College Football Playoff: Who's In?

As details are being ironed out on what will soon be major college football's postseason, one issue that seems most pressing is who will be to participate in the presumed four team playoff. There are currently two primary schools of thought on the matter: One being the top for teams, and the second being conference champions only (choice 2b allows for some form of wild card to fill the fourth spot). Both proposals have merit: Those who back the top four teams need look no further than reigning champion Alabama, who didn't win the SEC West, much less the conference, and yet proved themselves college football's best team the only way we currently know how. Proponents of the conference champions model speak to the importance of winning one's conference, and point out that the sanctity of the regular season could be tainted if a playoff-assured team decided to rest its starters. Similarly, both viewpoints are supported by conferences' self interest. The top four proposal is backed by those who think they can double or even triple their access, while the champions model is supported by conferences seeking to limit overaccess, as well as those least likely to put a team in the top four.

My proposal is a potential compromise. Non-conference champions would have access to the playoff if and only if their conference was already represented by its champion. Let's take a look back at the 2011 season. Alabama would remain in the picture, as the SEC champion, LSU, also earned its way in. But the caveat from last year that far fewer folks mention is where Stanford and Oregon sat at year's end. In a top four model, Stanford, who ended the regular season at #4, would claim the fourth spot, while Oregon, who beat the Cardinal soundly at their place, won the Pac-12 North over Stanford, and ultimately took home the Pac-12 title, would have been left out. In my proposal, Oregon gets the nod over Stanford.

(Independents? Never fear. We're calling you a conference of one. Make your way into the top four and you're in for sure; if you sat between Stanford and Oregon in last year's model, you would've gotten the call up over the Ducks)

We know the conferences will be taking quite a few things to the mat in the next round of the-meetings-soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-BCS, and this one could save them a bit of time, by rewarding conference champions wile still allowing those who excel to be rewarded.