What would a college football playoff look like this year? (Part 3)

(Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.)

With Oklahoma vaulting ahead of Texas in the BCS standings, it is a clear reminder that the BCS system is horribly flawed. Each team has one loss and Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field. Texas’ only loss was to a good Texas Tech team on the road, and it shouldn’t outweigh the Longhorns’ win over the Sooners. Oklahoma did have two great non-conference wins (Cincinnati and TCU), while Texas didn’t really play anyone out of conference. Still, should a strong non-conference schedule outweigh Texas head-to-head win over Oklahoma? Apparently, USA Today and the computer rankings think so. (For their part, Harris Poll voters had Texas #3 and Oklahoma #4.)

This brings me back to my proposed eight-team playoff that I introduced a couple of weeks ago. Here are the assumptions.

1. There will be an eight-team playoff, with the six BCS-conference champs getting an automatic bid.

2. If a conference champ is ranked lower than #15 in the rankings, they give up their automatic bid and it becomes an at-large bid. (This rule is to ensure that the regular season keeps its meaning and only the elite teams make the playoffs.)

3. Seeds and at-large bids are distributed based on the current BCS standings. Certainly, these rankings can be tweaked, but they are fine for now. If an at-large team has a better BCS ranking than a conference champion, they will get a higher seed.

4. There will be three rounds of playoffs. The first round will be held at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. The semifinals and the final will rotate amongst the four BCS cities (Miami, Pasadena, Tempe and New Orleans).

So how does this weekend’s action affect the playoff field?

8-seed Cincinnati @ 1-seed Alabama
A 30-10 win over Syracuse puts the Bearcats at #13. Cincy still has to beat Hawaii to stay playoff-eligible. Meanwhile, Alabama has a date with #4 Florida in the SEC Championship Game this Saturday.

5-seed USC @ 4-seed Florida
Since the Gators still have to play Alabama, this matchup probably won’t happen since Florida will likely move up or down in the BCS rankings depending on how they fare against the Crimson Tide. A bad loss to Alabama might knock the Gators out of the playoffs since the #7 and #8 seeds are conference champions, and Boston College might very well move into the playoffs with a win over Virginia Tech. If that were to happen, and USC were to leapfrog Florida, the Gators could very well miss the playoffs.

6-seed Utah @ 3-seed Texas
Utah remains the only non-BCS conference representative. With wins over #11 TCU and #18 BYU, they have the best resume of the three non-BCS schools in contention. (Boise St. and Ball St. are the other two.) The Utes need to root for a Virginia Tech win over Boston College.

7-seed Penn St. @ 2-seed Oklahoma
OU still has to beat Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game to remain the 2-seed. If Alabama loses to Florida and the Sooners are convincing in their win over the Tigers, they could move up. They could also fall completely out of the playoffs with a loss to Missouri.

Since Cincy moved into the BCS Top 15, they earned a berth in the playoffs. The lowest ranked at-large team – Texas Tech – were pushed out of the playoffs. #17 Boston College could conceivably move into the Top 15 with a win over #25 Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, and in that case, Utah would likely be the team to be knocked out of the playoffs. (And that would be a shame.)

Of the teams that are on the outside looking in, only #9 Boise St. and #12 Ball St. don’t have losses to teams that made the playoffs. #10 Ohio St. lost to USC and Penn St., #11 TCU lost to Oklahoma, and #14 Oklahoma St. lost to Texas and Oklahoma. So, despite what the anti-playoff crowd says, the regular season still matters with this playoff system.

Since it looks like Boise St. and Ball St. will miss the playoffs, and a Boston College win might push Utah out, it might be interesting to have a four-team playoff amongst the best non-BCS teams to see who has the right to make the playoffs. Of course, this would add two games to the schedule and it might just be easier just to go to a 12-team field (though most of those extra slots could easily go to BCS schools like Texas Tech and Ohio St.)

Check out Part 4 now.

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