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We Need a 32-Team
Playoff in College Football!!

By Walt Gekko, associate for the Price and Probability method
(Note: This was originally written in December 2009 and was last updated on December 8, 2013)

A playoff is something most fans want in some way, shape or form to decide the national championship in college football!! While we will be getting a four-team playoff in 2014, is four teams really sufficient for a playoff?

2009 presented what at the time was the most compelling argument as to why there needs to be a playoff in college football. There were five unbeaten schools (Alabama, Texas, TCU, Cincinatti and Boise State) at the end of the regular season, along with a sixth (Florida) that as the #1 ranked school in the BCS going into its conference title game had to in that game play the school that was ranked #2 in the BCS (Alabama) going in, losing that game and finishing with one loss (the only school that didn't finish unbeaten to do so). The problem is, of course, there is not a playoff, even though the vast majority of fans along with others think there needs to be one. Although there were two unbeaten schools playing for the national championship on January 7, 2010 at the Rose Bowl, will Alabama ever be truly considered the national champion for 2009 (and for that matter, did Texas have a legitimate claim on the #2 spot last season)? And for that matter, what about the other three schools that finished 2009 unbeaten (TCU, Cincinatti and Boise State), and perhaps even Florida, who was #1 for much of the 2009 season before suffering their only loss against Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Didn't they deserve a shot at proving they should be the national champion?

While 2010 didn't have the controversy of 2009, there still was one big question left unanswered: Did TCU deserve a shot at playing for the national championship, even with unbeaten Auburn and Oregon squads (and especially with all the controversy surrounding Cam Newton)? For that matter, don't the one-loss schools like Stanford (only loss was at Oregon), Boise State (only loss was in overtime via two missed field goals to a Nevada squad that would have finished unbeaten themselves and would have been in the argument that they deserved to go to the Rose Bowl over TCU were it not for a loss at Hawaii), or the three Big 10 co-champions in Wisconsin (only loss was at Michigan State), Ohio State (only loss was at Wisconsin) and Michigan State (only loss was at Iowa), especially since Ohio State and Michigan State did not play each other in the regular season?

2011 had the argument of whether Alabama should have been allowed to play in the BCS Title Game against fellow SEC West member LSU, whom they lost to at home in overtime by a 9-6 score on November 5. There are those who feel Alabama should never have been allowed to play against LSU in the title game, especially as Oklahoma State finished third because Oklahoma State's only loss (at Iowa State on November 19) came on the day the team found out about the death of the Women's Basketball coach and an assistant in a plane crash and because LSU had to play an extra game, the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta where they defeated Georgia on December 3.

2012 did leave us with one unbeaten in Notre Dame, plus an Ohio State squad that also finished unbeaten but was on probation and not eligible for postseason play. Georgia, however, took a one-loss Alabama squad to the wire in the SEC Championship Game and you also had a one-loss Florida squad in the SEC East that some feel is just as good as both Alabama and Florida. Meanwhile, out west, the argument could be made that Pac-12 champion Stanford (whose only losses were on the road to Washington and in overtime to Notre Dame) and Pac-12 North runner-up Oregon (whose only loss was to Stanford, also in overtime) also deserve a chance to prove they are champions.

2013 had the controversy of whether or not a one-loss team in the SEC Champion deserved to jump over an Ohio State team that had not lost in two years for the right to play in the BCS Championship game prior to Michigan State beating the Buckeyes, and then the argument by some that Michigan State was "Golden Domed" in their only loss of the year at Notre Dame with questionable calls by the officials in the eyes of some. There also could have been the argument of whether or not Alabama would have deserved to play Florida State in the BCS Championship game if Missouri had defeated Auburn in the SEC Championship game because of what many still consider a freak play that did in the Crimson Tide against Auburn.

While beginning in 2014 there will be a four-team playoff, even that would not be enough to settle most, if not all of these arguments, especially if like in 2009 we wound up with five unbeatens and a sixth that for all intents and purposes could have been considered unbeaten.

