Would a four-team playoff solve BCS problems?


We had a very lively discussion yesterday about the BCS and the possibility of going to a four-team or eight-team playoff when the current contract expires after the 2013 regular season. It made me think of some research that I did about a year ago, showing that a four-team playoff would have addressed many of the major controversies that have plagued the BCS since its inception in 1998.

I’ve updated some stuff, but here are what the national championship semifinals would have been for the past 11 years using the BCS formula.

Here is your homework assignment for today. Based on these semifinals, which team would have emerged as the national champion? And which semifinals do you really like?

Example: In 2008 Florida and Alabama, who played one of the best SEC championship games ever, could have won their semifinals and met again for the BCS title. Does Florida win the rematch?

Just look over this list and give me your winners or any thoughts you have about the semifinals and potential championship games.

Here is one thing to keep in mind. A four-team playoff would address a lot of problems, but not all of them. Look at Georgia n 2007. The Bulldogs would have gotten squeezed out of a four-team playoff despite being ranked No. 4 on Championship Saturday. Now how controversial would that have been?




No. 1 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 4 Alabama (12-1)

No. 2 Florida (12-1) vs. No. 3 Texas (11-1)

Note: A four-team playoff this season would have still left a bunch of teams mad. No. 5 Southern Cal (11-1), whose only loss was on a Thursday night at Oregon State (27-21), believed it was the best team in the country.  No. 6 Utah (12-0) and No. 7 Texas Tech (11-1), who beat Texas, could also make a claim. I believe that if the voters in the polls had been picking four teams instead of two, they would have voted Southern Cal ahead of Alabama in the final BCS Standings because the Crimson Tide was coming off a loss. I’m not saying I agree with that, but that is what I believe the voters would have done.



No. 1 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (11-2)

No. 2 LSU (11-2) vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech (11-2)

Note: Georgia and its fans would have been fuming. The Bulldogs (10-2) were No. 4 on Championship Saturday but were leapfrogged by conference championship game winners LSU, Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma in the final standings and would have gotten squeezed out of the playoff.



No. 1 Ohio State (12-0) vs. No. 4 LSU (10-2)

No. 2 Florida (12-1) vs. No. 3 Michigan (11-1)

Note:  Here is where a four-team playoff addresses a couple of problems. After losing a close game to Ohio State (42-39), Michigan thought it deserved a rematch with the Buckeyes in the BCS championship game. Florida jumped over the idle Wolverines by winning the SEC title. Michigan would have gotten its shot if it could beat Florida in the semifinals.



No. 1 Southern Cal (12-0) vs. No. 2 Ohio State (9-2)

No. 2 Texas (12-0) vs. No. 3 Penn State (10-1)

Note:  College football fans might have gotten mad if either Southern Cal or Texas had been upset in the semifinals. They were clearly the best two teams in the country this season and played the best BCS championship game ever (at 41-38 win by Texas in the Rose Bowl.)



No. 1 USC (12-0) vs. No. 4 Texas (10-1)

No. 2 Oklahoma (12-0) vs. No. 3 Auburn (12-0)

 Note: Urban Meyer’s undefeated Utah (11-0) team, ranked 6th, probably felt like it deserved a shot. Here a four-team playoff would have addressed one of the biggest controversies of the BCS era: An undefeated SEC championship team from Auburn that got left out.



No. 1 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 4 Michigan (10-2)

No. 2 LSU (12-1) vs. No. 3 Southern Cal (11-1)

Note: The four-team playoff would have addressed another major BCS controversy. Southern Cal finished No. 1 in both human polls but finished No. 3 in the final BCS standings. This year made the BCS adjust its formula to give more weight to the human polls.



No. 1 Miami (12-0) vs. No. 4 Southern Cal (10-2)

No. 2 Ohio State (12-0) vs. No. 3 Georgia (12-1)

Note:  A four-team playoff would have given a shot to Georgia, whose only loss was to Florida. It would have also given a shot to Southern Cal and Carson Palmer, the Heisman Trophy winner.



