The Pi-Rate Ratings

June 24, 2013

The Better Approach to the NCAA Playoffs

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:37 am


The NCAA Football Playoff is just two seasons away from becoming a reality.  This is the final season for the BCS Bowl system formula to select two teams to play for the National Championship.

In more years than not, the two teams perceived to be the best two played in the National Championship Game, but was that really the case?

There were seasons where one or more teams appeared to be the class of the country, only to find that another team was actually better, by a large amount in some seasons.

The Southeastern Conference has dominated the National Championship in the 21st Century, and in one of those rare occasions where the SEC was snubbed, an undefeated team might have been better than one of the two teams playing in the title game.  Witnessing all the seasons where a one-loss SEC team pounded its opponent in the championship contest makes one wonder if Auburn might have been the best team in 2004, and at least more deserving than Oklahoma for playing in the title game.

Just because the championship has been expanded by adding two more teams, there is no reason to believe that the NCAA has fixed its problems.  Look at BoiseState in 2006 and 2009.  Look at TCU in 2010.  Look at Utah in 2004 and 2008.  We really cannot state that any of these five undefeated teams did not deserve to be in the Championship Game.

Take 2009.  Both BoiseState and TCU ran the table in the regular season.  They were denied a spot in the title game based on schedule strength.  This is a major flaw that is not being addressed by the NCAA.  How do we know that had either of these teams played for the title that they would have beaten Alabama that year.

Schedule strength is a joke when determining who deserves to play for the national title.  As an example, let’s say that the entire 1st and 2nd team All-Americans were juniors in eligibility but seniors as students.  Now, let’s say that every one of the 22 position players and special teams players decided to transfer to Eastern Michigan.

It would be obvious that Eastern Michigan would be the best team in the nation by far, maybe even a little better than the weakest NFL teams.  EMU would easily go 12-0 and then run all over the MAC East winner in the Conference Championship Game.

Now, let’s say that the Eagles played Illinois State, Idaho, Army, and South Alabama outside of the MAC.  Add games with Akron, U Mass, Miami of Ohio, from the East with the five MAC West teams, and their strength of schedule might be around #120.  This 13-0 team might have a chance at playing as the last selected BCS Bowl team, but the Eagles would have zero chance to play for the championship.  Yet, we all would know that they were the best college team since Army in 1945!  What a travesty to deny this best team in modern football a chance to play for the title!  Do we deny the Baltimore Ravens a chance to get to the Super Bowl, if their schedule is weaker than New England’s?  Ask yourself this: how many times in the last 20 years has the team with the best record made it to the Super Bowl?

The NFL is the number one sports league in the world for a reason.  There is no selection committee choosing who gets into the NFL playoffs.  Every fan in the world can see which teams are in the playoffs without a fancy computer formula that has needed to be tweaked multiple times when it was easy to tell that the most deserving teams did not always receive an invitation.

The NCAA needs to set up a similar system to where all fans can know for sure which teams will make the playoffs.  Rather than choose the representatives, the teams’ play on the field should be the only deciding factor.

It is rather easy to do if you ask us on our PiRate ship.  It would require minimal adjustment to pull it off.  We believe the NCAA FBS division should be subdivided into FBA-1 and FBS-2.  There are about 80 schools that play at a level where they could possibly field a playoff-caliber team.  The other 46, and soon to be more do not have the resources as of now to play at the highest echelon of college football.

Thus, it would be our plan to take these 80 schools and place them into four, 20-team league, subdivided into two, 10-team divisions.  We are not all that far away from having that now.

With 10 teams in a division, every team would be able to play itself into the playoff without having to be selected.  The teams would play every other team in their division plus three at-large games that would have minimal impact on their making the playoffs.

After 12 games, with nine of the games coming within the division, a divisional champion would move on to play the opposite divisional champion in each of the four leagues.  The four champions would then become the four teams in the NCAA playoffs.  No seeding would be done.  The four league championship games would be played at neutral sites, and the four winners would not be seeded.  They would face off in the semifinals on a rotation with East playing Midwest and South playing West one year; East playing South and Midwest playing West the next year; and East playing West and South playing Midwest the next year.

The East, South, Midwest, and West Leagues could keep conference names, so we could be looking at a 20-team ACC, 20-team SEC, 20-team Big 20, and 20-team Pac-20.

We suggest the leagues continue to keep their current teams, with the exception of the Big 12 which would send teams into different leagues.

So, the ACC would keep its Atlantic and Coastal divisions with the seven current teams scheduled to be there in 2014 (Louisville replacing Maryland in the Atlantic Division.  To this 14-team league, we would add West Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, Connecticut, and East Carolina with three going to the Atlantic and three to the Coastal.

The SEC would keep its 14 teams in the present form and then add Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Houston, and SMU,

The Big 20 would take the 14 Big Ten schools of 2014 (Maryland and Rutgers already coming to the conference) and add Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St., Oklahoma, OklahomaSt., and Notre Dame.

The expanded Pac-20 would include the current 12 members plus BYU, Boise St., Fresno St., Nevada, San Diego St., San Jose St., Hawaii, and Utah St.

Every one of these 80 teams could begin each season knowing that if they won their division, nothing could prevent them from becoming National Champion.

For divisional ties, a tiebreaker system similar to the NFL would be used to break all ties.  A coin flip would be the last of about 7 or 8 tiebreakers (The NFL has never needed to use this, and the chances would be so infinitesimal to believe it would happen while the Sun still shines on the Earth.

Here is an example of how it would work.  We will say that in 2016 under this plan, Florida St. and West Virginia won the two ACC divisions after West Virginia and Louisville had to go to the third tiebreaker to determine who won.  Florida St. then beat West Virginia in the ACC Championship Game to earn the first spot in the NCAA Playoffs.

In the SEC, Texas, LSU, and Alabama all finished tied at 7-2 in their division, but Texas held the tiebreaker over its two rivals. Florida tied South Carolina in the other division but won the head-to-head contest to represent the East Division.  Texas then won the SEC Championship Game.

In the Big 20, Ohio St. won one of the divisions outright, while Oklahoma and Nebraska tied at 8-1, but the Sooners won the head-to-head contest to take the tiebreaker. Ohio St. then beat Oklahoma in the Big 20 Championship Game.

In the Pac-20, Oregon and USC both went 9-0/12-0, with USC winning the Pac-20 Championship Game.  The Trojans are considered the overwhelming number one team, but that matters not in these playoffs.  They are just one of the four participants in the NCAA Playoffs.

This would be the season where the East and West play each other and the South and Midwest play each other in the semifinal round.  So, in the Final Four, we would see Florida St. take on USC and Ohio St. face Texas, with the winners advancing to the National Championship Game.


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