This is why we need a 32-team playoff in college football!!

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Unlike what you may have heard or have read on another site, a playoff is not the problem some may make it out to be:

As most people who follow college football know, the college Presidents were in the way of there being any form of a real playoff in what is now the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division 1-A) for varying reasons, and until allowing a four-team playoff beginning in 2014 continued to be. While most believe it has been about money and the fear of dividing it up between schools that currently don't get to take in the lions share of the Bowl revenue (other than the "BCS Busters" of recent years), what is not often said is there is a very small, but in some cases extremely vocal group of professors who are completely anti-sports in some instances that the same Presidents may very well be concerned about making very angry if a playoff beyond the four-school playoff that starts in 2014 ever happened in the FBS division of college football, and if so perhaps concerned that such in academia would attempt to stage protests with others who are not exactly fond of big-time college sports and have no understanding of the importance of such. This is why even getting a four-team playoff for now is very important, although it is far from perfect.

Those in charge in late 2009 went as far as to launch a website called
Playoff Problem (http://www.playoffproblem.com), showing in their minds WHY a playoff would not work, ranging from scheduling to hurting what has been (and will be through 2013) the existing bowl system. A 32-team playoff can easily be overcome with (through 2013) the existing bowl system only having some tweaking, the exact method of which will come up as this moves along (scroll down or click this link to see the exact method).

The one noticible change that a 32-team playoff would bring is that the regular season for FBS schools would begin one week earlier than it currently does (meaning the season would begin in most years on the last weekend in August) and in most years also end one week earlier than it usually does, with in those years that being Thanksgiving week. While in most years this would force some traditional Thanksgiving rivalry games to other parts of the season where the team(s) involved are in conferences that would have to move (in most years) their conference championship games up to Thanksgiving week (though in years where Thanksgiving is not on the last Thursday in November, that would not be the case), it is a trade-off that would be well worth it, especially since in those years it would also mean there would be an additional week of College Football at the beginning of the season where it only has to compete with NFL Preseason games and Baseball, and in most years the first weekend of college football also not having to compete with the US Open Tennis Championships.

The following are questions were originally asked in late 2009 on playoffproblem.com concerning a playoff, with answers immediately following the questions:

1. Who would participate?
As proposed here, a field of 32 schools, mainly using the existing BCS formula (with limited exceptions). In this proposal, the existing BCS Top 25 would be expanded to a BCS Top 40 to as best possible assure at least one school in all 10 FBS conferences has a ranking (Note: This had been 11 FBS conferences prior to 2013, however, the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) discontinuing football dropped that number by one).

The question you may ask is why a 32-team playoff, when many have suggested an eight or 16-team playoff? There is a simple reason that 32 looks to be the right number:

A 32-team playoff gives everyone who even remotely deserves a shot at the national championship the chance to play for it!!

That is the overriding factor of this proposal! While a 32-team field will allow some four-loss teams and sometimes even a five-loss team (that has played a very difficult schedule) into the field, it does give the top teams some early round tests that as long as they pass allow them to advance and play in the existing BCS bowl games, while at the same time allow schools to may have had a key injury to their squads early on the chance to redeem themselves and earn their way up the ladder the hard way, by playing on the road in the first two rounds if they get that far.

2. How many automatic qualifiers?
The 10 FBS conference champions would receive automatic bids (again, this was 11 prior to 2013). With those automatic bids also comes a guarantee of no lower than a #4 seed and with that, the guarantee of playing at least a first round game at home. With allowances for special circumstances (i.e.: an extremely strong conference or where conference co-champions did not play each other in the regular season), the top six conference champions (who would be seeded #1 or #2 in each of four regions) would usually be guaranteed to play first and second round games at home (provided they advance to the second round). There would also be criteria that would guarantee any independents (Army, BYU, Idaho, Navy, New Mexico State and Notre Dame as Old Dominion, while also an FBS Independent was ineligible for postseason play) who, as long as they meet such critieria getting in with the treatment of a conference champion (that will be explained in greater detail in the next segment).