No. 1 Miami (12-0) vs. No. 4 Oregon (10-1)

No. 2 Nebraska (11-1) vs. No. 3 Colorado (10-2)

Note: This is a year when the four-team playoff could have saved the BCS a lot of embarrassment. Oregon, the Pac-10 champ, was ranked No. 2 in the human polls but No. 4 in the final BCS standings. Nebraska, which lost its last regular season game to Colorado (62-36) finished No. 2 in the standings and got destroyed by Miami in the BCS championship game in the Rose Bowl.



No. 1 Oklahoma (12-0) vs. No. 4 Washington (10-1)

No. 2 Florida State (11-1) vs. No. 3 Miami (10-1)

Note: Miami was ranked No. 2 in the final human polls and had beaten Florida State (27-24) during the regular season. But when the numbers were crunched, Florida State edged out Miami for the No. 2 spot against Oklahoma in the BCS championship game. A rematch between the Miami and Florida State in the semifinals would have been must-see TV.



No. 1 Florida State (11-0) vs. No. 4 Alabama (10-2)

No. 2 Virginia Tech (11-0) vs. No. 3 Nebraska (11-1)

Note: Nebraska’s only loss during the season was to Texas (24-20 in Austin) and the Cornhuskers later avenged that loss by beating the Longhorns in the Big 12 championship game (22-6). Nebraska might have given Michael Vick and company a pretty good game in the semifinals. It would have been interesting to see how Alabama, the SEC champ, would have fared against Chris Weinke and Florida State.



No. 1 Tennessee (12-0) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (10-1)

No. 2 Florida State (10-1) vs. No. 3 Kansas State (11-1)

Note: Four team playoff would have given another life to Kansas State, which lost to Texas A&M (36-33, double overtime) in the Big 12 championship game and got knocked out of the BCS title game. I don’t think any of these teams were going to beat Tennessee that season



147 comments Add your comment


April 23rd, 2009
12:46 pm


You’re as cynical as you are correct.

Gen Neyland

April 23rd, 2009
12:46 pm

Theory had it Alice didn’t fall down the rabbit hole. She was pushed. A conspiracy investigation ensued and bore out the facts it was all because of the Wonderland Cartel…That being said, remove the human factor. Use a Sagarin type system that puts into play everything but emotion and regional favoritism. No curve to the system. Schedule up, win, get in. Of course, playing in a conference of strength helps greatly…Other than that, go ask Alice ’cause it remains nothing but a pipe dream to date…


April 23rd, 2009
12:47 pm

Utah Utes National Champs

April 23rd, 2009
12:54 pm

Rubes are funny. So we’re going to have a final 4 without the most deserving team in the country? You probably all believe the South won the civil war. It is a shame Utah didn’t get a crack at Florida. What would the excuses be then — anyone can get lucky twice?? They beat 4 top 25 teams, and 2 top 10 teams. You all need to learn about sports.


April 23rd, 2009
12:58 pm

First you have to make the Big 10 and Pac 10 play a conference championship game. If they want to do their little meaningless Rose Bowl, so be it and everyone else can participate in the 4 team playoff to determine the real champion.


April 23rd, 2009
1:06 pm

Dorsey, How do you get to be that No.1 or No.2. You win your conf by convincing margins as UF did or you win notable games OOC. UF dominated the SEC under Spurrier and is doing a good job of it with Urban.

Big Dawg

April 23rd, 2009
1:07 pm

Good Article three days in a row Tony,

Everybody has an opinion, it seems funny to me that almost every year since the inception (1869) of Big Time College Football there has been controvesy as to who was the true legitamate National Champion. Some say leave it alone because they like the contoversy others say a 4 team playoff, including you Tony, while others advocate either an 8, 16 or more playoff. IMHO an 8 team playoff would have eliminated the controversy in all the years of the BCS since 1998. As to prior to 1998 it also would have left no doubt as well. Looking back since 1998 as Tony has suggested I think the following would have happened under a 4 team playoff: Of course IMHO under an 8 team playoff GA would have played in at least 2 NC games and I believe they would have won it in 2007 but that is only my opinion.

