I have been keeping track of this potential playoff system for a few years now. I believe it is still the best alternative to the BCS for college football even with the changes that have been happening in conference alignment. The basics of the system are each of the 11 conferences is given an automatic qualifier into the playoff. That leaves room for five at large teams determined by the BCS standings which makes a 16 team playoff. This would especially be helpful for a year like this. There are so many conferences that are competitive from top to bottom this year (Pac 12, Big 12, Big 10) that the result will most likely be conference play will cause some very quality teams to slip every maybe once. I think every member of the Big 12 has received votes so far this year in the top 25 with most finding their way into the rankings (with the exception, of course, of the Kansas Rejected Irish). This system rewards those who win their division (as it should) so more than just the SEC has a shot at winning the title. It also allows for the Cinderella to have a shot at the title much like March Madness does. There are more Cinderellas this year with some of the realignment that has been happening and the stronger teams all migrating to the bigger conferences. (In fact, this system was much more applicable before all this realignment happened, but it still works.) So without further ado, here is what our conversation could be right now instead of the lousy BCS or even the lame 4-team playoff they are adopting next year.
First four out.
Oklahoma - I hate to say it, but they are close to being in the tournament. I find them highly overrated, almost as overrated as Landry Jones. Hopefully, Landry will show his inferiority a few more times this year and lead his team to more losses before some NFL teams will make the mistake by taking him in the top 10 of the draft next year.
USC - They are the opposites of Oklahoma. They are highly underrated and still one of the strongest teams in the nation. Just because they lost to a strong Pac 12 team instead of a strong SEC team, they are in the middle of the one loss team pack instead of at the front.
Louisville/Cincinnati - There are three undefeated teams right now in the Big East. These are the second two of the three teams. However, if the team ahead of them slips up, look for Louisville or Cincinnati to jump up into the lead in the steadily dying Big East.
Nevada - The title in the Mountain West is going to come down to the Boise St./Nevada game again this year in what has turned into quite a strong rivalry over the last few years. Boise St. is thought to be the better team now, but anything can happen between these two teams.
Top 16 Teams
16. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt leader).
As the schedule plays out, this will most likely turn out being Louisiana-Monroe or Arkansas St., but for now Western Kentucky tops a conference that is gaining more and more respect each year.
15. Tulsa (C-USA leader).
This conference is filled with a lot of mediocrity so far this year, but Tulsa has made it through non-conference and the start of conference play with a single loss to the recently ranked Iowa St. However, because of the conference they are similar to Houston last year. How good can they really be?
14. Louisiana Tech (WAC leader).
This conference is about to fold, however this team was the last hope for non-AQ schools to crack the BCS party this year. However, a loss to Texas A&M last week knocked them out of the unbeatens. Here they are battling Texas-San Antonio for a spot in the tournament. Count on them to wrap up the conference crown and this slot in the tourney after not too many more conference games.
13. Ohio (MAC leader).
This is an intriguing team. They started the year being the team that showed everyone just how far Penn St. had fallen. Now that they are undefeated halfway through the season and Penn St. has started playing much better, the conversation no one wants to have is maybe the Bobcats are actually good this year. Besides, a Frank Solich coached team might be the closest I get to having a Cornhusker presence in the tournament. Needless to say, I'm rooting for them to finish undefeated and get some people talking.
12. Michigan (Big Ten leader).
This conference is wide open! (Well, it's wide open because the Buckeyes are ineligible this year.) There are literally seven or eight of the ten eligible teams this year that could reasonably pull out this conference title. Michigan is currently the only one that is ranked after a rough non-conference showing for the conference. However, they are one of the most underrated teams in the nation. They have lost two games to the current number one and five teams in the nation. I think they deserve a little more respect than barely cracking the top 25 not making the BCS at all right now. Heck, Iowa St. made the BCS standings with the same record for simply competing with a top 5 team. Michigan deserves a little better than this right now.
11. Boise St. (MWC leader).
Like I said before, this conference is going to come down to Boise St. and Nevada. There is really no one else that can compete here. I would hope that the team that defined the term "BCS-buster" over the last decade can win one more conference title as a little guy before they move to the Big East next year and become a big conference team (if you can still call the Big East a big conference).
10. Rutgers (Big East leader).
This conference is getting no more respect in any way. They have lost a lot of strength in recent years, but will be adding Boise St. next year in football. Also, they currently have 3 undefeated teams left (no other conference can say that) and they all will eliminate each other over the coming weeks to (hopefully) end with one strong undefeated team heading into bowl season just to mess with things. It's easy to ignore a non-AQ undefeated team, but how do you ignore a BCS conference undefeated team with at least two wins against ranked opponents. Either way, Rutgers is the favorite right now to come out as that team that could do damage in the tournament.
9. Florida St. (ACC leader).
I honestly think the ACC is getting more credit right now than the Big East is the names in the conference. Whenever you can talk about Florida St. as a contender it instantly makes your conference sound elite. Florida St. is once again a very talented team that has already started to show signs of its tendency to underperform down the stretch. Let's see if they can hold on to their grip of this conference. It has already started to loosen.
