Is It Time Yet for a College Football Playoff?

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For the first time in the author's life the Spartans are part of the end of year equation for being the best.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

For the first time in the author's life the Spartans are part of the end of year equation for being the best. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

For the first time in my history as a Spartan fan, I actually care about football rankings and the bowl picture. Why? Well, the Spartans are ranked in the top 10 and have been highly ranked in the BCS standings as well. There are few people that can debate the legitimacy of Oregon and Auburn, but are they truly the best teams in college football? The better question is, will we ever know?


I am now firmly in the ‘we need a playoff system’ camp. We absolutely do. I have run a number of different scenarios and have ultimately come to the conclusion that it is time to make an NCAA playoff system for division one college football. If Michigan State finishes the season 11-1 with their schedule, do they deserve a shot to play for the national championship?  Damn right they do. Is Oregon or Auburn any better? Who knows, it is time to line them up and play.


Here are the pros of a playoff system:


1)     A true national champion could be crowned.


2)     It would bring a lot more excitement to college football and the holiday season.


3)     It would give non-power conference schools a legitimate chance.


4)     It would generate more university and TV revenue


Here are the cons of a playoff system:


1)     More injuries due to a longer season. They don't care with 1-AA, Divison 2 and 3!


2)     Could affect academic performance of student athletes. Obviously proven false by the fact 1-AA, Divison 2 and 3 use them.


3)     It would make lower tier bowl games largely irrelevant.


4)     Could undermine mid-major programs and send them back to the dark ages.



There are a lot of things that would need to be addressed in order to make a playoff system work. The first is that academic standards would need to be standardized across all conferences to ensure that recruiting standards are the same. The SEC is getting a free academic pass. This is the untold story every year that the SEC is in the title game. Prop 48 is based upon a formula that incorporates a student’s GPA and ACT/SAT score. Look at the rankings of public education in the states in the Big Ten region versus states in the SEC region. A 3.0 GPA in a Michigan high school is different than a 3.0 GPA in Mississippi. The disparity is embarrassing.


There also needs to be a larger number of scholarships given to division one schools. With a playoff, we’d be looking at a 15 game season in some cases. Injuries would be an issue. Division one teams would need another ten scholarships bringing the number to 95 per school. It would hurt schools like CMU and Northern Illinois because schools like Purdue, Indiana and Northwestern would take the kids that currently end up in the MAC to fill out their rosters. I am not sure that’d be a good thing, but the additional TV revenue from a playoff system would help pick up the slack for additional scholarships. It would make junior college football more important. Teams would need to be able to get good players consistently from the JC ranks.


I would also look to standardize the format by which teams play one another. I would have predetermined seeds based upon conference standings. I would also rotate the conference match-ups annually. Here is a hypothetical example.


Week One:

1)     Big Ten #1 vs. At Large play-in (bye after 1st weekend)

2)     SEC #1 vs. At Large play-in (bye after 1st weekend)

3)     Pac 10 #1 vs. ACC #3

4)     Big 12 #1 vs. Big Ten #3

5)     ACC #1 vs SEC #3

6)     Big Ten #2 vs. Pac 10 #2

7)     SEC #2 vs. Big Least #2

8)     ACC #2 #vs. Big 12 #2

9)     At Large vs Big 12 #3

10)  At Large vs. Pac 10 #3


There are a number of ways to do it. It could be debated for hours. I think that the Big Ten gets the shaft in the current system; we have to travel the greatest distances because bowl games are played in the sunshine or in domes. I think that Florida should come up and play PSU in Happy Valley in December. Just like I think MSU could play Texas on a given year in Austin. We need to reward conference champions with home field advantage. If we didn’t use campus stadiums, than we could reward the regional #1 with a game played in a regional dome. Ohio State could play Texas Tech in Lucas Oil Stadium or Northwestern plays LSU in the Super Dome. There are a number of ways this could be done. I don’t like artificial turf, but the new field turf is an improvement. It isn’t as good as the natural stuff, be its better than concrete.


The point is quite simple, I don’t think that TCU and Boise State belong in the title hunt. They are legitimate teams, but haven’t earned the right to play for the championship because their schedules are so weak. I know that they are good football teams, but anyone can be good three weekends out of the season. What would they look like playing a real schedule?... relying on depth and guys playing through injuries and oh… bye the way, you just drew the Badgers in the Metrodome. Good luck with that!! Bring your blue turf and your bandaids. Bring some liquid nails for your molars as well. Did we mention that the tailbacks a little bigger ‘round here?


I think that teams need to earn their way into the championship. If TCU lined up and beat the Spartans and then lined up the next weekend and beat South Carolina and then knocked off West Virginia and beat Oregon in the championship game, then I’d say GO Horned Frogs. Until this happens, I say it is a battle of the power conferences. It is time for a playoff!!