1998 – Tennessee vs. FSU with Tenn winning
1999 – FSU vs Nebraska with FSU winning
2000 – Miami vs. Oklahoma with OK winning
2001 – Miami vs Colorado with Miami winning
2002 – Georgia vs Miami with Miami winning
2003 – LSU vs Oklahoma with LSU winning
2004 – USC vs. Auburn with USC winning
2005 – USC vs. Texas with Texas winning
2006 – Fl vs OSU with Fl winning
2007 – LSU vs. OK with LSU winning
2008 – Fl vs. Texas with Fl winning


April 23rd, 2009
1:11 pm

Tide and Murfdawg are dead on. You can not create any closer to perfection for creating year round media attention than what is in place.


April 23rd, 2009
1:16 pm

2008 UF rolls Texas by 3 TDs. Bama with OL banged up falls to OU 49-10. OU and UF matchup with same results as last year.

Kenny Powers

April 23rd, 2009
1:17 pm

Utah Utes = powerderpuff schedule…Get a crack at Florida? that is a big deal to you because you play inferior talent all year and still need to prove it to yourself that you can beat winners in STRONG conferences.

One shot at big time teams do not validate you being at the table; big time teams have big ugly players that beat the crap out of you all season and you acquire injuries because of it.

What would Utah do if they had 18 season ending injuries in one year? Probably still would play Alabama because of your weak conference, but the result would be much different.

Not talking crap about your talent….It’s just that the Utah’s, Boise States’s, and especially Hawaii’s do not play enough talent during the season…Flordia State did that crap in the early 90’s because the played teams like:

Oh, and tech sucks.

the real Old Gold

April 23rd, 2009
1:21 pm

I love a 4 team playoff, as long as they don’t try to ruin the big 4 bowls using them to play the games.


April 23rd, 2009
1:34 pm

I just don’t want college football ruined and I know if we went to a playoff the little named schools will not have much of a chance just like in college basketball.Even had Utah played in the NC game Florida would’ve beat them.And why have a NC game with Florida vs Utah when there schedule was weaker than Oklahoma’s,USC’s and Texas’s)? Why not Florida vs USC or Texas? It would draw a much bigger audience and would be much more interesting. But this does not mean I don’t think the BCS could not be tweaked to make it a better system.Like they could put more emphasis on the strength of schedule which would force teams to schedule tougher opponents or something like this.


April 23rd, 2009
1:35 pm


An SEC team with 3 losses (OOC or otherwise) defeats an undefeated SEC team in the CCG. Does that mean that the 3 loss team (could be ranked 10 or lower) automatically gets into playoff just because they lucked up and one the SECCG?

There is no perfect solution.

By the way…m you suck.


April 23rd, 2009
1:37 pm

ALABAMA? You mean the same Alabama that got plastered by Utah in the Sugar Bowl?

SEC is overrated and plays a pansy OOC schedule every year. Just check out Bama’s murder’s row of Texas State, FIU and UTC…. Bama fans must be so proud! At least they don’t have to get pounded by Utah again or beaten again by Louisana Monroe

Tails from The Swamp

April 23rd, 2009
1:42 pm

THANK YOU ALL…for continuing to make my case stronger and stronger(please see earlier posts).

Barack Obama

April 23rd, 2009
1:50 pm

Well, in only a couple of hours now, I’ll have the honor of meeting and recognizing the “mythical” college football champs, Urban Meyer and the Mighty Florida Gators! I’ve got the East Room all decorated in brilliant orange and blue (none of that faded Tennessee orange in here) and I’ve been practicing the Go Gator! all night. Michele’s even wearing her new bikini from J. Crew just in case anyone requests the gatorvictory pole dance!! In the meantime, I’m gonna be doing the Go Gator!…It’s sweeping the Nation! Anybody seen my little dog…?


