There is a way to get this playoff thing done. First, you have to come with me all the way back to 1964.
Back then, bowl games were almost thought of as exhibitions. At least that is how the polls treated them. In the first 28 years of its existence through 1964, the Associated Press released its final poll before the bowls. It didn't matter what you did in January. Of course, there were only a handful of bowl games back then so it pretty much didn't matter what you did in December either. The season was over when the polls said it was over.
|If USC's Pac-10 as well as the Big Ten sit out, Dodd's system works. (Getty Images)|
That singular move put much more emphasis on the bowls. Their number began to expand in the 1970s and ... well, here we are now. A system that many can't stand worked out relatively well this season if you don't count the state of Texas in the argument.
I'm here to help. After much thought, after sifting through hundreds of e-mail suggestions over the years and after being struck by a bolt of lightning this playoff revelation came to me ...
1. If you can accept the concept of two national champions each season then read on. That's what this playoff proposal is based on.
In my BIG (Bald, Idiot, Goofball) playoff, the first national champion is named after the regular season, just like the old days. This season that would mean Florida already would have a trophy based on the AP poll. It doesn't have to be AP, it can be coaches, Harris, heck, any one of them. The point is, in the BIG playoff there is a regular-season champion and a playoff champion, not unlike baseball which has pennant winners and a world champion.
I know what you're thinking. What's Dodd been smoking? Hang with me. There have been a handful of split national champions through history. No one was hurt. Why not make it possible every year?
What's the downside of doubling the number of teams that can claim national titles?
Think of the offseason arguments. Think of the banners that would be hung. In my playoff, this probably means the end of the conference championship games, but we'll leave that up to the leagues themselves. That's all details. The structure is now in place.
Still reading? Good. Here's the next bombshell.
2. Let the Rose Bowl go off on its own.
Any discussion of a playoff is a non-starter with the Pac-10, Big Ten and The Granddaddy. Without getting into all the reasons and picking at all the old sores just realize that this 21-school, one-bowl alliance is extremely loyal to the Tournament of Roses Parade.
So let 'em go off on their own. We're going to have our own playoff. It's possible, if you've already determined a regular-season champion. That way the Big Ten and Pac-10 are competing for a national championship and get to keep their traditional postseason home. The only way this doesn't work is if the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions are ranked 1-2 in the polls. A 1-vs.-2 game might devalue an eight-team playoff but we'll take our chances. A 1-vs.-2 Rose Bowl has happened twice in the more than century-long history of the game.
If you're cool with letting the Rose go out on its own, let's get to the meat of the issue.
3. Bracket your playoff.
We're using this Sunday's final BCS standings. We have to remove No. 5 USC and No. 8 Penn State because they have chosen not to participate. Fair enough. That means the eight-team playoff includes teams 1-4, 6-7 and 9-10 in the BCS. Good news for Utah and Boise State. They're both in.
This playoff folds in all the major bowls in three weekends in January.
National quarterfinalsThursday, Jan. 1
Atlanta, Ga. (Chick-fil-A) -- No. 1 seed Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Ohio State
Tampa, Fla. (Outback) -- No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 5 Utah
Friday, Jan. 2
Orlando, Fla. (Capital One) -- No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 Boise State
Dallas, Texas (Cotton Bowl) -- No. 3 Texas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech
National semifinalsSaturday, Jan. 10
New Orleans, La. (Sugar) -- No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Alabama
Glendale, Ariz. (Fiesta) -- No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Texas.
National championship gameMonday, Jan. 19
Miami Gardens, Fla. (Orange) -- No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 2 Florida
• Each participating bowl can brag about having a hand in the national championship. No more glorified exhibitions.
• A playoff doesn't affect the lower-tier bowls. They're basically three-hour infomercials for the conferences as it is.
• First-round losers play only 13 games. That's at least what the current 64 bowl teams play now.
• Second-round losers play 14 games. That's what the six teams in the ACC, Big 12 and SEC championship games already play each year counting bowl games.
• The games are staggered to stay mostly away from NFL playoff dates and to get plenty of rests for the winners. The second-round teams have eight days between games. There is a nine-day gap between the semis and national championship game.
• No conflict with December finals.
• An eight-team playoff brings the Cotton, Chik-Fil-A and Outback into the fold, adding even more meaning to the bowls. The championship game would still rotate between the four major bowls (maybe five if the Cotton gets into the mix).
• No impact on recruiting. Part of the reason against a playoff is that it excludes 90 percent of the teams from the beginning. The fact that there are two champions would actually give recruiters more of a chance to sell their programs.
• There aren't necessarily two champions each season. Obviously if Florida wins the playoff, it could sweep both titles in this 2008 hypothetical playoff. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
• Not every major-college champion is represented in the BIG playoff. In this model the ACC and Big East champs are left out. That could easily be adjusted by selecting the four other major-conference champions (minus Pac-10, Big Ten) and four at-large. Remember, there is no foolproof system. Someone is going to be left out but this gets a lot more noses under the tent than the BCS.
• A playoff raises the issue of a regular-season rematch (see Texas-Texas Tech in the first round). But that's no different from possible regular-season rematches in current league title games.
• If you eliminate the conference title games, the teams in the championship game play in a max of 15 games.
• Possible conflict with the beginning of the second semester.
• This reduces the number of teams whose seasons end with a win from 32 to 29.