The Future of College Football: Breaking Up For The Kids

Since the last installment, we’ve been (almost) given the gift of a four-team playoff postseason to begin in a couple of years.  Since that still-not-entirely-final announcement, the discussion has mostly shifted to how the four teams should be chosen, a question that–despite sanctimonious column after sanctimonious column to the contrary–has no right answer.  Everyone has a good point in this argument, and whatever is decided will still result in at least some amount of controversy.  But it will be a slightly better brand of controversy than what we have now, and that’s a good start.

But perhaps doing more to end that controversy would be the long-theorized and even longer-overdue secession of the top conferences from the NCAA.  This move–or at the very least, the creation of a new division within the current structure–would finally acknowledge the obvious: Utah State, Tulane and Buffalo are not on the same level as USC, LSU and Ohio State.

With the most recent realignment moves, the so-called “Big Six” conferences will house 78 programs by 2015 when Navy begins play in the Big East.  The remaining 42 (not counting a handful of announced FCS upgrades) belong to the mid-majors.  Of those 42, exactly zero are in the top 25 in winning percentage for the past ten years (  Every mid-major that would have been in that category has already been snatched up by a Big Sixer (Boise State, TCU, Utah) or opted for independence (BYU), which essentially gives them the same competitive benefits that Notre Dame enjoys.  Just one has appeared in a BCS bowl and that’s Hawai’i, the remaining mid-major with the highest winning percentage in the last decade.

To put it bluntly, they wouldn’t be missed.

Further, I would suggest tossing the Big East into that pool as well.  Of the bottom 15 teams from Big Six leagues on that 10-year list, four are Big East teams (all new additions even).  Each of the other conferences has two, and Army is the lone independent to rank that low.  If the separation were to finally occur, I have no doubt that Boise, Louisville, Cincy, Navy, USF, Houston, UConn and Rutgers could find homes in the Big Five or be successful as independents.  But ultimately, as long as Boise and Navy can, the rest are expendable.

From here we can finally get to a playoff that works, without getting too out of hand for you crybabies that don’t want a two-month 64-team extravaganza of football awesomeness.  With five conferences of sizes that will probably range from 12 to 16 teams and a few independents, a four-team playoff gets a little awkward.  You’re either leaving one conference champ out entirely or subjecting the whole thing to another goofy mishmash of polls and computer formulas.  Neither of those options will be acceptable at this point.  The only realistic answers are either an 8-team playoff (5 champs + 3 at-large) or a 5 team all-champs playoff where some seeding system (even if it’s just W/L record) is used so that #4 and #5 play a sort-of play-in game to the four team field.  (This second method is still a little clunky, as there would need to be some sort of accommodation for independents, perhaps an optional second “play-in” if an independent team meets inclusion criteria.)

And let’s not forget the advantages the separation would give to those mid-major conferences left behind.  I imagine there would be further expansion within that level by elevating even more successful FCS programs.  Undoubtedly there would be a new playoff created for whatever this level is eventually called (FCS-A?).  Finally these teams will be able to start working toward actually winning national championships instead of being satisfied with shameless early-season cash-in beatdown road trips and appearances in no-respect joke bowls with marginal-at-best benefits.


  1. Nick salazar says

    First off this idea of a 16 or 8 team playoff is such a big joke. 4 team playoff is fair enough. Fact win your games and your in the 4 team playoff picture. This idea of just giving Boise a shot at the championship is also a joke. Weak conference. There field goal kickers choke against Nevada every time they had a chance the last 2 years to
    Go to the Title and there Special Teams choked it away 2 times. Win your games and your in. Easy answer. 4 team playoff is just fine. Stop trying to give a trophy to every body. That is the problem in today’s world trying to give a trophy to everyone who come into 5th or last place. If your not good enough you suck plain and simple.

  2. I’ll wait & see how they decide to pick the 4-team field before I make up my mind on 4 teams but I really don’t think it’s enough with the current set up. I’m certainly not advocating “handing” Boise anything nor have I heard anyone else say anything of the sort. I am curious which of Stanford & Oregon you think should have been in a 4-team playoff last year and why the other should have excluded — or if you think LSU, Bama or Ok State should’ve been out instead.

    4 teams is better than 2 but more changes are needed to make such a small field work in a fair way. And I’m a big proponent of fairness in sports.

  3. I think every sports leagues should go to 2 or 4 team only playoffs.

    NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAAB, MLS, and every other sporting event.

    Lets have less sports instead of most sports should be every sports fans motto!!!!

  4. Nick,

    Who is trying to give a trophy to everyone? Oh wait…the CURRENT postseason system in college football. Right now 70 out of 120 programs make it to bowl games…that means 35 teams win trophies. It’s stupid. Few people care about all of those bowls and the ratings prove that point. They have been trending down for years now.

    Frankly if we aren’t going to let the Boise State’s of the world play for a title they should not be allowed to play the traditional powerhouses in BCS AQ conferences. Sure, lets schedule 4 OOC games against a bunch of scrubs and go 4-0 and give the illusion that we are better than we actually are. Typically those 4 OOC games big conference teams play are against the MAC’s and lesser conferences of the world. Instead of playing a better schedule to make games more interesting most teams schedule terrible OOC opponents to bolster their record.

    Just look at the SEC….they are the worst offenders.

    I’d be fine taking the top conferences in college football and getting rid of everyone else. If you aren’t in a top conference, you don’t get to play for the title…but they are off limits for the regular season as well.

    BUT…if they are still allowed to play vs. the OSU’s and Alabama’s of the world they should be allowed to play in a playoff after winning their conference.

    Boise has done pretty well vs. BCS AQ conferences….and look at what TCU did to Wisconsin a couple years ago…

  5. Kade – I’m actually okay with continuing to “schedule down” with a catch: OOC schedules must be balanced by some sort of value mechanism, perhaps based on a rolling window (3-5 years should do it) of wins/losses. So scheduling a home-and-home with USC might allow you to also schedule a couple MAC teams in those two years plus a Cincy or Rutgers or whoever. If you want to play Appalachian State, that’s fine but there will be consequences (such as losing to Appalachian State).


  7. To me scheduling down means we get to see games like Oregon vs. Nevada last year (69-20 Oregon).

    Most of these games are absolutely terrible and massive blowouts that end up featuring 3rd stringers by the 3rd quarter. It’s worse than watching an NFL preseason game.

    Division 1 teams should NEVER play Division 1AA teams….ever. They are on a different level for a reason. With 120 teams at the D1 level….there is no reason another team can’t be found…


  1. […] Think Of The Children- More great playoff thoughts from MotSaG […]

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