I had an interesting discussion with Bud Poliquin and Steve Infante, (filling in for Jim Lersch), on the best way to have a college football playoffs. Bud had been extolling the virtues of the regular season which he had claimed several times was like a single elimination tournament for the champions and he was concerned than an expanded playoff would reduce the regular season in value. I responded to this by noting that of the 44 teams that had gotten a chance to play for the national championship since the BCS began in 1998, 21 of them had losses and one had two losses. Eight of the one loss teams, (including Clemson last night) had won the title and the two loss team, (LSU in 2007), had as well. Obviously, the regular season was not a single elimination tournament. And it would be a bad thing if it was because, (assuming that contending for a national championship is the only thing that makes games meaningful, which is another discussion), then once you lost, the rest of you season would become meaningless to you, (see Louisville). If you can lose and still attain your goal of a national championship, your season continues to have meaning. The number of games that have a direct bearing on who gets into a two team playoff is less than for a four team playoff and would increase further with an 8 team playoff. In the pros where you might have 30 teams and 16 make the playoffs, the regular season becomes just a jockeying for positon for the best teams but when you have 128 teams in FBS, 2 vs. 4 vs. 8 or even 16 would be way below the tipping point to cause the regular season to lose meaning. My concern would be the teams that get left out. If they aren’t legitimate national championship contenders, I won’t worry about them but too many were being left out. Since the AP, (writer’s), poll began in 1936, there have been 88 teams recognized as national champion by the writers, the coaches, the BCS or the CFP. 57 of them had won all their games at the time they were recognized, (which in 30 seasons for the writers and 25 seasons for the coaches was the final poll of the regular season), had won all their games. (Six of those subsequently lost bowl games but were still considered national champions). Three had a won all their games except for a tie. 24 had one loss, (one of them subsequently lost a bowl game). Three had a loss and tie, (of course today those ties would have gone into overtime and would have become wins or losses). One team was recognized as national champion with two losses. Ignoring the ties, (which would not happen today), 87 of the 88 national champions won all their games or all their games but one. Obviously they played schedules strong enough to be considered national championship contenders. I think we’d call that a power conference schedule. From 1998-2016 there were 33 power conference teams who won all their games or all their games but one that were excluded from the 2 and 4 four team tournaments we’ve been running. The exclusion of obvious national championship contenders from a national championship tournament is a serious problem, (much moreso than worrying about the meaning of the regular season) because it impacts the integrity of the national championship playoff and thus of the championship itself. This produced a discussion of how to properly do a playoff that would not compromise the regular season, include too many teams that are not obvious contenders or involve too many games. The idea that emerged was this: an 8 team playoff with the champions of the five power conferences plus three at large teams, one of which would be the best of the non-power conference teams. I decided to look at what this would have looked like over the years since the BCS started in 1998. There were 6 BCS conferences then, including the big east. The American Conference retained the Big East BCS status in 2013 but that was dropped when the playoff began in 2014. I decided to count Notre Dame as a power conference level team so they would be competing for an at large spot, not the non-power conference spot. When there wasn’t a conference championship game and there was tie for the championship I gave the automatic bid to the team that got the BCS automatic bid. So here is what this plan might have looked like, with the teams listed by the order of their seeding: 1998 Tennessee 12-0 (SEC champion) Florida State 11-1 (ACC champion) Kansas State 11-1 (At large) Ohio State 10-1 (Big 10 champion) UCLA 10-1 (Pac 10 champion) Texas A&M 11-2 (Big 12 champion) Tulane 12-0 (Non-Power) Syracuse 8-3 (Big East) Comment: Arizona 11-1, who was ranked #7 by the BCS and Wisconsin 10-1, #9 would have been left out. We’d have gotten a rematch with the Vols, which would have been nice. I’ll bet we would have played better in that game than we did against Florida in the Orange Bowl. Today, we would have been an ACC also ran and Arizona would have gotten in but not Wisconsin. 