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2011 NCAA Football Playoff Proposal

It's time again for my NCAA Football Playoff Proposal. When I put together my first NCAA playoff proposal in 1999, I really believed that college football was on the path to adopting a playoff system. I could not have been more wrong. The NCAA, the men in the funny-colored sportcoats adorned with their bowl's logo and the university presidents of the top dozen or so power football schools will never allow such a sensible thing as a Division 1-A college football playoff to take place. The groups who control college football are like activist judges. They make decisions that suit their own needs even though those decisions run contrary to the desires of 90% of the people involved and the spirit of college athletics. If college football was in fact like every other sports league on the planet (including all other NCAA football levels, beer league softball, The World Series of Poker and even the WNBA) the playoffs might look a little something like this:

  • 8-team tournament
  • The quarterfinal games will be comprised of the four current BCS Bowls - Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta.
  • The champions from the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12 will be given automatic bids to the tournament. For the ACC, SEC, Big 10 and Pac 12, this will be the winner of their conference's championship game.
  • The highest ranked champion (based on the BCS) among the Big East (West Virginia), MAC (Northern Illinois), WAC (Louisiana Tech), Conference USA (Southern Miss) and the Mountain West Conference (TCU) will be guaranteed a spot in the tournament. TCU is the highest ranked among those champions.
  • The two remaining spots in the tournament will be filled on an at-large basis by an impartial selection committee. In order to qualify for an at-large spot, a team must be in the top 12 in the BCS. All Division 1-A (aka. FBS) teams will be eligible for the at-large spots.
  • No conference can have more than two teams in the tournament. Put another way, the conferences that received automatic bids cannot take both at-large spots.
  • The committee will then seed the teams from 1 to 8. Seeds will then be swapped, if necessary, to avoid first round matchups between teams from the same conference. For example, if the committee originally seeded Auburn 1st and Arkansas 8th (1 plays 8 in the first round), then Arkansas would be moved to the 7th seed. The committee will also make an effort to avoid potential second round matchups between conference foes.
  • In order to preserve some of the bowl tradition, the committee will guarantee that the highest ranked team among the Pac 12 and Big 10 champions will go to the Rose Bowl. The committee will also make an effort to send the SEC Champion to the Sugar Bowl and to make the Rose Bowl a Pac 12 vs Big 10 matchup. This will not always be possible.
  • In the second round, the winner of the 1 vs 8 game will play the winner of the 4 vs 5 game and the winner of 2 vs 7 will play the winner of 3 vs 6.
  • Like the Superbowl, the sites of the semifinal and championship games will rotate. The two semifinal games will not be played in the same city.
  • All other bowls will be played as usual.

Here's how the 2011-12 playoffs would shake out if I were the committee:

Automatic Qualifiers

LSU (SEC), Oregon (Pac 12), Clemson (ACC), Wisconsin (Big 10), Oklahoma State (Big 12) and TCU (best BCS ranking among other conferences).

At Large Teams

That leaves two spots for at-large teams. Alabama, at 11-1, is clearly one of the choices. They play in the toughest conference and their only loss is to the one undefeated. The choice for the second at-large team would be pretty easy as well. Stanford was 11-1 and they are clearly more worthy than the eligible two-loss teams, Kansas State and Virginia Tech. My rules stipulate that the two at-large bids cannot come from the same conference so Arkansas and South Carolina were eliminated once Alabama was chosen.


LSU is clearly the #1 seed. I'm putting Oklahoma State at #2 and Alabama at #3 after OSU's impressive blowout of Oklahoma. My #4 seed is Oregon. They have two losses and Stanford has one but Oregon easily defeated Stanford a few weeks ago. Stanford would be #5 with Wisconsin at #6, Clemson at #7 and TCU at #8.

Oregon and Stanford are both from the Pac 12 so Stanford and Wisconsin will switch seeds. Not only does this put the two Pac 12 teams on opposite sides of the bracket but also sets up a traditional Big 10 vs Pac 12 Rose Bowl.

Jan 2nd Rose Bowl - #4 Oregon (Pac 12) vs #5 Wisconsin (Big 10)
Jan 2nd Fiesta Bowl - #2 Oklahoma State (Big 12) vs #7 Clemson (ACC)
Jan 3rd Sugar Bowl - #1 LSU (SEC) vs #8 TCU (MWC)
Jan 4th Orange Bowl - #3 Alabama (at-large) vs #6 Stanford (at-large)

SEMI-FINALS - Saturday, January 21st (day prior to AFC and NFC Championships)
Game One - 3:30 pm
Game Two - 8:00 pm

(Note: the semi-finals could also be played on Thursday, January 12th and Monday, January 16th. This would avoid the competition with the NFL and reduce the time off between the first and second rounds.)

CHAMPIONSHIP - Saturday Jan 28th (Superbowl off week)
Championship Game - 8:00 pm

2010 Playoff Proposal
2009 Playoff Proposal
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2003 Playoff Proposal
2002 Playoff Proposal
2001 Playoff Proposal
2000 Playoff Proposal