While the 2011 regular season of college football provided plenty of thrills for fans like myself, I couldn’t help but have this deflated feeling finding out that LSU and Alabama would play in a rematch for the Bowl Championship Subdivision (BCS) title to end the season. As predicted, the game was the worst championship game in at least the last 30 years with Alabama romping LSU 21-0.
For me personally, this championship game is what set me over the edge about the BCS needing to be axed or at least modified in order to ensure a fair and, in my opinion, more interesting postseason. If the NCAA and the BCS would stop being so stubborn, they could find a way to make more money in the postseason with a playoff system while ensuring that a fair champion is chosen. Division I-A college football is the only major sport in the states that doesn’t have a playoff system to decide its national champion, and even when you step down to the slightly smaller I-AA level you see a playoff system intact.
A playoff system of some sort is absolutely necessary because of the controversy of the picks for the national championship game within the last decade. Going back to the 2000 season, we can see the controversy began to brew when a 12-1 Florida State team played for the title against an undefeated 12-0 Oklahoma squad. The problem with this match-up was that the Miami Hurricanes were sitting at No. 3 in the BCS despite holding the No. 2 ranking in both of the human polls. To top this off, the Hurricane’s only loss was to another one-loss team, Washington. This is when the “change” to the BCS formula was implemented, adding quality wins to the equation.
Then we go ahead one year to the 2001 season, when Nebraska was blown out in the title game against Miami. Nebraska lost their final regular season game against the Colorado Buffaloes and did not get to play in their conference game, but still got to play in the title game (Sound familiar to this year?). The Oregon Ducks were ranked No. 2 in the human polls but didn’t have enough “quality wins” according to the BCS, who ranked them fourth.
In 2003, three one-loss teams were looking for berths to the championship game, with LSU and Oklahoma earning those bids. USC was left out of the official title game despite Oklahoma losing their conference championship game to end the season. The polls managed to further complicate the system though, electing the Trojans as the AP national champions while LSU was voted as the BCS National Champs.
Auburn and Utah were left out in 2004 despite both going undefeated. USC and Oklahoma played each other for the title while both sitting at the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively for the entire college football season. Auburn and Utah were not even in the preseason top 15, hindering both of the chances and eventually eliminating them from contention for the title.
Going into more recent years, there are even bigger messes, with the 2006 season having six contenders with one or less losses claiming they deserved to have a shot at the title. In 2007, a two-loss LSU team went on to beat Ohio State for a title because of a messy final week of the season with several top 10 teams losing down the stretch.
The call for a playoff system really began in 2008 though, when Florida went on to play Oklahoma for the title. Florida, Oklahoma and Texas were all sitting at one loss to end their season, with Oklahoma’s only loss coming to Texas. Because of the offensive fireworks that Oklahoma was showing through the end of the season, many pollsters voted them ahead of the Longhorns despite the result of the two teams’ head-to-head matchup.
I could continue by elaborating on the past few seasons that had five undefeated teams heading into bowl games in 2009, and an Oklahoma State team that was beaten out by a team that did not even win its own conference in Alabama, but I’m sure you get the idea of how messy the system can get.
People who are vocal against a playoff system cite the fact that the student athletes will have to play too many extra games resulting in worse performance in school. If Division I-A schools just cut the schedule down by one regular season game a year like their smaller brethren in Division I-AA, an eight-team playoff would be entirely feasible. It would probably even earn the NCAA and possibly the BCS millions of more dollars. What’s not to like?