3. What would be the criteria to qualify?
The criteria would be, as noted to win your conference and not only be guaranteed a berth in a 32-playoff, but the right to host at least a first round game if not a second round game (provided you win your first-round game) in addition. There would also be 22 at-large bids (this was 21 prior to 2013), however, the independent schools could turn an at-large bid into an automatic one by doing any of the following:

1. Win a minimum of nine games and have at least a .750 win percentage and not be in the final BCS Top 40. This simply guarantees a berth into the field, which can be the lowest overall seed and having to play at the overall #1 seed in the first round.

2. Win at least eight games, have at least a .650 win percentage and also be in the BCS Top 40. The same rules as #1 would apply otherwise, however.

3. Home field advantage for a first-round game for an independent would be given for winning at least nine games, have at least an .800 win percentage and finish in the BCS Top 25.

4. Home field advantage for first and second-round games for an independent that wins at least 11 games, has at least a .900 win percentage and finishing in the BCS Top 12 OR finishing unbeaten (for at least an 11 game season) and in the BCS Top 20. If more than two independents meet this criteria, then the top two independents in the BCS standings would be guaranteed the second home game, should they advance past the first round.

Excluding independents who meet any of the above criteria, the at-large bids to fill out the field of 32 would solely be determined by the final BCS Standings, which would again be expanded to a Top 40 for that purpose.

4. What would be the criteria for seedings?
The seedings would be determined in the following manner:

1. The top BCS ranked school would be the overall #1 seed, with the remaining three of four #1 seeds (as there would be four regions) then determined, with preference given to a conference champion in the BCS Top 10, although there would be limited exceptions to allow for a very strong conference, especially where teams in the BCS Top 5 have to play each other in a conference title game before any playoff began. The four #2 seeds would then be determined in a similar manner, usually set up to where if the #1 and #2 seeds meet in any of the four existing BCS Bowl games (that in this case would serve as quarterfinals/regional finals), the overall #1 seed would face the weakest of the four #2 seeds, the next strongest #1 seed faces the next weakest #2 seed, etc.
This can be tweaked when possible to assure as much as realistically possible that current conference affiliation with the existing BCS Bowl games can remain in place as long as the top seeds win their first and second round games, as will be noted further down.

2. The four #1 and four #2 seeds would be guaranteed to host first and second-round playoff games, provided they win their first round games. Schools with a #3 seed would be guaranteed to host a first round playoff game, with the chance to host a second round game should either the #1 or #2 seed be upset in the first round, while schools with a #4 seed would also host a first round game with the opportunity to play at home in the second round should both the #1 and #2 OR one of the top two seeds and the #3 seed be upset in the first round.

3. Conference champions that finish in the BCS Standings between 16-25 would be guaranteed at worst a #3 seed and a first-round home game (unless multiple independents and at-large schools that meet criteria noted above make it in on such and would be seeded ahead of such a conference champion to where such a school would have to drop to a #4 seed, but still be guaranteed a home game).

4. Conference champions that finish between 26-32 would be guaranteed a higher #4 seed and a first-round home game, while such champions that finish outside the BCS Top 32 would only be guaranteed a #4 seed that can be the #16 overall seed and the first round home game that comes with it.

As noted, the #1 and #2 seeds would generally be set up so that if the top two seeds in each of the four regions make it to the BCS Bowl games, those would pit the overall #1 vs. the overall #8 (weakest #2) seed, overall #2 vs. overall #7 seed, and so forth,
with notable exceptions to (mainly) as much as possible keep the current BCS Bowl affiliations in tact. The remaining seeds would be set up in a similar manner, as shown in what would be the 2011 first-round matchups using this example would be if it were actually done (scroll down or click this link).

Note on seeding: Schools from the same conference would not be allowed to play each other before the second round except for where the overall #1 seed is playing the overall #32 seed.

5. Where would the games be played?
6. When would the games be played?

These will be answered together:

In this format, the first two rounds would be played at home sites.

