Updating my college bracket playoff idea for 2013: an explanation
16 teams earn spots in the bracket through these steps:
(1) Champions of the six major conferences earn first-round home games and are placed on the bracket where one win would place them in their conference’s affiliated major bowl. The AAC doesn’t have a major bowl affiliation, so its champion is placed during the next step.
(2) The final ten spots go to the ten remaining teams ranked highest in the computer rankings; removing the human polls eliminates any possible bias. (As is done in the current BCS rankings, six computer rankings are used, but each team’s highest and lowest ranking are removed from the formula.) Only three teams per conference can get in the playoff. The two highest remaining teams get home games; in this case, it’s #3 Alabama and #6 Missouri. They, along with the AAC champion (UCF), are placed to balance the expected semifinal opponents. Since #15 UCF is the lowest-seeded of those eight, it goes on #1 Florida State’s quadrant of the bracket, while #6 Missouri goes in #2 Auburn’s quadrant and #3 Alabama goes in #9 Baylor’s quadrant - the rankings are reversely correlated. The other eight teams (“road teams,” as their first-round games will be away games) also balance the bracket by reversely correlating the seeds: the highest-seed road team (#7 Ohio State) plays the lowest-seed home team (#15 UCF), and so on.
(3) The four quadrants are placed so that the best teams meet as late as possible (in this case, Florida State and Auburn wouldn’t meet until the championship game) and so the #1 team has the lowest-ranked semifinal opponent should the higher seed win each game (#1 Florida State would face #4 Stanford, while #2 Auburn would face #3 Alabama).
The semifinal locations are rotated among other lower bowl games to create a matchup in line with a current lower bowl’s conference affiliations should the higher seed win each game. On the left side, Florida State (ACC) and Stanford (Pac-12) could play in what is currently the Sun Bowl in El Paso. On the right side of the bracket, since both Auburn and Alabama are SEC schools, I replaced Alabama with the next-best non-SEC seed, Baylor, who could play Auburn in what is currently the Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington.
The championship game continues to be rotated among the four major bowls as currently done.
The first-round games would be two weeks after the conference championship games. The quarterfinal games would be roughly two weeks after that, at or around New Year’s Day. The semifinal games would be the nearest Saturday at least one week after New Year’s Day. The championship game would be the Thursday after the semifinals.
This not only preserves the 98-year tradition of bowl games, but enhances the incentives to win those bowl games. It lets the major conferences keep some of the advantages they demand. If any mid-majors finish the season with a high enough ranking, they would finally have an actual opportunity to reach the championship game. It ensures a home game to the winner of each major conference, preserving the appeal of winning a conference title and keeping the regular season competitive.
So these would be the first-round games we’d hypothetically be seeing on Saturday, December 21:
#20 Wisconsin at #1 Florida State
#7 Ohio State at #15 UCF
#13 Clemson at #4 Stanford
#12 Oklahoma at #5 Michigan State
#19 Northern Illinois at #2 Auburn
#11 Arizona State at #6 Missouri
#10 Oregon at #9 Baylor
#14 Oklahoma State at #3 Alabama
You can’t tell me those games don’t look delicious. Plus, it eliminates the frustrating fight over who deserves a BCS bowl bid. Mad that, for example, Oregon somehow lost out on a BCS bid? Problem solved! Now they all have a chance.
Questions? Comments? Let me hear ‘em.