Another exciting, up-and-down regular season of college football is behind us and we now embark upon the season of waiting in college football.
After a season where so many games meant so much, we will now entertain ourselves with over 20 meaningless bowl games over the course of the next several weeks, before No. 1 Florida State (13-0) and No. 2 Auburn (12-1) will square off against each other in Pasadena in this year’s BCS National Championship game.
Between now and then, several individuals across the nation: fans, coaches, players, will be left with the thought and fantasy of something they’ve all been waiting a very long time for: a college football playoff.
It is well known that next year the BCS is expanding to four-team playoff.
But why has it taken over 100 years for college football to finally institute a playoff?
Except it hasn’t.
In 1978, college football split into two subdivisions into what now has become the FBS and the FCS. In that year after the split, much like the FBS is going to do in its first year of playoffs, the FCS hosted a four-team postseason.
Regardless, they’ve beaten the FBS in the regard of getting to a playoff by 34 years. Since then, the FCS playoffs have expanded to a 20 team playoff, with each conference champion receiving an automatic bid, and the rest of the spots filled with at large bids. And in the next couple of years, they will be expanding that to 24 teams.
And the FBS is just NOW getting a playoff?
In addition to the FCS’s playoff format, Division II Football is already at a 24-team playoff, while Division III has a remarkable 32 teams that make the postseason.
And few team have had as much success with the college football playoff format as much as Division III powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater has had.
For seven straight years, Wisconsin-Whitewater advanced to the Division III National Championship game and played the same opponent every year, Mount Union.
And the man who has led the Warhawks to a large part of those championship games is none other than head coach Lance Leipold.
Leipold has been the head coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater since 2007, and in his seven years at the helm, has led his team to five National Championship games, winning four of them, and an 82-6 overall record, including a stretch of 46 straight victories from 2009-2012.
And while Leipold has achieved a lot of success in this playoff format (he once again has his team in the semifinals this year), he acknowledges that there can be problems with this type of playoff format, ranging from a lengthy season all the way to pricey travel expenses.
“In this kind of playoff system, as you continue to win, it can get expensive for fans and families to continue to travel to see their teams play when you only have a week’s notice to plan,” Leipold said, bringing up the point that he likes what the FCS does with its playoff, by playing up to the championship game and then taking a break. “Parents want to see their sons play their last few football games but it just becomes too expensive.”
In addition to this problem, Leipold brings up the point that there will always be a pressure to expand the tournament and add more teams.
“Back when I was playing in the ’80s, it was a 16-team playoff and today it’s been expanded to 32 teams,” Leipold said. “There’s always going to be a 17th best team or a 33rd best team.”
Nevertheless, despite all the potential snags in the system, it’s certainly worked for Division III and Leipold believes something of the sort can work in Division I as well.
“It can work,” Leipold said. “It’s a matter if they want it to work.”
What if the FBS followed suit? What if a four-round, 16-team playoff was instituted where every one of the 10 conference champions got an automatic bid and the remaining six spots were filled in with the top six ranked at-large teams? Comparable with college basketball’s March Madness, the result would be a month long of absolute college football paradise.
For now, we’re only left to imagine this. Someday it may happen, but until then, imagine no more. Here is what this 16-team playoff would like if it were instituted this year:
1. Florida State (13-0)
16. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
8. Missouri (11-2)
9. South Carolina (10-2)
5. Stanford (11-2)
12. UCF (11-1)
4. Michigan State (12-1)
13. Fresno State (11-1)
6. Baylor (11-1)
11. Oklahoma (10-2)
3. Alabama (11-1)
14. Bowling Green (10-3)
7. Ohio State (12-1)
10. Oregon (10-2)
2. Auburn (12-1)
15. Rice (10-3)
Other things to think about/take note of….
- First round is home field advantage.
- Each “Elite Eight” game is held at one of 5 rotating locations (Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, Cotton Bowl locations), with the one location not holding an “Elite Eight” game, holding the Final Four and National Championship games.
- This year, the 1st round games would take place Dec. 14, 2nd round games on Dec. 21. Then take a two week break, Final Four on Jan. 4 and National Championship on Jan. 11.
- An Eight team “NIT” tournament is held with the next 8 highest ranked teams being a part of this.
…And just for fun, here’s what this playoff would have looked like after the 2012 season:
1. Notre Dame (12-0)
16. Tulsa (10-3)
8. LSU (10-2)
9. Florida State (11-2)
5. Kansas State (11-1)
12. Louisville (10-2)
4. Oregon (11-1)
13. Utah State (10-2)
6. Stanford (11-2)
11. Boise State (10-2)
3. Florida (11-1)
14. Wisconsin (8-5)
7. Georgia (11-2)
10. Northern Illinois (12-1)
2. Alabama (12-1)
15. Arkansas State (9-3)