My Idea for a College Football Play-off System

We all know that the BCS is a corrupt system, where the teams from the “Big Six” get easy access to moneymaking bowls (and the national championship game if they’re good enough) and teams like Boise St. and TCU needed to move up to a bigger conference to get much of a chance at all.  (As an eternal fan of the underdog, I probably am a bit biased toward the non-BCS teams; I remember a few years ago when Ball St. went undefeated for most of the year.  I’m glad they didn’t; otherwise, I would have gone berserk when they would eventually MISS THE BCS.)  I have a (probably flawed) proposal for a 16-team play-off to (help) alleviate the conference bias.  It would not need to occur instantaneously, as there are aspects that do not have to go into effect in a certain order, and I am certain that it would offer (some) improvement over the current system.

The most important part of the change, aside from the play-off itself, will probably make it even harder for teams like TCU and Boise St. to make BCS bowls (before they improved their lot, anyway).  However, this should not be a problem because the goal of the BCS is to crown a true National Champion, not give every Tom, Rich, and Harry a shot.  (I know that I changed the traditional idiom; this was intentional.)  I firmly believe that the BCS needs to switch its weighting system so that every poll, computer and human, has equal representation in the final tally.  The most and least favorable polls COULD still be removed, but humans are prone to error whenever making a subjective judgment, whereas computers only provide cold hard facts, and machines are more reliable than even the most astute members of Homo Sapiens.  This is just as important as increasing the selection pool and providing opportunities for Grunt State.

Another part of the plan would be to reinstate the AP poll in the BCS while removing the Coaches Poll.  I understand that coaches have more experience with the individual teams, but they are more susceptible to bias (either for their own teams, teams they have played, teams from their own conference, etc).  Furthermore, the AP poll is the poll with the most history, dating back to 1936.  It is the only human poll I really look at in the newspaper, when I look at college football polls at all.  It is a shame that it is not a factor in determining who plays for the BCS title.

The play-off itself would have 16 teams.  There would be 6 Automatic Qualifier Conferences, based on a weighted average of success in the tournament among its CURRENT MEMBERS.  I believe that the Big East’s automatic spot should have, at some point, gone to the Mountain West; that one year when Cincinnati was really good, they would have gotten their bid regardless of Automatic Qualifier status or anything else, and they got blown out of the water by Florida, anyway.  The conference champion from each of the Automatic Qualifier Conferences would receive an automatic bid.  Furthermore, the Top 2 teams from non-Automatic Qualifier Conferences according to the BCS Rankings would receive Automatic Bids, provided that they were in the Top 25.  The Top 5 teams that had not already Qualified would also receive an Automatic Bid, while the last 3 selections would be determined by a committee.  Seedings for 4 4-team Regionals would be determined by the final BCS Rankings.

Each First Round game would be played at the home stadium of the higher seed the week after the Conference Championships.  The Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl would host one the Regional Finals, with the teams rotating to host the Final Four.  The final would be held on New Year’s Eve unless there was less than a 3-day break after the Final Four match-up, in which case it would be held on New Year’s Day.  The minor bowls would either continue as normal or be part of an NIT-like tournament.

This is a good proposal because a) it fairly determines the Automatic Qualifier Conferences, b) it gives non-AQ a chance, while leaving grounds for potential Strength of Schedule-related computer bias, c) it can preserve the minor bowls, d) much of it would still occur during colleges’ Winter Break, e) teams won’t play too many games, and f) it preserves the value of the BCS bowls.  Of course, there are still a lot of games being played, but any fewer teams will result in a too-small sample size.  A 16-team play-off allows for the chance of Cinderella and Strength of Schedule-related computer bias being overblown.  Down below, I’ve simulated last year’s tourney using WhatIf Sports, assuming that the actual Automatic Qualifier Conferences were correct:


Conference Champs

ACC: Clemson, Big 10: Wisconsin, Big 12: Oklahoma St., Big East: West Virginia, Pac 12: Oregon, SEC: LSU

Non Automatic Qualifier Conference Top 2

Boise St., TCU

Top 5 Remaining

Alabama, Stanford, Arkansas, Kansas St., South Carolina

Wild Cards

Virginia Tech, Baylor, Michigan


1. LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma St., Stanford

2. Oregon, Arkansas, Boise St., Kansas St.

3. South Carolina, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Baylor

4. Michigan, Clemson, TCU, West Virginia

Sugar Regional

LSU, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

Orange Regional

Alabama, Boise St., Baylor, Clemson

Cotton Regional

Oklahoma St., Kansas St., Wisconsin, TCU

Fiesta Regional

Stanford, Oregon, South Carolina, Michigan



LSU 45, West Virginia 9

Arkansas 25, West Virginia 24

LSU 24, Arkansas 13


Alabama 44, Clemson 16

Boise St. 45, Baylor 28

Alabama 45, Boise St. 39 (4OT)


Oklahoma St. 62, TCU 28

Wisconsin 34, Kansas St. 6

Oklahoma St. 49, Wisconsin 42


Stanford 36, Wisconsin 14

Oregon 41, South Carolina 3

Oregon 31, Stanford 23

Final Four at the Rose Bowl

LSU 54, Oregon 23

Oklahoma St. 37, Alabama 31

Oklahoma St. 54, LSU 15


2 thoughts on “My Idea for a College Football Play-off System

    • Thanks! This is an idea that I have been thinking about for a long time; now, I have a place to write it all down! I’m glad you enjoyed my article. Come back soon.

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