College football fans rejoice!
The season is upon us and the tyranny of the BCS has been cast aside in favor of a long overdue playoff system. Though the new system is limited to only four teams, the excitement and intrigue over a national champion being decided based on a playoff rather than on a computer is palpable.
So what can we expect from the playoffs? We can’t know for sure until we see it for ourselves, but we can look at past seasons to see what the playoff matchups may have looked like. Here are the top five teams from 2010-2013 at the end of the regular season using the BCS Standings to approximate who the committee may have chosen:
1. Florida State vs. 4. Michigan State
2. Auburn vs. 3. Alabama
Just missed the playoffs: Stanford
So let me get this straight. After watching one of the best college football games ever played in one of the most intense rivalries in sports, not college football but sports, you’re telling me we could have had a rematch in the semifinals? The fact that this was a possibility should be enough to convince anyone still on the fence about the playoff system that this will be good for college football. Could Auburn have beaten the Crimson Tide again? Florida State looked like an unstoppable force last season, but what if the protege (Jimbo Fisher) had met the master (Nick Saban) in the finals? Everything you could possibly want in a postseason is here. Sign me up!
This lineup gets into one of the biggest question marks of the college football era: excluding conference champions. With four spots and five power conferences, someone is going to be excluded. To include two SEC teams as we did in this scenario means excluding two conference champions, in this case the Pac-12 and Big 12.
1. Notre Dame vs. 4. Oregon
2. Alabama vs. 3. Florida
Just missed the playoffs: Kansas State
For a while it looked like we were headed for BCS armageddon with four undefeated teams; Notre Dame, Oregon, Kansas State and an SEC champion. One by one, all the undefeateds lost until only Notre Dame remained. In the BCS, this was the best case scenario. Any system that has the potential for excluding multiple deserving teams, however, is not a good system. Kansas State would still get excluded here, but they got rocked by Baylor and Oregon lost in overtime to Stanford so the Ducks definitely deserve the nod. Obviously a four-team playoff wouldn’t fit all six deserving teams, but it seems much fairer than what actually happened.
Would Notre Dame’s defense look as outmatched against Oregon as they looked against Alabama? Could Alabama have beaten two strong SEC teams in consecutive games?
1. LSU vs. 4. Stanford
2. Alabama vs. Oklahoma State
Just missed the playoffs: Oregon
LSU was undefeated and Alabama’s lone loss came to the Tigers. They were clearly the best two teams in the nation, but this season revealed another flaw in the BCS. LSU was rewarded for its undefeaed season with a trip to the SEC Championship game. Had they lost, Alabama most likely would have become the top seed and LSU would have lost their shot at the National Championship.
Sure the BCS got the nation’s two best teams, but somehow the less deserving team was able to back into its spot. With a playoff system, had LSU lost to a very good Georgia team, the same four teams probably would have made the playoffs, just with LSU falling to the four seed.
1. Auburn vs. 4. Stanford
2. Oregon vs. 3. TCU
Just missed the playoffs: Wisconsin
Oh what a fascinating season this could have been! Unlike in the BCS, the power conferences will not be given any automatic bids. While the superior strength of schedule is undeniable, a deserving team from one of the other conferences technically has as much right to the make the playoffs as anyone else. TCU would have crashed the party in 2010 as members of the Mountain West Conference. While conferences like the ACC and Big Ten would be crying foul over being excluded for the Horned Frogs, TCU could have shut everyone up with a win over Chip Kelly’s Ducks.
Oh and by the way, the other semifinal would only have been a matchup between a little known quarterback named Cam Newton and an eccentric coach named Jim Harbaugh.
I guess that was just too much excitement for the BCS to handle.