8. Oregon St. (AT LARGE #5).
The team no one wants to talk about. There is a reason for that. No one knows anything about them! No one knows anything about them in their own state! They are the ultimate under-the-radar team which is exactly how they want to be. They play boring yet effective football (the exact opposite of their state counterparts). If they can keep this roll going, it could make for a very interesting Civil War with Oregon this year. For now, they are the perfect example of how the current system is flawed. An undefeated Pac 12 team (arguably the strongest conference in the nation) is behind two one loss teams simply because of past conference prestige. Under no circumstances would the Beavers ever be considered for the National Championship game, even with an undefeated record with wins against USC and Oregon. Why? They weren't supposed to be good. We would have another all-SEC matchup with a one loss Florida, LSU, or South Carolina far before Oregon St. ever even got considered. What a shame. At least they would get an opportunity to prove themselves here.
7. South Carolina (AT LARGE #4).
It is a shame this team lost last week. They are one of the scarier teams out there. They have a coach that knows the passing game better than most that has built a team on running and defense. They have two of the most dynamic freak athletes in college football right now in Lattimore and Clowney. If they were to get a shot in something like this, they would have to be considered a dark horse to take the whole thing.
6. LSU (AT LARGE #3).
This is the team that just won't go away. There were thoughts that maybe this year they would have a down year. They barely squeaked by FCS Towson. Then they go out and slay the Gamecock dragon. Les Miles will not allow us to forget about his team. Don't be surprised if they pull off a couple more unexpected wins and find themselves back in the discussion for the top two spots by the end of the year.
5. Notre Dame (AT LARGE #2).
OK OK OK... I guess it finally looks like the Irish are back. They finally did something smart and hired a proven college head coach and look what happens. They are relevant again! Their defense is one of the best around, and if they can emerge from their crazy tough schedule unscathed they will be ones to be reckoned with come January.
4. Kansas St. (Big 12 leader).
Can we just hand the Heisman to Collin Klein now? Geno Smith could compete for it too, but if Kansas St. beats West Virginia this week (which should be easy since West Virginia has no defense). He is the single most important player to his team's success. If he can will his team to an undefeated season (which he almost did last year) they deserve a shot at the top prize after going through the toughest conference in the nation. Do you realize they are still undefeated in a conference that only has one team with a losing record?!?
3. Oregon (Pac 12 leader).
It is seriously a crime that they are 3rd instead of 2nd. Obviously the only reason they are 3rd instead of second is the fact that all the voters are in bed by the time Oregon plays. They are such a complete team with freak athletes all over the field. They are a couple freak plays away from defeating two SEC teams over the last few years (Auburn in the National Championship, LSU in the opening game of last year). Eventually one of these SEC teams above them will fall, and hopefully the polls will be smart enough to bump Oregon back up, especially if Oregon St. comes into the Civil War undefeated also. A win over a top 5 or 10 opponent at that time better be enough to get them in the top two. In this system, they get their crack to prove themselves once again.
2. Florida (AT LARGE #1).
I know they beat LSU, but these guys don't belong here. In fact, with as top heavy as the SEC is, I would be surprised if they find themselves in one of the five at large spots at the end of the season. (There is no way three SEC teams are getting at large bids at the end of the year. If they do, the system is more broken than I thought.) It is nice that the Gators are getting to point of being relevant again, but it really shouldn't last long this year at least.
1. Alabama (SEC leader).
This is a no-brainer. No team really comes close to how strong the Tide are. They could probably compete with several NFL teams. The biggest shock of the season would be if Bama doesn't end the year undefeated.
Potential First Round Match-ups
# 16 Western Kentucky at # 1 Alabama
This would probably be a laugher. However, that's why we play the game.
# 9 Florida St. at # 8 Oregon St.
This would be such an interesting match-up. Everyone would pick Florida St. because no one gives any respect to Oregon St. I am just completely fascinated by the idea of the Seminoles going to Corvallis to play.
# 13 Ohio at # 4 Kansas St.
These two teams are scarily alike. Tyler Tettleton is a poor man's Collin Klein as they both play a very similar game. Kansas St. does it better, but I would not want to be the team that wants to play Ohio.
# 12 Michigan at # 5 Notre Dame
The unfortunate rematch sometimes pops up. When you have a dynamic player like Denard Robinson, it is very possible that a second shot at a team could lead to a different outcome. The first game was pretty close.
# 14 Louisiana Tech at # 3 Oregon
Tech could be a scary team in a tournament like this, but not facing Oregon right away. Oregon is just too good.
# 11 Boise St. at # 6 LSU
Smash-mouth football meets the master of trickeration. Boise St.'s talent level has fallen from what we have been used to, however their defense is still pretty strong. When two talented defenses meet, it is just a matter of who can break the big play on offense to make the difference.
# 15 Tulsa at # 2 Florida
The Gators are overrated, but they should be able to beat Tulsa.
# 10 Rutgers at # 7 South Carolina
The Gamecocks should be able to handle Rutgers, but Rutgers has already taken down one SEC power this year. So you never know.
I have said it once and I will say it again, MAN I LOVE BEING A TURTLE!!! Sorry, I got carried away... Wouldn't it be better to be debating the Holiday Madness tournament than how likely no one but the SEC will have a shot at the National Championship again this year? I think so...