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Gimino: College playoff system could be worked out

How would Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators do in an 8-team college football playoff?

How would Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators do in an 8-team college football playoff?

I’m not a proponent of a college football playoff. Never have been. I believe in keeping Saturdays holy. I believe in the sanctity of the regular season.

I don’t believe the Bowl Championship Series, while fundamentally flawed, is the devil. The BCS hasn’t given us a postseason mess; it has delivered us, in some years, a perfect matchup that would have been impossible under the old system.

Like USC-Texas after the 2005 regular season.

This is not one of those seasons.

The howling continues.

Kill the BCS! Burn the commissioners . . . whoever they are! Vote undefeated Utah No. 1! Yeah, that’ll show them.

This is so wonderfully pointless.

First of all, nothing is going to change anytime soon. The BCS is set through the 2013 season. There is no groundswell – among those who truly matter in this matter (sorry, Mr. President-elect) – to change the way things don’t quite work.

College football playoff plans are like . . . well, you know what they’re like. Everybody has one.

Me, too.

I mean, I can live without a playoff, but if we’re going to have this discussion every year and debate it endlessly let’s do it right.

Not saying my plan is perfect, but it increases the blessedness of the regular season, addresses at least some of the problematic realities of tweaking the system and ends in happiness.

To begin:

Eight teams: The conference champs of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC, and the two highest-ranked champs from the five other leagues and independents.

Caveat: If a team isn’t ranked 16 or better in the BCS standings (perhaps 14 or better), then that champ is replaced by an at-large team, which would be the highest remaining team in the BCS.

What it does: Includes the so-called mid-major conferences. Retains the emphasis on a long conference season. Increases the desirability of major entertaining non-conference matchups.

As it is now, there is little and decreasing incentive for teams to play huge intersectional games. The risk of a loss, creating a season-long uphill climb back into the national title picture, is often too great.

Under the new plan, a non-conference loss would have no bearing on a team’s ability to play for the national title. You would see many more great September matchups – good for the fans.

What it looks like: This season, the eight teams would be Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Utah, Penn State, Boise State, Cincinnati and Texas as an at-large team, replacing the ACC’s Virginia Tech, which was 19th in the final BCS standings.

Yeah, that would be too bad for Alabama and Texas Tech to not make the cut. Deal with it.

No playoff is perfectly fair. If so, would the 11-5 New England Patriots be sitting at home?

Step 2: Seed the teams 1 through 8, and play quarterfinal matchups two weeks after the end of the regular season at the home site of the better seeded teams.

What it does: One of the problems of entirely using the bowl system as playoff hosts is the ridiculous travel burden it would create for fans. This at least guarantees a dynamite atmosphere and packed houses for all the first-round games.

What it looks like:

No. 8 Cincinnati at No. 1 Oklahoma

No. 7 Boise State at No. 2 Florida

No. 6 Penn State at No. 3 Texas

No. 5 Utah at No. 4 USC

Step 3: The four winners play a semifinal doubleheader at one of the four major bowl sites, to be rotated, just like it is now. The winners play a week later at the same site.

What it does: Again, eliminates some of the travel/attendance worries and creates a single day that would be an absolute bonanza for college football.

Meanwhile: The other bowl games, big and large, go on as usual.

I’d suggest going back to the old system of each bowl just brokering the best, most interesting matchup it can, rather than being absolutely fettered to conference affiliations.

What it could look like this season:

Rose – Oregon vs. Ohio State

Fiesta – Texas Tech vs. Georgia

Sugar – Alabama vs. Virginia Tech

Orange – semifinal doubleheader, and national title game

Problem: The Pac-10 and Big Ten would never go for this, forever losing the traditional matchup of league champs (of course, that ship has mostly sailed anyway).

Perhaps a bigger problem: What to do with the four losers of the quarterfinal games? Could they still go to a bowl? Would they want to?

I say, make them eligible for a bowl. If they can find the right match, good for them.

There are a million other details, but would any be a deal-breaker?

Overall, the plan is inclusive without being overly intrusive into the current system.

Anybody left crying at the end would just be somebody who didn’t quite get it done on the field.

Nobody could say they didn’t get a reasonable shot.

Which is more than a lot of teams can say about this season.


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