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2012 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 (Louisville), MAC (Northern Illinois), WAC (Utah State), Conference USA (Tulsa) and the Mountain West Conference (Boise State) will be guaranteed a spot in the tournament. Northern Illinois 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 Alabama 1st and Florida 8th (1 plays 8 in the first round), then Florida 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 2012-13 playoffs would shake out if I were the committee:

Automatic Qualifiers

Alabama (SEC), Stanford (Pac 12), Florida State (ACC), Wisconsin (Big 10), Kansas State (Big 12) and Northern Illinois (best BCS ranking among other conferences).

At Large Teams

That leaves two spots for at-large teams. I don't believe that Notre Dame is among the top eight teams in the country and two of their wins (Stanford and Pittsburgh) were flukey to say the least, but they did finish undefeated and therefore deserve to get one of the at large bids. The SEC is the dominant conference so they should definitely receive the second at large spot. Florida beat both Texas A&M and LSU so they get the nod.


Again, the SEC is the dominant conference. No one else is close. So I'm seeding Alabama and Florida in the #1 and #2 slots. Notre Dame was the only undefeated team so the #3 seed makes sense. Kansas State and Stanford are my #4 and #5 seeds. Kansas State lost just once and Stanford was just a little more impressive than my #6 seed, Florida State. Northern Illinois (12-1) out of the MAC takes the #7 seed. Wisconsin rounds out the field. The Badgers (8-5) finished third in the Big Ten Leaders division but played in the Big Ten Championship because of the ineligibility of Ohio State and Penn State. I could add a stipulation that a team winning a league title because of a probationary situation can by bypassed by the Selection Committee. Maybe next year.

Stanford is ranked higher than Wisconsin so they will host the Rose Bowl. Alabama hosts the Sugar Bowl and Florida State hosts the Orange.

2012 NCAA Playoff Proposal Brackets

Jan 1st Rose Bowl - #4 Kansas State (Big 12) vs #5 Stanford (Pac 12)
Jan 1st Orange Bowl - #3 Notre Dame (at-large) vs #6 Florida State (ACC)
Jan 2nd Sugar Bowl - #1 Alabama (SEC) vs #8 Wisconsin (Big 10)
Jan 3rd Fiesta Bowl - #2 Florida (at-large) vs #7 Northern Illinois (MAC)

SEMI-FINALS - Saturday, January 19th (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 10th and Monday, January 14th. This would avoid the competition with the NFL and reduce the time off between the first and second rounds.)

CHAMPIONSHIP - Saturday Jan 26th (Superbowl off week)
Championship Game - 8:00 pm

(Note: the championship could also be played on Monday, January 28th).

2011 Playoff Proposal
2010 Playoff Proposal
2009 Playoff Proposal
2008 Playoff Proposal
2007 Playoff Proposal
2006 Playoff Proposal
2005 Playoff Proposal
2004 Playoff Proposal
2003 Playoff Proposal
2002 Playoff Proposal
2001 Playoff Proposal
2000 Playoff Proposal