The Perfect Playoff System

I have a playoff system which will ensure the following:

  1. Any national champion will have to advance through an 8 team playoff;
  2. Any national champion will have to win their division and conference;
  3. Cinderella teams will have a chance to prove they belong and will be rewarded for winning their division/conference;
  4. The regular season would remain as riveting as it currently is;
  5. The regular season will be even more enjoyable than it is now… so enjoyable that the Kentucky/Vanderbilt game will be one of the most entertaining regular season games you can watch.

How? Read on.

I hate college football playoffs. Very soon, I have no doubt expansion will make sure we suffer through a 16 team playoff and the regular season as a result will cease to be as exciting as it is now.  Because I love the annual Cocktail Party so much, thinking about UGA and Florida both coming in to the contest assured of a spot in the playoffs invariably lessens the impact of the game. And I will certainly give up my season tickets when the regular season becomes little more than jockeying for a better seed in a bracket.

With that in mind,  I’ve figured out a way to make everyone happy. No… really.

My idea is born out of all places… soccer.  In crowning a champion in the English Premier League, arguably the most watched league on earth, there is no playoff. More importantly, the last place team in the league, is kicked out of the league.  Where do it go? A sub-league.  But there’s good news if you’re in the sub-league,  if you win the league below the Premier League, you get moved up.  As an analogy, think about baseball where the Kansas City Royals would be moved to AAA when they invariably finish in last place next year, and the winner of the AAA league moves up to the majors to take their spot.  The results of this system in the Premier League have proven to be nothing short of riveting… if you want proof click here.

This idea intrigued me. How could we apply this to college football and how can we keep the regular season awesome?

Then it hit me:  4 Superconferences. Each conference has 32 teams divided into two levels of 16 teams.  We’ll call the lower level  “Regular” and  the upper “Premier” though I’m sure they can come up with better names.  Both levels are divided into divisions, much like the current SEC.  Thus each division has 8 teams.

The “Premier” level of each conference would be very similar to what we know today. For instance, the SEC would have one more team per division (currently there are 7 per) and the winners of each division still play in the conference championship game.  Each conference champions enter a 4-team playoff, with the winner universally declared the NCAA champion without debate.  This is, in effect, an 8 team playoff.

Before you start, I hear you asking about Notre Dame, Boise, and the mid-majors.  Given the expansive nature of the system, there can be no independents, so everyone has to join a conference. This should not be an issue as the current trend is towards that direction… sorry Notre Dame but you’re a loser.  As for the mid-majors, the beauty of this proposed system rests in the ability of teams in the “Regular” conference’s ability to move up to the “Premier” conference.  Here’s how:  If you are in the “Premier” level and you lose your division,  you go down to the “Regular” level. The winner of the “Regular” division moves up to “Premier.”  Each year in each conference, one team from each Regular division will go up.  Throughout football, there will be 8 promotions and 8 demotions each season, 2 in each conference. Here is a piss poor graphic representation.

Playoff Perfect

Using the SEC from 2013 as an example, Kentucky and Arkansas would have been sent down to the “Regular” league because they lost their division.

The beauty of this system is how everyone gets a chance, including smaller schools in the sub-conferences, presuming they can maintain success for 2 sustained years.  It also changes little in the current scheme of things and maintains the integrity of the regular season.

Not only do we get a playoff system, we also get added excitement of teams who are not likely to win their division fighting like hell not to get sent down.  How epic would THE VANDERBILT/KENTUCKY game become every year?!? The loser is knocked OUT!  In the “Regular” league, the regular season would be electric with the possibility of moving up and playing for all the marbles the next year.  For example, some insanely talented freshman, overlooked by the big schools, goes to East Carolina, who then goes on a run moving them up to the Premier division the next year.  What happens then? Instead of watching this kid dominate the WAC, he’d be playing in one of the four major conferences for a whole season against the best competition, and we’d see how legit he and his team are. In our example, East Carolina takes Kentucky’s spot, and plays Georgia, Florida, etc. the next year.  If you believe in Cinderellas belonging at the big table, this system gives you every chance to let the little kids prove they can play.  It’d be so rad.

Are there flaws? Sure. Traditional rivalries would be hard to preserve if a traditional power shits the bed and is sent down (Auburn 2012… hahaha).  It’s possible that teams from the upper levels would simply dominate after being sent down,  like Kentucky, for example, which would perpetually bounce up and down from the big time to the minors.

