4 would be enough. Lets not ruin the only regular season that matters in any sport. The idea is to schedule at least one tough out of conference game and then go undefeated. Only if you are undefeated and have faced a legitimate schedule do you deserve the right to play for a national championship. Its rare to have more than 3 teams meet that criteria. In the examples of the past few years the eight team bracket would include some teams that in my opinion don't deserve that right.
As soon as the SEC landed two teams in last month’s BCS Championship Game, changes were coming. People can talk about declining BCS television ratings and attendance — those numbers rise and fall by the year, by the way — but in reality, the status quo would be quo’ing right along if not for SEC versus SEC in the title game. Tired of SEC domination, other conference commissioners, presidents, ADs and coaches wanted to insure that they could at least get a shot at the national crown.
As a result, we began to hear talk of changes. Major changes, not tweaks.
A seeded plus-one system got some play. After all, Mike Slive and the ACC’s John Swofford had pushed such a plan half-a-decade ago. Then the Big Ten leaked word that it would like to see the “semifinal” games played at on-campus sites. Even NCAA prez Mark Emmert said he liked the idea of a football version of the Final Four.
But then the presidents at Georgia and Arizona State mentioned the possibility of an eight-team playoff model. Speculation swirled that the Pac-12′s Larry Scott might have a humdinger of an eight-team plan to present to the other BCS commissioners. And all the while Mike Slive has been suspiciously silent.
So what are we to have when the current BCS cycle ends? A four-team playoff or an eight-team playoff?
An eight-team field would provide more meaningful games for a football-starved society. Seven games would result in more cash and a four-team, three-game plan. That’s more television ads and sponsorships, more tickets to sell. Fans and coaches would be happy because more squads would have an opportunity to win the title belt.
But adding three games — for the two finalists — doesn’t seem to jive with the longheld position of so many NCAA presidents: “We just can’t do that to these student-athletes.” (Nevermind that they’ve done it to other student-athletes in every other level of every other sport.)
A four-team plan would probably allow the regular season to maintain its importance. And let’s face it, do the number 5, 6, 7 or 8 teams in America ever have much claim to the national crown? Four-teams makes the most sense in this writer’s view. But this writer also wrote that part about an eight-team playoff being worth more cash… so the guess here is that eventually, an eight-team plan is coming. If not immediately, then down the road.
What would an eight-team playoff look like then? We’ve gone back over the past five seasons to get the answer. Using the final BCS standings lists from 2011 through 2007, we’ve seeded an eight-team bracket in each case. You can compare the actual BCS Championship Game to what a four-team playoff would have looked like to what an eight-team playoff would have looked like. We’ve listed the #9 team in each season just to see which squad would be left squawking. And we’ve listed — for you lovers of a 16-team idea — how many three- and ever four-loss teams would have been invited into that size field. (Sixteen won’t happen or a long, long time, folks.)
But for the sake of research, here’s the BCS as it was and as it might have been:
Real BCS Title Game: 1 LSU (13-0) vs 2 Alabama (11-1)
1 LSU (13-0) vs 4 Stanford (11-1)
2 Alabama (11-1) vs 3 Oklahoma State (11-1)
1 LSU (13-0) vs 8 Kansas State (13-0)
4 Stanford (11-1) vs 5 Oregon (11-2)
3 Oklahoma State (11-1) vs 6 Arkansas (10-2)
2 Alabama (11-1) vs 7 Boise State (11-1)
* #9 team left out: South Carolina (10-2)
* 16-Team Playoff would have included four three-loss teams
Real BCS Title Game: 1 Auburn (13-0) vs 2 Oregon (12-0)
1 Auburn (13-0) vs 4 Stanford (11-1)
2 Oregon (12-0) vs 3 TCU (12-0)
1 Auburn (13-0) vs 8 Arkansas (10-2)
4 Stanford (11-1) vs 5 Wisconsin (11-1)
3 TCU (12-0) vs 6 Ohio State (11-1)
2 Oregon (12-0) vs Oklahoma (11-2)
* #9 team left out: Michigan State (11-1)
* 16-Team Playoff would have included one three-loss team
Real BCS Title Game: 1 Alabama (13-0) vs 2 Texas (13-0)
1 Alabama (13-0) vs 4 TCU (12-0)
2 Texas (13-0) vs 3 Cincinnati (12-0)
1 Alabama (13-0) vs 8 Ohio State (10-2)
4 TCU (12-0) vs 5 Florida (12-1)
3 Cincinnati (12-0) vs 6 Boise State (13-0)
2 Texas (13-0) vs 7 Oregon (10-2)
* #9 team left out: Georgia Tech (11-2)
* 16-Team Playoff would have included four three-loss teams
Real BCS Title Game: 1 Oklahoma (12-1) vs 2 Florida (12-1)
1 Oklahoma (12-1) vs 4 Alabama (12-1)
2 Florida (12-1) vs 3 Texas (11-1)
1 Oklahoma (12-1) vs 8 Penn State (11-1)
4 Alabama (12-1) vs 5 Southern Cal (11-1)
3 Texas (11-1) vs 6 Utah (12-0)
2 Florida (12-1) vs 7 Texas Tech (11-1)
* #9 team left out: Boise State (12-0)
* 16-Team Playoff would have included three three-loss teams
Real BCS Title Game: 1 Ohio State (11-1) vs 2 LSU (11-2)
1 Ohio State (11-1) vs 4 Oklahoma (11-2)
2 LSU (11-2) vs 3 Virginia Tech (11-2)
1 Ohio State (11-1) vs 8 Kansas (11-1)
4 Oklahoma (11-2) vs 5 Georgia (10-2)
3 Virginia Tech (11-2) vs 6 Missouri (11-2)
2 LSU (11-2) vs 7 Southern Cal (10-2)
* #9 team left out: West Virginia (10-2)
* 16-Team Playoff would have included four three-loss teams and one four-loss team
Though I’ve long thought an eight-team playoff would be the sport’s final stopping point, this set of eyes likes the look of those four-team playoff fields better. Throw the semifinals on New Year’s Day afternoon and night and play the title game a week later. Bid out the games to one or two sites. Done and done.
Such a plan is most likely what we’ll see as the next step in the evolution of college football. Schools need money — so eight will be the final destination — but it still appears to be too big of a leap for historically anti-playoff presidents and commissioners to go from zero to eight in one cycle.
MrSEC.com’s best guess at this moment: Expect a seeded four-team playoff to start up in 2014, followed by an eight-team playoff some point down the road.