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Playoff proposal #172 (or whatever it is)

If Ohio St. were not on sanctions last year, we quite possibly could have seen a national championship game of Notre Dame vs. Ohio St., a meeting of undefeated teams. But the SEC, the conference that produced the previous season's National Champion, was chock full of top quality teams. Teams that took losses only to each other. Nobody else had beaten them. They quite possibly could have beaten themselves out of contention without ever having lost to anyone outside the SEC.

Starting next year, we have a new championship format, the four-team playoff, with teams selected by committee and a rotating schedule of semifinal host sites. In other words, the quarter-finalists will be selected by humans; those fallible, inherently biased selectors of "the best teams." Reducing the number of teams selected by humans is desirable, to eliminate as much bias as possible. So, I propose giving automatic bids to the champions of the conferences represented in the previous year's National Championship Game.

 And, instead of a rotating schedule of semifinal host sites, I might prefer that the affiliated bowl of the conference of the previous year's champion and runner-up host the semifinal games with their new champions as the host team. This way, the previous year's champion and runner-up defend their crowns via conference play and/or the conference championship game and any new contenders must defeat the incumbent champion (or new conference champ) at their host bowl site - a la The America's Cup. In other words, "we won it last year, now come and get it." The challengers are selected by the selection committee.

Conference/Bowl affiliation particulars would have to be worked out, but I would assume each conference might create its own affiliation - Big XII might choose the Cotton, B1G might choose the Indianapolis site or perhaps work out a relationship with the Rose and PAC 12, SEC has the Sugar, etc. Current affiliations not impacting the playoff would be unaffected. The money split wouldn't be as even as the BCS's new design due to conference runs, but is more motivational. And CFB history is kept intact because bowls affiliations aren't changed, conferences aren't split up, and rivalries remain.

This format addresses the hotly debated issue of conference superiority. The SEC fans like to say that a 1- or 2-loss SEC champ is better than an undefeated champ from elsewhere. With the run of seven championships, that's hard to argue. By providing automatic bids to the conferences that met in the final the previous year, we are essentially identifying those conferences as proven, championship-caliber conferences for the new season. In effect, we'd be saying, "these two conferences are championship-caliber, and winning them is harder than winning any other conference, and so, carries more weight." And as conference strength cycles, this format rolls with it.

If only one of the NCG participants belongs to a conference (ie, the other is an independent), then only that one conference receives an auto-bid  for the following season, and the selection committee must select three teams. If both participants are independents, then there are no auto-bids and the selection committee selects all four teams. Semifinal host sites will be bid out, or rotated in these cases.

As an example, the current semifinal sites would be the Sugar (per the SEC run) and let's assume the Rose was due up to host the other, since last year runner-up is an independent. This years SEC Champion is the host team in the Sugar Bowl. Now the selection committee chooses three semifinal challengers. This year, this might mean Clemson vs. Alabama in the Sugar and Ohio St. vs. Oregon in the Rose.  Assuming Clemson and Ohio St. win those semifinals, the Indy Bowl (apologies to the B1G, its just an example) and the Orange Bowl would host the semis next year, with the new ACC and B1G conference champions as their representatives.

 Thoughts?

 

PS:

As an aside, I still would prefer to see conferences remove division alignments, rotate schedules as they see fit, and put their two best teams in the conference championship game. This removes the concern of the conference's two best teams being in the same division. If conference championship is not a national championship game requirement, then why is division championship a conference championship game requirement?

And I would still prefer that only conference champions were eligible for the playoff. This removes another layer of human bias, and it upholds the true intentions of a conference tournament -- you must win to move on. Independents would always be eligible for selection by the committee, meaning they now have an advantage to go along with the disadvantage of never qualifying for the auto-bid.

 

October 15, 2013  12:41 PM ET

Buff, the main problem with your proposal is what if, what if the reigning champ and reigning runner-up are having not such great seasons?

For example, the year after Auburn bought Cam Newton and beat Oregon in the 2010 BCS Champ game, Auburn went 8-5, now that would feel "empty".

October 15, 2013  03:31 PM ET

It's not the team that gets the auto-bid, but the team's conference. The idea is to address the issue of variance in conference strength. A team from an upstart conference would have to be selected in, while the champion from one of the reigning conferences would get an auto-bid, allowing that champion a loss or two in-conference. In your example, defending champ Auburn was defeated in the 2011 conference tournament. LSU won the SEC that year, and so represents the conference of the reigning champion. Oregon would have represented the conference of the reigning runner-up. The Selection committee would choose the two challengers, Presumably Alabama and Okie St.

October 15, 2013  07:03 PM ET
QUOTE(#2):

1. It's not the team that gets the auto-bid, but the team's conference.




2. The idea is to address the issue of variance in conference strength. A team from an upstart conference would have to be selected in, while the champion from one of the reigning conferences would get an auto-bid, allowing that champion a loss or two in-conference. In your example, defending champ Auburn was defeated in the 2011 conference tournament. LSU won the SEC that year, and so represents the conference of the reigning champion. Oregon would have represented the conference of the reigning runner-up. The Selection committee would choose the two challengers, Presumably Alabama and Okie St.

Ok, I get that now but it's still the same situation because a conf champ can have three or more losses and be ranked well behind the top four ranked teams.

2. The title of your blog is misleading and with just four teams in the playoff there's not enough size to be giving away auto-bids. It's an interesting twist though... but in a bigger playoff format where the advantage gets reduced.

October 16, 2013  12:37 PM ET

I concede, oh hairy one, that the title is misleading. I was thinking in the direction of the America's Cup. Something like, "the title resides here, now come get it." If last year's champion fails to win the conference, they have fairly been eliminated from the championship via tournament play, so its not like they didn't have their shot. But their conference still hosts one of the semifinals.

October 16, 2013  12:45 PM ET

The big reason for this proposal is to have fewer man-made selections. Football-knowledgeable men believe they are well-suited to selecting finalists, but I contend they are not. They are flat out biased and there is not escaping that no matter what you do.

By giving an auto-bid to a championship conference, we are broadening the scope of the National Championship. We are saying "this is a proven, championship-caliber conference, and winning it means more than winning some other conference." And I extended this philosophy to the runner-up conference. Now, the committee is there to select the two challengers. And in my view, having humans select the challengers is better than having them select all four contenders.

 
October 16, 2013  01:47 PM ET
QUOTE(#4):

I concede, oh hairy one, that the title is misleading. I was thinking in the direction of the America's Cup.

America's Cup, I'm not familiar with cricket.
;)

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