In most years, the first round would be played on the week after Thanksgiving, most likely with at least two games on Thursday, two on Friday, one on Sunday night and the others all on Saturday. The earliest starting date for the first round of the playoffs, however, would be where December 1 falls on a Thursday, meaning in years where Thanksgiving falls on November 22 or 23, the week after Thanksgiving would still be regular season and conference championship games with the following week (beginning with December 6 or 7) being the first round of the playoffs. This would be done to best assure there would not be playoff games during finals at most schools, or if there are, there would be minimal impact on finals at worst.

After a one-week break (in part to account for finals and in part to allow for schools to more easily make arrangements) the second round would be played on the week after the Heisman Trophy presentation (most likely with at least one game on Thursday, two on Friday, one on Sunday night and the rest on Saturday). For the second round, the lowest remaining seed in a region would play the highest remaining seed, while the two other seeds would simply play each other (for example, if the #1, #3 and #4 seeds all win their first-round games in a region, but a #2 seed is upset by a #7 seed in the first round, for the second round the #1 seed would play the #7 seed while the #3 seed would host the #4 seed).

The existing bowls would still be played in this format, but as noted above with some tweaking:

First round losers along with schools that failed to make the 32-team playoff field would play in the lower tier bowls (provided they are eligible), with the higher-seeded first round losers getting the better of those bowl games. Second round losers would play in one of the top four non-BCS Bowl games (Note: The bowls noted here are based largely on general public perception and history of the games, along with payouts to the two schools that play in the games): The two highest seeded second round losers would likely play in the Cotton Bowl, the next two highest would likely play in the Capital One Bowl, the two highest after that would likely play in the Chick-Fil-A (Peach) Bowl and the two lowest seeded second round losers would likely play in the Holiday Bowl. Each of those four bowl games, along with what would be the top Bowl games for first round losers (most likely the Gator, Outback, Liberty and Independence Bowls) would be in a rotation that would every four years play host to one of the two national semifinal games in addition to their regular bowl game.

Meanwhile, the second round winners would move on to what are the existing BCS Bowl games, which would be played as they are now over the New Year's period. The only significant difference for the existing BCS Bowl games is that there would now be essentially be two four-team mini-tournaments (making up the first two rounds) that would determine each of the participants in each of the four BCS Bowl games. The BCS bowls would now be considered regional finals, with the regions broken up as follows:

Orange Bowl (East Region)
Sugar Bowl (South Region)
Fiesta Bowl (Midwest Region)
Rose Bowl (West Region)

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Below is what the first-round games, using the final 2013 BCS Standings would look like:

Orange Bowl Region
#8 Vanderbilt (32) at #1 Florida State (1)
#7 Texas A & M (25) at #2 Central Florida (8)
#6 Northern Illinois (24) at #3 Missouri (9)
#5 Clemson (17) at #4 Louisiana-Lafayette (16)

Sugar Bowl Region
#8 Cincinnati (31) at #1 Auburn (2)
#7 Georgia (26) at #2 Ohio State (7)
#6 Wisconsin (23) at #3 South Carolina (10)
#5 Oklahoma State (18) at #4 Rice (15)

Fiesta Bowl Region
#8 Miami-FL (30) at #1 Alabama (3)
#7 Duke (27) at #2 Baylor (6)
#6 Louisville (22) at #3 Oregon (11)
#5 Arizona State (19) at #4 Bowling Green (14)

Rose Bowl Region
#8 USC (29) at #1 Michigan State (4)
#7 Notre Dame (28) at #2 Stanford (5)
#6 UCLA (21) at #3 Fresno State (12)
#5 LSU (20) at #4 Oklahoma (13)

Notes concerning the seedings and other things for 2013-'14

1. Alabama is the #1 seed in the Fiesta Bowl Region as while they did not play in the SEC Championship game, their loss to Auburn was at Auburn AND it was on what many considered to be a "freak play" at the end of that game. That, coupled with their overall body of work and the fact they finished third in the BCS allows for them to be a #1 seed, especially since they were ahead of SEC East champion Missouri in the BCS standings going into the SEC Championship Game. They are seeded ahead of Michigan State and Stanford in order to preserve a Big 10-Pac-12 Rose Bowl should those two teams win their first two games.

