The college football world is like a high school prom: no one wants to be that person who is going solo and watching all the other happy couples dance away while they sit next to the other outcasts and drink punch.
Only difference is that in the college world, no university wants to be the team who doesn’t find their way into a major conference and not getting a share of the big bucks that would come along with their new dates (i.e super-conferences).
Two things that have become clear: football programs are the driving force behind all of the realignment and schools are picking money and opportunity over tradition and rivalries (see Texas A&M, Nebraska, TCU, etc.).
Now I’m not here to argue whether its good for the collegiate sports landscape to see its teams keep playing musical chairs and leave their conferences to bigger and better opportunities.
I’m also not here to say where teams should go and who should get left out when the dominoes are done falling.
I’m here to offer a new way to look at the situation if we do see a rise of four super-conferences: scrap the busted and frustrating Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and let’s finally see a playoff format in college football.
The BCS always finds a way to give fans and certain teams a headache each year when one if not more teams get left behind because a computer tells them they aren’t as qualified as the traditional powerhouses. The cry for a playoff system has never been louder and the opportunity has never presented it self at a better junction.
If the shakeup continues and the smoke clears, general consensus is that we would see four major conferences left (Pac-12, Big-10, SEC, and ACC) and we’d see the demise of the Big-12 and Big East conferences as those leagues see more and more of their teams picked at by the other four schoolyard bullies. We would also see perennial contenders from weaker conferences try and move up and find a spot at the table, much like Utah and TCU leaving the Mountain West and head for the Pac-12 and Big East, respectively. Teams like Boise State, BYU, and even football independent Notre Dame would be faced with the scenario of joining the party and realign or getting left behind by their lonesome.
Based on these assumptions of four super-conferences of 16 teams apiece, here are two playoff formats that could be viable and offer college football fans what they have been salivating for over the past decade.
16-team playoff format
This would be based off the Sweet 16 in college basketball. However, instead of regions we would see conferences get their top four teams battle it out. The top seed would play the fourth and second would play the third with the top seeds getting home field advantage. The winner of this bracket would catapult into the national semifinals and be crowned the conference champion in the process.
The semifinals would feature two games featuring all four-conference winners and could be played at neutral sites where the major bowl games are played currently (New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, Pasadena). From there, last team standing would be crowned national champion and would have truly earned it having to win four games against other top teams in the country.
12-team playoff format
Much like the NFL Playoff format in which the top teams get a bye into the second round. Only difference here is that the top regular season team in each conference would get the automatic bye through to the second round. The remaining teams would be placed based on their rankings in the national polls rather than their conference rank and be seeded accordingly.
The main difference in this format would be the rankings. Rather than each conference sending their top four teams, only the top regular season team from each conference gets a bye into second round. This way, more than four teams from a conference can play their way into playoffs if they are ranked within the top 12 of the nation.
Again, the top seed would have the home-field advantage until the semifinals begin. This scenario, like the 16-team format, could feature neutral sites still come into play and would also truly crown the best team after the victor made their way through a number of other strong programs en route to the title.
Of course this is all based on the assumption that we could see the four super-conferences come when all the smoke clears on the new realignment trend sweeping the nation.
If the super-conferences do become a reality, look at it as a positive and embrace it as a new beginning to college football instead of the apocalypse so many are fearing.
The birth to a playoff system and the long awaited death to the BCS.