Why Not Everybody?

The Tostitos “National Championship” game on Monday was one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time. I had to work the next morning and I got into bed at halftime with the game on my laptop and figured I would be asleep before the game returned.

I was riveted. It was incredible. As an avid sports fan from a non-college market, I want to be a fan of college football. But the lack of a playoff is killing me. And the thing that kills me is, we could fix it.

There were 35 bowls held this football season, this includes the BCS (Which Portnoy likes to call “Beyond Common Sense “) bowls and everything. Thirty-five games that provide participating schools with purses ranging from $325,000 to $17mil. BCS advocates make a big deal out of the fact that the bowls provide a destination for players and fans and a satisfaction derived from winning a bowl game.

I don’t dispute those claims (although I do wonder how important it is to some of the players who win the R+L Carriers bowl). I also don’t want to do away with the bowls we have today. I say the NCAA can make the bowls participate in a Darwinian competition for the teams their sponsors covet.

My proposal is this. We have a playoff that involves a total of 26 teams, and each game involved is one of the current bowls. The top teams can still have up to a three week layoff. All the bowls can still exist. With the top 26 teams in the country involved in the 25 bowls it will take to determine a national champion, the remaining ten bowls that existed in 2010-11 would be free to invite anyone who missed the playoffs (a la the NIT).

I’m sick of the power conferences dominating college sports, but let’s be honest, that’s where the best teams tend to reside. So you start with a system not so different from the current BCS bowl qualification system. The winner of the six power conferences gets a bye in the tournament.

These teams will likely be the top six or six of the top ten teams in the BCS standings. Then you take the next 20 teams in the standings and match them up (1 vs 20, 2 vs 19, etc). These ten games are bowls. You don’t have to play them all in a 48 hour window either. You can play these games stretched out over a week. One game each night Monday through Friday. Two Saturday, Two Sunday, and sneak in a tenth game somewhere (leave that to the TV people).

Now you have 16 teams still kicking. Give them all at least six days. Since this is getting potentially confusing, I’ll use this year’s calendar. The conference championships were all decided on the weekend of November 27th last year. At that point everyone’s regular season is over and the National Championship contenders start waiting for 90 days to play again.

Instead, we could play football.

The conference championships get decided that weekend and you have you top six seeds. They get a week off because they earned it. The following weekend of December 4th, you decide which ten of the 20 play-in teams are moving on. If you spread those weeks out like I said and give everyone time off until December 18th, your postseason would finish the same weekend it did this year.

If you didn’t spread the games out, and you only gave a bye to the top six, you could finish the postseason on New Year’s Day. Either way, the 16 remaining teams play just like one quarter of the March Madness bracket. The BCS averages of the six teams with byes are used to seed them 1-6. The teams that made it out of the play in round are seeded 7-16 and we have a bracket.

The “final four” are either played Christmas and New Year’s Days (by this year’s calendar) or a week later. You can give the sponsors their choice, which side of the bracket do you want? Which teams do you like?

Doesn’t a sport this exciting deserve it? College football can be excellent. But don’t you feel cheated when it comes down to the end and somebody like TCU gets left out? I know I do. I can’t imagine how they feel…

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