College Football Playoff Part Four: The Playoff

In part three of the CCCFPP I laid out how the regular season would go and how the bracket and participants would be determined. Now we come to the part that everybody is waiting for, the actual playoff. When do the games get played? Where are they played? What about everybody else? All of those questions are answered after the jump.

The Playoff Schedule

The playoff schedule is where things start to get creative. There have been many ideas out there as to how and where the playoff games would be played, and while there is no one perfect way I personally like a system where the later games are played at bowl sites and the first round games are played on campus. In the CCCFPP the first round of the playoffs occurs the Saturday after the conference championship games. In 2008 this would be December 6, or the weekend that the conference championship games were played. Due to the close proximity in time to the announcement of the playoff field it wouldn’t be feasible for all 8 first round games to be played at neutral sites, plus it gives an extra reward to the conference champions and two highest “wild card” teams. It essentially is treated like an extra home game for the higher seeds, much like the playoff games at every level below 1-A. The second round of the playoffs takes place two Saturdays after Thanksgiving, or the direct week after the first round. Here is where the games begin to move to neutral sites and the bowl sites are brought into play.

Once we are down to 8 teams there are only 7 more games left to play, and we need to come up with 7 sites in which to play the biggest and most important games of the year. Four of those sites are easy to come by and are already primed to handle this magnitude of game; I’m talking about the four sites of the BCS games. Those four sites, already hosting the most prestigious bowls in the current system, would also host the most prestigious games and the semifinal and final games would be at three of those four sites every single year on a rotating basis. The four BCS sites are also spread pretty nicely across the country, something that is important to maintain. The final three sites would come from the Cotton Bowl (Dallas), Holiday Bowl (San Diego), and either the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta) or Capital One Bowl (Orlando). Either eastern game would be able to handle a second round game equally well and still maintain the nice geographic spread. For argument’s sake we’ll assume the Capital One Bowl joins the three site rotation for second round games.

Getting ahead of ourselves here, since we’ve only gotten as far as the second round of games, now is when it should be addressed as to which bowl sites host which game. As I said before, the four sites that host current BCS bowls (Miami, New Orleans, Glendale, and Pasedena) would host the final (1) and semifinal (2) games with the fourth hosting a second round game of their choice. The site that hosts the final the year before is relegated to the second round game the next year on a Miami-Pasadena-New Orleans-Glendale basis. This assures that the semifinals feature a game on each side of the country making it, ideally, as easy as possible for fans of all four teams to try and get to a game. For the purposes of the second round, the one of these four sites that is relegated to this round chooses on Selection Day which second round matchup it wants. For example, if Glendale had the second round game in 2008 they might want to choose the winner of USC/Oklahoma State and Boise/Virginia Tech anticipating the Trojans to beat Oklahoma State and potentially Boise upsetting the Hokies. Or they could opt for the potential powerhouse second round matchup of Oklahoma/Alabama, despite the Tide being 1/2 of a continent away. Regardless, the site has to do a bit of guessing but it is important that the matchup is set on Selection day so that fans and teams can make preliminary travel arrangements. The whole idea here is to avoid a large number of people making plans 7 days out.

The other three sites (Orlando, Dallas, and San Diego) then choose their prospective matchups in a rotating order. Orlando, picking after Glendale, would jump on a potential Oklahoma/Alabama matchup in a second if Glendale passed it up, otherwise they would probably pick Cincinnati/Ohio State and TCU/Penn State, again due to proximity. The idea with spreading out the sites is that it is a lot easier for a fanbase to travel a few hundred miles than it is thousands of miles. Dallas, picking third of the second round matchups would likely pick Texas/Texas Tech and Florida/Georgia Tech and San Diego would be left with the last set of four teams.

After the second round of games is played there would be a break. Most universities in their academic schedule have two weeks of class after Thanksgiving followed by finals week. In this plan playing games on, using 2008 dates, December 6 and 13, allows the players to play their games and take their finals without having to worry about a game on December 20. Keeping some semblance of academic integrity is very important and by taking off some time after the second round of games the CCCFPP preserves that.

The semifinals in the playoff would take place on New Year’s Day. January 1 used to be a sacred holiday in the college football world but television dollars have moved most of those games to other days leaving New Year’s Day a watered down day of football featuring a hodgepodge of teams that fall far short of living up to the splendor that NYD used to hold. Putting the national semifinals on New Year’s Day would help to restore this day to the glory it deserves. The locations would be determined on the Sunday after the second round of games, with the site moving up from the second round having the first choice of matchups. Where Glendale has the choice of second round games the sites of the Rose (Pasadena) and Sugar (New Orleans) would host the semifinals, the Sugar having the first choice.

From there the national championship game is played on January 8, one week after the semifinals, at the predetermined site. In the hypothetical scenario being played so far this game would be played in Miami, site of the current Orange Bowl. The season is one game shorter in the regular season, but ends at roughly the same time the current season does.

Other Bowls

While the structure and implementation of the playoff seem all fine and dandy, one might wonder what happens to all of the other bowls and the teams who play in them. After all, one of the biggest benefits to playing in a bowl is the extra month of practice and one last game for the seniors of dozens of teams who have no realistic chance at a national title. Just because I am a proponent of a playoff does not mean that I think the bowl system should be abolished. Nay, I think the bowls should go on as they always have – and hopefully always will. Rather they serve as filler and are played in conjunction with the playoff. And the beauty of using the sites for the playoff that usually host the most prestigious bowls is that most teams involved in the playoff would be playing in those bowls regardless. Consider that of the 16 teams in the hypothetical 2008 playoff, 13 of those teams will be playing at those sites regardless. Only Georgia Tech (Chic-fil-A), Boise (Poinsettia), and TCU (Poinsettia again) would be taken from their current bowl locale for the sake of this playoff.

This means that every single one of the other bowls could proceed exactly as scheduled and, in almost every single case, even have the exact same matchup that they have in a non-playoff scenario. Contrary to what many playoff antagonists will tell you, a playoff does not kill the bowl system as we know it. In fact, I ran across the other day an excellent idea that could even help to improve the bowl system. For the teams who lose in the first or second round of the playoff, they could still play in a bowl. Push the bowl announcements back to the Sunday after the second round (December 14 in a 2008 calendar) and you have another 12 teams available for the bowls to select from that otherwise would not be available to bowls of this caliber. The number of “bowls” is cut down from 34 to 27, but the number of available teams is only cut by 4. This means that the overall quality of team playing in bowls goes up and some of the bowls that are in financial trouble can bring in marquee names that they otherwise would have had no shot at. Imagine the Gator bowl this year featuring Texas Tech and Utah instead of Clemson and Nebraska. A playoff could actually serve to save the bowl system, especially if we still cut a few bowls out to save ourselves from NC State/Rutgers matchups (sorry Wolfpack and Knight fans, but it’s hard to get fired up over that matchup). Bowl games wouldn’t even have to move days since the only real conflicting day is January 1, and on January 1 there are only two semifinal games in the playoff. This allows for bowl games to take place earlier in the day and for the two semifinal games to kick off at, say, 4:00 and 7:30 eastern with no bowl starting after 1:00 eastern.

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