2. As Ohio State was #2 in the BCS Standings going into the Big 10 Championship Game, they could not drop below a #2 seed under any circumstances.

3. Central Florida is a #2 Seed on the fact they finished #15 in the final BCS standings, the second lowest possible position to be guaranteed a #2 seed as a conference champion.

4. While Missouri was in the Top 5 going into the SEC Championship Game, their thrashing by Auburn coupled with Ohio State (#2 going into the final BCS Standings) losing the Big 10 Championship Game AND Central Florida finishing in the Top 15 in the final BCS Standings drops them to a #3 seed.

5. While Texas A & M and Georgia were both ranked ahead of Northern Illinois AND USC was in the final BCS rankings at #25 and Notre Dame was not in the final BCS rankings (but likely ranked immeditely below USC at #26), as teams from the same conference can not play each other until the second round, Northern Illinois is seeded ahead of Texas A & M and Georgia AND Notre Dame is seeded ahead of USC overall as a result.

6. As an Independent, Notre Dame makes the field as an automatic qualifier with eight wins, at least a .650 win percentage and very likely being in the BCS Top 40.

7. All 10 conference champions would likely be in a BCS Top 40 if the standings had been expanded to such, hence, why some schools are ranked ahead of others. Because Mountain West Champion Fresno State is outside the BCS Top 16, Fresno State falls to the lowest #3 seed. Likewise, Oklahoma is ranked ahead of the three conference champions NOT in the BCS Top 25 as the highest #4 seed.

8. After the BCS Top 25 is exhausted, in this case a combination of rankings in the various polls (dipping into "others receiving votes) are used to determine the remaining schools (in this case, one #7 seed in Notre Dame, again ranked ahead of USC because USC can not play Stanford in the first round of the playoffs and three #8 seeds in Miami-FL, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt).

The breakdown of teams in the field by conference:
SEC: 8 (Auburn, Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina, LSU, Texas A & M, Georgia and Vanderbilt)
ACC: 4 (Florida State, Clemson, Duke and Miami-FL)
Pac-12: 4 (Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and USC)
Big 10: 3 (Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin)
Big 12: 3 (Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State)
American Athletic Conference (former Big East conference): 3 (Central Florida, Louisville and Cincinnati)
Mid-American: 2 (Bowling Green and Northern Illinois)
Independents: 1 (Notre Dame)
Mountain West Champion Fresno State, Conference USA Champion Rice and Sun Belt Champion Louisiana-Lafayette were the only teams out of their respective conferences to make it.

As much as realistically possible and without potentially compromising the final eight schools in the playoffs as best possible, the current conference affiliation with bowl games would be used in the following manner, with preferences given by the overall seedings:

In the case of the Orange Bowl, so long as the ACC Champion is a #1 or #2 seed and wins its two first round games at home, the ACC Champion would still play in that game for its quarterfinal/regional final.

In the case of the Rose Bowl, as long as either the Big 10 or Pac-12 has a #1 seed and the other has a #2 seed as its conference champion (or a second place team in either conference is a #2 seed), as long as both top seeds win their first and second round games (both of which, assuming they get to the second round would be at home) would play each other in the Rose Bowl. While this would be done as much as possible in this method (including if necessary setting up the seeds so those two conference champions meet in the Rose Bowl), there will be times where it could not be done simply because of both conferences either being too weak or too strong.

