Considering the BCS committee revealed a three semifinal, Rose Bowl-preferred plan covered in Jim Delany’s fingerprints last month, it should come as a shock to no one that the Big Ten commissioner once again has an idea that takes simplicity and chucks it as hard as possible across the football field.
Now that a four-team playoff has been recommended, what immediately follows are the logistics — you know, the who, what, when, where, how and why.
Speaking today to multiple reporters, Delany laid out selection criteria for a four-team playoff that, despite its relative complexity, is at least intriguing.
The proposal works as follows: if any conference champion — remember, there are no more AQ and non-AQ conferences beginning in 2014 — finished among the top six in the rankings, it would automatically be admitted to the four team playoff.
So, at its simplest, if four conference champs finished in the top six of the final regular season rankings, that would be your four-team playoff.
However, if there were less than four conference champs in the top six at the end of the season, any remaining spots would be filled by the highest ranked teams, including independents. If Delany’s model was used last season, the final four would have looked like this:
No. 1 LSU(SEC champ) vs. No. 5 Oregon (Pac-12 champ), and No. 2 Alabama (at-large) vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ).
That seems pretty legit on paper. But, as usual, there are issues. Say Notre Dame finishes the season ranked No. 1 — yes, go ahead and scoff, we’ll wait — ahead of four conference champions who just so happen to finish in the top six of the rankings. What then?
Is that scenario unlikely? Yes, very. But is it possible? Also yes, and therefore must be considered. The BCS committee could add additional criteria like, say, strength of schedule, but at that point it’s probably worth expanding the playoff pool.
As I noted yesterday, the four-team playoff idea is being accepted as an already-flawed system because the flaws are, at the very least, marginally less gross than those of the status quo. But the margin for error in the selection process is also only marginally bigger than the status quo as well.
A mixture of conference champs and at-large participants is a good selection combination, and in that regard, Delany’s idea is sound. It’s just a wee bit complicated for a four-team playoff. In other words, when it comes to the selection process, look for either all conference champs, or a selection of the four best teams regardless of whether they won their conference or not.
If South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier ever gets his wish and college football goes to an eight-team playoff, though, it would be prudent to use some variation of Delany’s idea.