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.
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.