The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 5, 2018

What If… An NCAA Playoffs With No Committee Choices

Four teams are happy.  At least three teams are sad and feel slighted.  Oklahoma and Notre Dame have been invited to the playoffs.  Ohio State and Georgia were jilted.

There could be an argument for Oklahoma and Notre Dame over Ohio State and Georgia.  On the other hand, the folks that know best, those sharps in Nevada, would tell you that Georgia is the third best team in the nation.  Many computers will tell you that on December 29, 2018, Ohio State would be a better team than Oklahoma.

Imagine if specially appointed committees chose other things for the rest of us.  How would you like some insider former politicians explaining to you why Candidate A will be your President instead of Candidate B, even though all the political experts say that Candidate B would be the better Chief Excutive?

What is a special committee of psychologists chose who you will marry based on their criteria.  You may be in love with Michelle, but they may choose Kelly for you because she can balance a checkbook and you cannot?

What if the NFL had to choose just four teams for the playoffs.  This year, there are five really good teams in the Rams, Chiefs, Saints, Patriots, and Texans.  Maybe the Bears and Chargers are also among the four best.  Do you want a 12-4 division winner not making the NFL Playoffs?

Of course you don’t.  And, the fandom of college football doesn’t buy for a minute that the Selection Committee knows what it’s doing.  Let’s see any of them pick games against the spread.  If they are true experts, then they will put up results that make Billy Walters look like an amateur.

The four team playoff did nothing to solve the problems of the two-team BCS National Championship Game it replaced.  In fact, this year, you could make an excellent argument that just putting Alabama against Clemson would be a better option than picking four out of six or seven deserving teams.

Any legitimate FBS Playoffs must allow every FBS team a chance to play their way into said playoffs.  There are 130 FBS teams.  There needs to be no more than 64 top level teams and preferably 32, but let’s not even talk about separating the Power 5 from the Group of 5.  Let’s talk about honest realignment into 7 conferences of 16 teams  and 1 conference of 18 teams.  In an even better world, two FBS teams would drop down to FCS, leaving 128 teams.

Divide each conference into two divisions.  Every team within a division will play each other during the regular season plus three teams in the other division.  In the 18-team conference, there will be just two teams against the other division.  The rhyme and reason to which schools a team in the other division would play would be made by the league with a rotating schedule so that a different three teams would be played every year, possibly using the NFL’s strategy of having the prior first place team in one division playing the prior first place team in the other division and so on down to the prior last place teams playing each other.

At the end of the season, the top team in each division of each conference would then make the 16-team playoff.  In the first round, the division winners of each conference would play to determine the conference champion.  This would leave eight teams for eight playoff spots.

These conference championship games could be played on neutral sites like the current Power Five Conference Championship Games, or on the home field of the team with the better conference record with set tiebreakers to determine the higher seed if there is a tie.

With the number down to eight, the next round could be played on home fields of the higher seeds as determined by criteria that all teams and all fans will know, just like home field is determined in the NFL.  At no time will a committee of so-called experts determine who is in these playoffs and who will be the home team.

After this second round of the playoffs, the final four can then be played like it is today.

This would give every team a chance to play for the national title, just like all 350 Division 1 basketball teams have a chance.  If you think this isn’t fair to Alabama or Clemson to have to play more games to become national champion, then you must absolutely hate March Madness when Sister Jean and her Loyola Ramblers or Butler or Wichita State can make a run to the Final Four.  You must hate the fact that a Gonzaga can advance from a small program into one of the top 10 in the nation.

If the entire FBS has a chance to win the national title, then all programs will have a chance to do what Gonzaga has done in basketball.

Another bonus could be in scheduling.  Instead of an SEC team like Georgia scheduling Austin Peay and Massachusetts, or Alabama scheduling The Citadel, Arkansas State, and Louisiana (the one in Lafayette and not Baton Rouge), the national schedule makers could schedule Alabama and Oklahoma, or Georgia and Michigan.

What about the FBS vs. FCS games?  Why not give each FBS team two preseason games against FCS teams, where the FBS team pays the FCS team a check just like they do now?  With all the extra billions coming into this new paradigm, the FBS teams could keep these FCS programs solvent without putting a 63-3 pasting on them in a regular season game.

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