April 23rd, 2009
1:52 pm

Who did Utah beat before they played Alabama? TCU by 3… Whoop te do!


April 23rd, 2009
1:58 pm

…you mean that little Portugese “water” dog?? chomp chomp…no,haven’t seen him…


April 23rd, 2009
2:00 pm

why don’t we just post the entire list of winners of the MNC in the history of the NCAA and everyone can play “what if” until August…that would serve about as much purpose as the current discussion.

all this is like listening to Cubs fans talk about how they have always been so close to winning the world series……..

Dixie Dog

April 23rd, 2009
2:05 pm


You’ve got this all wrong. The correct way to come the closest to getting this is to leave the Bowl system as is and after the Bowls take the highest ranked four teams. Keeps the Bowl system, still retains their value and gives a playoff and true or truer National Champion. Come on, don’t make this harder than it should be or we’ll put you on the NCAA payroll.

Voice of Reason

April 23rd, 2009
2:27 pm

JJ- please name a team that plays a better OOC schedule than UGA. Thanks!


April 23rd, 2009
2:28 pm

If folks want football with playoffs, it’s already there. They can watch every Sunday afternoon and Monday night. The college game is different from the pro game. I’d like to keep it that way.


April 23rd, 2009
2:34 pm

Basketball has been an eyeopener to me. If it was this easy why can’t I ever even get the final four brackets right. This year was the best at keeping the seeding but that is because the teams play each in intersection games so much that it becomes easier to figure out. A team like Davidson that is isolated in the Southern Conference sneaks up on us and I imagine Charleston was more desiring this year to go to the NCAA that a lot of “big conference” teams. Football has a lot of that isolation and a lot of it is done on purpose. We assume too much and we seem to ignore the new era of football with parity to please a large following of fans built up in the open era when ex cons and bums were allowed to join teams by the dozens with no limit or qualifications nor an early pro draft taking the cream. A team like South Florida can come from nowhere in no time because of parity and low entry requirements. The problem is Central Florida may be doing the same thing and the two meet each other with 12 thousand in the stands and no one recognizes they are watching real football. Watch TCU it is happen there right now. . Reconizing what you are seeing is an art few of us have yet most of us think we do. Bobby Dodd had it, he could figure out who he wanted to play and who could beat him, he also could figure out talent and knew in recruiting what he was looking for. If the polls consisted of men like Dodd or Dooley who had the same kind of eyes I would be all for it but it doesn’t it has the eyes of a slick salesman trying to make a buck.


April 23rd, 2009
2:57 pm

GT most of these teams can play one game with the BCS powers but do not have a 2nd string to keep up for an entire season. Why reward their easier schedule and let them come into the playoffs with a healthy team playing teams battered by a long season?

Sam Houston

April 23rd, 2009
2:59 pm

Everybody keeps talking about missed class time and making the season too long. Football players miss less time than any sport and who keeps adding games to the regular season


Ted Striker

April 23rd, 2009
3:43 pm

A four team playoff won’t cut it.

Tired Eyes

April 23rd, 2009
3:48 pm

Who cares? The NCAA has said repeatedly they are not going to a playoff system. Let’s just keep beating this dead horse!

Barack Obama

April 23rd, 2009
3:52 pm

You Go Girl! Go Gator! Go Gator! Go Gator! Hott!!

Barack Obama

April 23rd, 2009
4:02 pm

Heeere Bo! Heeere puppy!…Where are you,Bo???


April 23rd, 2009
4:14 pm

For all of those that say the Big 10 and the Pac 10 need to have a championship game. Please look at any teams schedule in the Pac 10. The champion of the league has played everyone in the league. Only one other conference has every team play each other and that is the Big East.


