BCS Championship

BCS Era Reaches Its End, but What Would Playoff Committee Have Done?

CLEMSON, SC - AUGUST 31:  A view of the BCS National Championship Trophy during their game at Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Samuel ChiCollege Football Playoff GuruDecember 9, 2013

The Bowl Championship Series era unofficially ended Sunday night with the release of the final set of BCS standings. After 16 seasons, the much-maligned, unloved, yet surprisingly effective setup is giving way to the new College Football Playoff, set to debut next season.

The CFP is bound to be an improvement over the BCS, right? With a gang of 13 picking four teams to enter the playoff instead of a mishmash of polls and computer rankings deciding the top two teams, it must be less controversial, no?

It may very well be a case of "Be careful what you wish for."

For all its flaws, the BCS at least had a reasonable degree of transparency as its standings actually were fairly predictable. Having been the self-anointed Guru since 2006, I had gotten so good at projecting the standings, that I was rarely surprised by anything, especially in the top of the standings. 

But I have only a vague clue as to what the committee might do next season. In fact, the 2014 playoff field might be the most difficult to handicap as there will be no precedent in the history of the sport to serve as a marker.

That's why I campaigned and genuinely hoped that the committee members would release their top four for this season. That way, at least we'd have an idea about how they might behave next season and what criteria would be of more importance to them.

Since that's not forthcoming, I've decided to do the job for them. Here's what my playoff pairings would be if I were a committee member:

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Michigan State (to be played at Sugar Bowl)

No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Stanford (to be played at Rose Bowl)

Major Playoff Contenders At a Glance
TeamAPSagarinSoSTop 10Top 30BCS Opp.
Florida St.11630-01-010-0
Auburn26202-04-19-1
Stanford5343-06-19-2
Michigan St.47560-02-110-1
Baylor65600-02-18-1
Alabama32450-12-18-1
Sagarin Rankings (non-BCS version)

Now, of course, you'll hear howls from Tuscaloosa protesting the exclusion of two-time defending champion Alabama. But the truth is that Baylor was the team that's narrowly nudged out of the playoffs, not the Crimson Tide.

Not only did the Tide fail to win their conference and division (as was the case in 2011), but they also didn't play a particularly tough schedule, either.

Their best wins were over three-loss LSU and four-loss Texas A&M. And without even appearing in a conference championship game, Alabama played a scant nine games against BCS conference opponents and had two FCS level games (Chattanooga and Georgia State, a transitional FBS team that's ineligible to play in postseason in 2013).

Contrast that to Stanford, which despite its two losses, played 11 BCS conference opponents, had by far the toughest schedule of any playoff contenders and won what's considered by many the toughest conference this season. 

Michigan State narrowly edged Baylor because it faced two more BCS conference opponents and had to win its conference title game. Granted, it wasn't the Bears' fault that the Big 12 did not have a conference championship game, but it absolutely was their fault that they scheduled FCS Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe for their three non-conference cakewalk.

Had the CFP started this year, accusations of favoritism would've surely been pointed at committee members Condi Rice, Tyrone Willingham and Oliver Luck had Stanford been included in the four-team field. But the Cardinal's selection would've been easily justifiable.

College Playoff Committee Members
MemberDirect Ties
Barry AlvarezWisconsin, Big Ten
Michael GouldAir Force, MWC
Pat HadenUSC, Pac-12
Tom JernstedtNCAA
Jeff Long*Arkansas, SEC
Oliver LuckWest Virginia, Big 12
Archie ManningOle Miss, SEC
Tom OsborneNebraska, Big Ten
Dan RadokovichClemson, ACC
Condoleezza RiceStanford, Notre Dame, Pac-12
Mike TrangheseAmerican Athletic (Big East)
Steve Wieberg(None)
Tyrone WillinghamStanford, Washington, Notre Dame, Pac-12
* Committee Chairman

From what little information was given during the committee's introduction press conference in October, conference championships and strength of schedule were particularly mentioned as major criteria for determining the playoff participants. Going by that logic—plus other considerations—my proposed playoff field would've been an entirely plausible outcome.

But it would've been much more instructive if the hypothetical field had come from the committee. The lack thereof is a huge missed opportunity and only helps to sow the seeds of future controversies.

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