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November 21, 2014

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Okay, here's my idea for a college football national playoff

By Jake Dowling, Icon intern
If anyone watches college football, many would agree that the sport is fun to watch, with all of the upsets and great matchups. But, one would also know that it can be frustrating at times as well, especially if your team was not selected by a hand full of computers to play in the National Title Game.

University presidents and Notre Dame approved a playoff system, set to take place for the beginning of the 2014 football season, on June 27. This playoff system would pin the four best schools against each other in two semi-final games. Then the winners of the semi-finals would go on to play in the National Title Game.

The venue to host the big game would be a competition among cities, much like the Super Bowl, where the highest bidder would host the game. Therefore, with a playoff system in place, the National Title Game would have more bang for its buck.

In the lame duck current format of college football however, it will continue to operate for another two years. In the current format to determine the national champion, called the Bowl Championship Series, it includes three components to rank teams by USA Today Coaches Poll, Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings. Each component counts one-third of a team's overall BCS score in the BCS Standings.

The statistical rating system used to determine the teams that will participate in the championship game of the Bowl Championship Series consists of three components and each will count as 1/3rd of the final BCS formula- subjective polls of Harris Interactive (replaces AP) and coaches (USA Today) an six computer rankings.

Confused? You are not alone.

The current BCS format is not only confusing, but it is flawed, very flawed. Take for example 2003, where Louisiana State University Tigers were crowned national champions by computer rankings, but the AP voted the University of Southern California Trojans as number one but they were not able to play in the National Title Game.

Another example is in 2007, when, for the first time in BCS history, a two-loss LSU Tigers team was in the National Title Game and won against Ohio State, while many other worthy one loss teams, not including some smaller schools that were undefeated, were not deemed worthy enough by the computers to be in the National Title Game.

In 2008, there was a three-way tie between three teams in the Big 12 conference. Read carefully now.

The Texas Longhorns beat the Oklahoma Sooners during their regular season matchup. However, the Texas Tech Red Raiders beat the same Longhorns team later that season, but ended the season by losing to Oklahoma. Therefore, everyone had lost to everyone and the only way to decide who goes to the National Title Game or a BCS bowl was by computer rankings.

Since Oklahoma had a higher BCS ranking, they were selected to the big game, while Texas and Texas Tech participated in lesser bowls. Oklahoma ended up loses the National Title Game.

In addition, just this past year, LSU and the Alabama Crimson Tide clashed in the National Title Game. The two teams played earlier in the year where LSU won, and ended the season undefeated. However, many people were upset that there was a rematch because Alabama had their chance at LSU and lost, and other one-loss teams deserved a shot.

Nevertheless, the computers picked a rematch, only this time Bama won.

These examples also do not include the fact that the BCS has constantly left other undefeated schools out of the National Title Game, on the notion that those schools were too small and not well-known. Year after year, the Boise State Broncos or the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs football programs were not considered worthy because they came from small conferences and were too small compared to some other schools, say, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

What happened to all men being equal and no discrimination?

Therefore, a change was in direr need, and there will be one in two years.

However, and I think the majority of the population that follow college football would agree, this change is not the perfect solution. Is it a step in the right direction? Possibly, I would say so. However, is it the total solution in truly picking the right national champion? Not by a long shot.

The new playoff system is similar to college basketball. A committee will chose the best four teams in college football following criteria of win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and rather a team is a conference champion.

However, there are 12 conferences in NCAA division I football and 127 teams in division I. Moreover, a committee is only going to pick four teams to participate in a playoff out of that whole field of teams.

That does not sound like a good idea.

In my opinion, there should be no committee, or computer, or anybody for that matter, to determine whom is playoff worthy or not. In reality, nothing has really changed. In the current BCS format, computers dictate the winners and in the new format, a committee of humans would do the same.

Someone is going to be left out and the committee can be easily biased toward larger schools, a common practice in division I football.

The new playoff system should work like this. Have at least one team from each conference, a team who wins their conference, move on in the playoffs. Then have a 12-team playoff with the best two teams fighting for the title.

No one would have the power to choose who makes it or not. Everyone would be worthy based on their wins and losses. The season also would not be extended because in the current BCS format, the National Title Game is typically played the second week of January.

After the regular season is over in mid-November, playoff teams could take a week off, then start playoff play. If the NCAA has the format similar to the NFL and the National Title Game can be played on the second week of January.

Not that hard, or confusing. That is what the NCAA needs to do.

However, it took how long for the BCS to finally be scrapped? In addition, the reason why the BCS stayed so long was because of money, so my concern is, this playoff system is a step in the right direction, but it is not the solution and if this new system is a moneymaker for the NCAA, it too will not be changed anytime soon.

We all know what happened there; let us hope money does not continue to dictate football.

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