April 23rd, 2009
4:19 pm

The Big Easy, that is mighty good company the PAC10 keeps.


April 23rd, 2009
4:32 pm

P O I—
1. UF scheduled Chas So on short notice when larger opponent
(I think it was USF) cancelled out at last minute (for
scheduling purposes) and UF had to take what was available.
2. UF is limited (same as UGA) in scheduling by having game
in Jax every year. Stadium bonds require 6 home games so
in year when dog game would be in G’ville UF is 1 short
so have to schedule someone (small team?) who will play there
without requiring return game at their place next year
when dog game counts as “away” game and we have 6 home
games w/o the “small timer”
3. Present system works well many years but not always. 4
team system little better but then others cry for 8 then
16 ad nauseum (sp?)but it is interesting discusson in april
except for m and others like him/her.

Michael G.

April 23rd, 2009
5:35 pm

Tony, here’s an idea. How about coming up with an original topic with something of substance; not these insane mythical scenerios that you attempt to dust off from last year and give to us as something “new.” Go have a couple more crown and cokes and try again.


April 23rd, 2009
6:50 pm

I don’t think the progblem is that the NC is decided by votes. I think the problem is they know they aren’t voting on who is best at the time, they are voting as to who they want to see in the title game. And it leads to inconsistancies in voting protocal from year to year. Even a 4 team playoff helps because voter can shed the burden of deciding who gets to play for a NC. Sure they have to decide who the top 4, and who is left out at 5, but wouldnt that likely be more objective, based on football?

A good example is 2007. I never thought UGA should have been “picked” for the NC game. LSU had a better resume’. But voter had to arrange that, they had to suspend normal voting practices to make it work out. It’s very likely that if they were only voting for the BEST 4 teams in the country on the last week of the season, UGA might very well have been in it. Might not, but you can’t project 1-4 in THIS system based on who ended up where in THAT system of arranging an outcome.


April 23rd, 2009
7:04 pm

how about a 16 team playoff and everyone else with a record of .500 or better have a bowl game.


April 23rd, 2009
7:07 pm


You idiot. you can talk till you are blue in the face. They will never ever do a 16 team playoff ever. Why? 2 reasons. Number one it takes away from the bowls and all that bowl money. Secondly, everyone would have to scale back their schedule to 10 and not 11 regular season games. Since football and basketball to a lesser degree fund all the other sports losing that one extra game would cost athletic budgets bigtime money. Learn something before you run your freaking mouth you idiotic moron! It will never happen for what should be plain and obvious reasons. Only a total imbecile like you can’t understand that.

Atlanta Gator

April 23rd, 2009
9:02 pm

bama12*titles—-Harsh. Very harsh. And all true.


April 23rd, 2009
9:34 pm

Personally I wouldn’t want to see a 16 team playoff, simply because you are stretching it out for a month or more.

Why not the plus one……let the bowls play out, who would become More important, and it seems like they would be better matchups, since it matter more if USC plays Illinois then. Let’s see how long conferences overlook a bad matchup to maintain bowl tie ins, when it cost them consideration. Still a final voting situation, but the debate and inevitable controversy that will confined to who is playing the best right now. Who deserves to be in the discussion, who will be in the top bowls, based on thier body of work over the season, is worked out in the bowl selections.


April 23rd, 2009
10:16 pm

Specious exercise. If they went to a 4-team playoff, it would become 8 before you know it and then 16… and there would still be schools complaining about being left-out.

Tails from The Swamp

April 24th, 2009
3:12 am

My point exactly! Next subject…


April 24th, 2009
7:08 am

Why? Why would it have to escalate from 4 to 16. Who has the authority or power to force that?

Even so, the complaining of who got left out at #17 would last about 2 hours. Or we could complain about Auburn for 4 yrs.

[...] Writing in the AJC, Tony Barnhart ponders the four-team playoff BCS proposal. [...]