If it is because the Big 10 and Pac-12 both have schools deserving of being #1 seeds (but not where the Big 10 and Pac-12 conference champions are the top two overall seeds), the Rose Bowl would reserve the right to switch dates with the scheduled host of one of the the semifinal matchups (and if necessary, adjusting the dates of any non-BCS games potentially affected if this were the case) if it gave the Rose Bowl the chance of having the Big 10 and Pac-12 champions meeting in a national semifinal with no chance of a Big 10-Pac-12 meeting in a New Year's Day Rose Bowl (for example, if Ohio State and USC were both #1 seeds but Oregon, because they have only one loss to USC is a #2 seed, then the Rose Bowl would NOT get the opportunity to switch since Ohio State and Oregon would be the #1 and #2 seeds respectively in the Rose Bowl region, and if both win their first two playoff games, again, at home, they would play each other in the Rose Bowl while USC would be a #1 seed in another region). If however, the Big 10 and Pac-12 between them have the overall #1 and #2 seeds, then the Rose Bowl would not be able to make any switches since the overall top two seeds would be set up to meet in the championship game.

The four BCS Bowl winners would advance to the national semifinals.
The two national semifinal games would generally be rotated between the sites of the top eight non-BCS Bowl games (most likely those noted above) in two rotations of four, one of which would be the bowl games that would pit second round losers while the others would be the top four bowl games that would pit first round losers. These would likely be rotated with (most likely using the sites noted above, or others if not those sites) most likely for example the Gator and Cotton Bowl sites getting the two semifinals one year, the Indepenence and Chick-Fil-A (Peach) Bowl sites in a second, the Liberty and Capital One Bowl sites in a third and the Outback and Holiday Bowls in the fourth and last year of such a rotation (ideally, so one national seminfinal is in the eastern time zone and the other is outside the eastern time zone). In most years, the two semifinal games would be in prime time during the week in between the NFL Wild Card and Divisional Playoffs, with exact dates depending on the calendar and when the BCS Bowls are actually played. One seminal would have the lowest remaining overall seed playing the highest remaining overall seed, with the other two schools remaining playing in the other semifinal. The exact dates of each game would be determined based on when the current BCS bowl games are played. For this purpose for January 2014, assuming the top seed in each region wins their respective BCS Bowl game, The first national semifinal would be played on Thursday, January 9 with the second national semifinal played the next night, Friday, January 10.

The winners of the two national semifinal games would then play for the national championship, which in most years would be scheduled in this format for the Saturday night preceding the NFL conference championship games (in 2014, this would be on Saturday, January 18). The national championship game (and possibly a third place game between the semifinal losers the night before) would be rotated between the sites of the four existing BCS Bowl games as the BCS Championship Game currently is.

This is likely the most fair way to decide the national championship in college football. The fact that the "Big Six" BCS conferences would be (in most years) guaranteed of at least their conference champions getting two extra home games (provided such win their first round game) would be enough of an incentive to overcome opposition from the college Presidents, especially since it would still be set up where in most years, the "Big Six" would get a massive percentage of what likely would be a much bigger revenue pie than in the present system, especially with two rounds before and two rounds after the BCS Bowl games. This would be especially since most, if not all of the existing bowl games would still be played as in this format, all 32 playoff participants would also be guaranteed a bowl game (either a BCS Bowl if they win their first and second round matcups, a top non-BCS bowl if they at least win a first round game or a lower tier bowl for those that lose in the first round) in addition to at least one playoff game, with the chance to advance to play for the national title if they win a BCS Bowl game.

While there would be the risk of a three or four-loss team, they would still likely have to beat the overall #1 seed on the road in round two) getting hot and going all the way to winning the championship, that risk is well worth taking because any school that pulled that off would in all likelihood have to do the hard way in winning (in most years) first and second round games on the road before reaching a BCS Bowl game. Especially in a year like 2009 that saw the regular season end with five unbeaten schools (and a sixth with only one loss that came in a conference title game where the top two teams in the BCS standings that were both undefeated going in met), a 32-team playoff would be the best way in all likelihood to give most fans what they really want:

A TRUE national champion!!

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The Fine Art Of The Miniature | Help Wanted: Female | Between Jackpots | Bettor Off Single | Price and Probability | JUICERS! A Sports Novella (Volume I)