for an October loss on the road at Wisconsin, but won every game after that and rode Terrell Pryor to a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas. Oklahoma ended its season on a five-game winning streak and crushed UConn in the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State, which was No. 10 in the BCS ranking at the time, would have gone undefeated if not for a overtime loss on the road to another ranked team in November.

Until a wide range of teams is given a shot to prove their worth at the end of the season, the college football world will always be bickering over the national championship.

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