April 24th, 2009
9:19 am

I’m kinda with Tide4. Not just because no matter what system you end up with there will always be something to complain about – who didn’t get the 4th slot…the 8th…the 2nd – but also I’m against anything that would diminish the Bowl system. Maybe a ‘one-plus’, but as Tony pointed out that too has it’s drawbacks – and that doesn’t include the fact that in 2005, who would have played in the ‘one-plus NC, Texas and USC again? They were clearly the two best teams.

No, the Bowls have been good for College Football, good for the fans, good for TV and great for the communities that host ‘em. I mean with the Bowls some 25 teams get to end their season on an ‘up-note’…their fans and players get to go home happy…coaches are, pretty-much, assured of another year’s contract…communities have had the chance to promote themselves and, hopefully, make a little money at the same time…those same communities – particularly those with Bowl games that are tied to traditional festivals (e.g. Rose) wouldn’t go along with moving the dates (often by weeks) around every year just to accommodate a TV/playoff schedule…and with playoffs how many fans are going to be able to travel to more than one game (if even that)? That means many would hold out for the Championship game that may never come along with canceled plane reservations and hotels that would cost ‘em money for nothin’.

No, I’ll just settle for a little complaining about who shoulda’ and coulda’ with what we have now and look forward to the next season with renewed enthusiasm and determination. I mean, just what’s so special about some contrived playoff system? Any way you do it somebody’s gonna be pissed about being left out and since that seems to be the only reason you’re going through this upheaval of the current Bowl process, why bother?

[...] Writing in the AJC, Tony Barnhart ponders the four-team playoff BCS proposal. [...]


April 24th, 2009
9:22 am

We ahve an imposter with my previous post.

However schools are complaining about being left out of March Madness which is more a Spring Nap than March Madness as ratings have shown.


April 24th, 2009
9:40 am

A 16 team playoff is the answer. It only takes 4 weeks. It allows pretty much everyone with a real chance to play in a real tournament and crown a true champion. Just imagine if the Final Four in basketball was based on someone’s idiotic opinion. OR the 8 teams in the college world series in baseball was based on someone’s idiotic opinions. It would be LUDICROUS….just like it is in football now. Take opinions out of football. Let it be decided on the field. Let all deserving teams have a chance to prove it on the field….just like UTAH stomping alabammer…none of you fools predicted that. If we had had a playoff last year NEITHER floriduh or oklahomo would have made the championship. Get rid of this idiotic BCS NOW. The bowl games have all been rendered meaningless and attendence to bowl games has been dropping. And the reason is that they don’t mean anything anymore. History will show that college football has been stupid up to now by not having a true champion.


May 3rd, 2009
2:40 pm

Morphing playoff system.

All teams that meet these requirements:

10 wins or more(former 1-AA teams count as 1/2 win)
2 loss or less(former 1-AA loss disqualifies)
Conference Champion
Not on probation

Take all teams that qualify and seed according to the polls
If there are:

2 teams – just play
3 teams – 2v3 then v1
4 teams – 1v4, 2v3 then winners play
5 teams – 4v5 winner take 4 seed place in 4 team playoff(see above)
6 teams – 3v6, 4v5, winners become 3 and 4 seeds respectively in 4 team playoff
7 teams – 1 seed gets bye in 1st round in 8 team format(see below)
8 teams – 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, and 4v5, winners become 1, 2, 3, & 4 seeds respectively in 4 team playoff.
9 teams – 8v9, winner becomes 8 seed in 8 team playoff(see above)
10 teams – 10v7, 8v9, winners become 7 & 8 seeds respectively in 8 team playoff
11 teams – 11v6, 10v7, 8v9, winners become 6, 7, & 8 seeds respectively in 8 team playoff
1 team – change loss rule to 3 and proceed
0 teams – change lose rule to 3 and proceed

This wouldn’t happen but it would be fair and unbiased… somewhat. It would be fun too. Feel free to critique.