But I can’t help feel like this solves so many issues. The playoff roar gets its fix. The regular season is still sacred. You can still do bowls with the other teams not in the playoffs, so nothing there changes.  And the Vandy/UK game would be truly awesome to watch, not to mention East Carolina v. ULM.  Will the conferences agree? I don’t know. It may be true that there isn’t enough money this way, or the SEC and Big 10 have-nots don’t want to give up their perpetually underacheiving but still money making football teams.

I still think this would be amazing. I welcome all thoughts below.


4 thoughts on “The Perfect Playoff System

  1. First! Stay down TCJ Dawg!!!

    Quite the intriguing idea Spence. I personally like the 4 team playoff for next yr but agree that will not last long. I could stomach a 6 team playoff (top 2 seeds with bi’s) and MAYBE an 8 team playoff.

    16 will be awful. Unfortunately I fear it is inevitable as it is allllll about the $$$ these days, and “fuck tradition.” 16 teams could truly ruin the best sport in the world…

    GO DAWGS!!!!!!!

  2. A few friends and I have discussed this very scenario for the last several years and I go back and forth on the idea for a couple of reasons.

    Perfect Playoff System (PPS)
    Pro PPS- 1.) It gives teams in the non-BCS bowl conferences such as C-USA, WAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, etc… an equal footing among the rest of the conferences so essentially there will be no non-BCS Conferences. 2.) I like the idea of a “regular” team being able to struggle out of the cellar by playing as tough of a schedule as everyone else thereby eliminating the Boise State of two years ago and Ohio State every year. I also like the fact that that team must remain a winner for at leat two years before potentially achieving a National Championship. 3.) And Most Important, there’s no dispute of who’s the best in the country.

    Anti PPS- 1.) We all enjoy the bowl season around the holidays. That’s what makes this game the best sport in the world as Zach says. 2.) The long time rivalries would be gone. Georgia-Auburn, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Michigan-Notre Dame, Florida-Georgia, Army-Navy, Florida-Florida State……that would suck. 3.) And finally, the flaw in this system is that you would have to have a round robin where each of the teams in the East would HAVE play each other. The same with the West essentially turning the whole system into a “Playoff”. You also couln’t have out of conference games because if each team in the conference didn’t play the same out of conference team the pool gets dirtied. The thing that’s special and unique about college football is the diversity. I personally like the one sided pounding of an FCS team. It makes you feel good about your team. And vice versa, I like seeing App States picking off Michigans.

    So I like it in theory but not in actuality. I think you put the nail in the coffin though when you said “the large amounts of money” in the current system will prevent the PPS from ever evolving into a viable alternative.

    the 8 team playoff will be an interesting change. You are probably right as well about the 8 team turning into 16.

    Go Dawgs!

    1. Great comment. But I think you’re wrong about a couple of things.

      1. The bowl season would survive almost exactly as it is now. There would still be great matchups, only without the 4 conference champions. This is no different than how it will go down next year.

      2. There’s no reason the long-time rivalries have to die. Assuming 8 teams per division, that’s 7 conference games plus one from the other division. Plenty of room for either out-of-conference games to be scheduled or for teams to be rearranged like I mentioned with Auburn. Even if a rival is demoted there’s nothing preventing a team from playing them.

      3. I don’t really understand your third “anti” point. Each team in the East now has to play every team in the East. There’s no difference. And I see no reason why there couldn’t be out-of-conference as you mentioned above and would love to better understand the “dirtying” of the pool you describe.

      UGA’s schedule would look something like this:

      Game 1. Cupcake or out of conference foe
      2. South Carolina
      3. Cupcake or out of conference
      4. Tennessee
      5. Vanderbilt
      6. bye week
      7. Florida
      8. Kentucky
      9. Auburn
      10. Opposing division or out of conference or cupcake
      11. Missouri
      12. bye week
      13. Vandy
      14. Ga Tech

      The difference would be one less opposing division game. That’s it. No reason week one can’t be Clemson, Boise, or Western North Carolina.

  3. Very intriguing idea. Really like the premise.I would love to sit down with you and Zach and a couple of beers to diagram it out and ask a few more questions.

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