1999 Florida State 11-0 (ACC) Virginia Tech 11-0 (BE) Nebraska 11-1 (B12) Alabama 10-2 (SEC) Tennessee 9-2 (AL) Wisconsin 9-2 (B10) Marshall 12-0 (ND) Stanford 8-3 (P10) Comment: Kansas State at 10-1 gets left out. Today Florida State and Virginia Tech would have played for the ACC tie. Considering their 46-29 title game, (which was closer than that), I suspect Tech would have beaten K-State out for the second at large spot. 2000 Oklahoma 12-0 (B12) Florida State 11-1 (ACC) Miami 10-1 (BE) Washington 10-1 (P10) Virginia Tech 10-1 (AL) Florida 9-2 (SEC) Purdue 8-3 (B10) Texas Christian 10-1 (NP) Comment: Oregon State, 10-1 was ranked 6. #2 Florida State and #3 Miami would have played for the ACC tile and I think the loser would still have beaten our Oregon State if the game was close. 2001 Miami 12-0 (BE) Nebraska 11-1 (AL) Colorado 10-2 (B12) Oregon 10-1 (P10) Illinois 10-1 (B10) Maryland 10-1 (ACC) Louisiana State 9-3 (SEC) Louisville 10-2 (NP) Comment: No “true contender”, (a power conference team undefeated or with one loss) was left out. 2002 Miami 12-0 (BE) Ohio State 13-0 (B10) Georgia 12-1 (SEC) So California 10-2 (AL) Washington St. 10-2 (P10) Oklahoma 11-2 (B12) Florida State 9-5 (ACC) Boise State 11-1 (NP) Comment: Iowa , 11-1 and ranked #5, would have been left out. Today they would not have been. 2003 Oklahoma 12-1 (AL) Louisiana State 12-1 (SEC) So California 11-1 (P10) Michigan 10-2 (B10) Florida State 11-3 (ACC) Miami 10-2 (BE) Kansas State 11-3 (B12) Miami (Ohio) 12-1 (NP) Comment: No true contenders were left out. 2004 So California 12-0 (P10) Oklahoma 12-0 (B12) Auburn 12-0 (SEC) Texas 11-1 (AL) Utah 11-0 (NP) Virginia Tech 10-2 (ACC) Michigan 9-2 (B10) Pittsburgh 8-3 (BE) Comment: This one is a real mess. California was 10-1 and ranked #5. Boise State was 11-0 and #9 and Louisville was 10-1 and #10. All would have been excluded. Today Cal would be in. 2005 So California 12-0 (P10) Texas 12-0 (B12) Penn State 10-1 (B10) Ohio State 9-2 (AL) Georgia 10-2 (SEC) West Virginia 10-1 (BE) Texas Christian 10-1 (NP) Florida State 8-4 (ACC) Comment: Oregon, 10-1 and ranked #5 would have been left out but today they would not. 2006 Ohio State 12-0 (B10) Florida 12-1 (SEC) Michigan 11-1 (AL) So California 10-2 (P10) Louisville 11-1 (BE) Boise State 12-0 (NP) Oklahoma 11-2 (B12) Wake Forest 11-2 (ACC) Comment: 10-1 Wisconsin, ranked #7, is left out. Today LSU, 10-2 and #4 would be in instead of them. 2007 Ohio State 11-1 (B10) Louisiana State 11-2 (SEC) Virginia Tech 11-2 (ACC) Oklahoma 11-2 (B12) Georgia 10-2 (AL) So California 10-2 (P10) West Virginia 11-2 (BE) Hawaii 12-0 (NP) Comment: Kansas 11-1 and ranked #8 was left out. Today Missouri 11-2 and #6 would ge tin instead of them. 2008 Oklahoma 12-1 (B12) Florida 12-1 (SEC) Texas 11-1 (AL) So California 11-1 (P10) Utah 12-0 (NP) Penn State 11-1 (B10) Cincinnati 11-2 (BE) Virginia Tech 9-4 (ACC) Comment: Alabama 11-1 ranked #4 is left out. Boise State was 12-0 and ranked #9 but Utah got the NP slot. Today Alabama would be in. 2009 Alabama 13-0 (SEC) Texas 13-0 (B12) Cincinnati 12-0 (BE) Texas Christian 12-0 (NP) Florida 12-1 (AL) Oregon 10-2 (P10) Ohio State 10-2 (B10) Georgia Tech 11-2 (ACC) Comment: Boise State was 13-0 and #6 but got beat out by TCU and Florida. Cincinnati was also ranked ahead of them at #3 and would have gotten the second at large spot. 2010 Auburn 13-0 (SEC) Oregon 12-0 (P10) Texas Christian 12-0 (NP) Stanford 11-1 (AL) Wisconsin 11-1 (B10) Oklahoma 11-2 (B12) Virginia Tech 11-2 (ACC) Connecticut 8-4 (BE) Comment: Ohio State 11-1 and ranked #6 was left out and was Michigan State, 11-1 #9 and Boise State 11-1 #10. Today the Buckeyes would be in. 2011 Louisiana State 13-0 (SEC) Alabama 11-1 (AL) Oklahoma State 11-1 (B12) Oregon 11-2 (P10) Boise State 11-1 (NP) Wisconsin 11-2 (B10) Clemson 10-3 (ACC) West Virginia 9-3 (BE) Comment: Stanford, 11-1 #4 was left out. Today they’d be in. 2012 Notre Dame 12-0 (AL) Alabama 12-1 (SEC) Kansas State 11-1 (B12) Stanford 11-2 (P10) Florida State 11-2 (ACC) No Illinois 12-1 (NP) Louisville 10-2 (BE) Wisconsin 8-5 (B10) Comments: Florida 11-1 ranked #3 and Oregon, 11-1 and ranked #4 was left out. Today Flroida would be in. 2013 Florida State 13-0 (ACC) Auburn 12-1 (SEC) Alabama 11-1 (AL) Michigan State 12-1 (B10) Stanford 11-2 (P10) Baylor 11-1 (B12) Central Florida 11-1 (AAC) Fresno State 11-1 (NP) Comment: Ohio State, 11-1 and ranked #7, would be out. Today they would be in. UCLA was 11-1 and ranked #17. Louisville had the same record and was ranked #18. 2014 Alabama 12-1 (SEC) Oregon 12-1 (P10) Florida State 13-0 (ACC) Ohio State 12-1 (B10) Baylor 11-1 (B12) Texas Christian 11-1 (AL) Mississippi St. 10-2 (AL) Boise State 11-2 (NP) Comment: No true contenders would be excluded. 2015 Clemson 13-0 (ACC) Alabama 12-1 (SEC) Michigan State 12-1 (B10) Oklahoma 11-1 (B12) Iowa 12-1 ((AL) Stanford 11-2 (P10) Ohio State 11-1 (AL) Houston 12-1 (NP) Comment: Notre Dame 10-1and ranked #8 would have been left out. 2016 Alabama 13-0 (SEC) Clemson 12-1 (ACC) Ohio State 11-1 (AL) Washington 12-1 (P12) Penn State 11-2 (B10) Michigan 10-2 (AL) Oklahoma 10-2 (B12) W Michigan 13-0 (NP) Comment: No true contenders would have been left out. It’s not perfect. There are still 10 power conference teams with one also that would have been left out over the years. But that’s better than 33 such teams being left out and the undefeated 2004 Auburn SEC champions would have gotten a shot at the title. And there would have been a lot of great games that didn’t happen, (or, if they did, they led to a championship).