We should all be doing a happy dance: the crummy, corrupt, poorly designed and poorly executed BCSCG is on its way out, to be replaced by a four-team playoff......that will probably be crummy, run by the same corrupt fat cats, flawed in designed and fated for equally piss-poor execution. But we get to shut up the Oklahoma States and the TCUs of the world, which is a plus. Of course, now the Powers That Be have to figure how all of this is going to work...
Among the things that have to be taken into account with a four-team playoff system would be where games would be played (Neutral sites or on campuses?) and how teams would be selected (Current ranking system, new ranking system or a selection committee?). Some have suggested a format that requires teams in a conference to win their league to be eligible for a playoff.
I think you know where I'm going with this...The Big Least champion getting the edge over a one-loss SEC West runner-up? The Pac-12's refusal to play defense being rewarded with a perennial title shot for its champion? The MAC getting anything? Blasphemy, you say! And I'm right with you; no matter how you cut it, forcing the BCS to pick conference champions at the expense of better teams is the equivalent of punishing programs for playing a competitive schedule.
But what if we cut the baby in half?
Two seeds guaranteed for the highest ranked conference champions (or Notre Dame, because apparently they're their own conference). Two seeds given to the two highest ranked teams (by whatever method we select) regardless of conference, with a hard limit of two teams per conference in the playoffs (one could even limit the number of conferences with an extra team to one, guaranteeing at least three conferences get represented). We essentially get the exact same playoff that we would have with a "let the four best teams play" system, but we throw a bone to the midmajors ("All you have to do to get is in win your conference and outrank the champions of 9 out of the other 10 conferences. Easy, right?").
What does this look like, applied retroactively? Using the final regular season BCS standings, it would look something like this...
(1) LSU vs (4) Stanford
(2) Oklahoma State vs (3) Alabama
(1) Alabama Polytechnic Institute vs (4) Stanford
(2) Oregon vs (3) TCU
(1) Alabama vs (4) TCU
(2) Texas vs (3) Cincinnati
(1) Oklahoma vs (4) Alabama (or USC)
(2) Florida vs (3) Texas
(1) Ohio State vs (4) Oklahoma
(2) LSU vs (3) Virginia Tech
(1) Ohio State vs (4) LSU (or Louisville)
(2) Florida vs (3) Michigan
Think two conference champions isn't enough? Fine; replace one of the at-large seeds with another guaranteed spot for a conference champion and replace 2011 and 2010 Stanford with Wisconsin, 2008 Alabama with USC, and 2006 LSU with Louisville. With the possible exception of 2009 Boise State and 2008 Utah, no serious championship contender is excluded (and the Fightin' Smurfs will be in something resembling a real conference soon enough).
Can we make this work with four conference champions? Yes...with a six team playoff (three rounds, top two seeds get byes). And again, it makes intuitive sense...
(1) LSU (bye)
(4) Wisconsin vs (5) Oregon (reseeded to minimize rematches)
(3) Stanford vs (6) Alabama
(2) OK State (bye)
(1) Alabama Polytechnic Institute (bye)
(4) Wisconsin vs (5) Stanford
(3) TCU vs (6) Ohio State
(2) Oregon (bye)
(1) Alabama (bye)
(4) TCU vs (5) Florida
(3) Cincinatti vs (6) Boise State
(2) Texas (bye)
(1) Oklahoma (bye)
(4) USC vs (5) Alabama
(3) Utah vs (6) Texas
(2) Florida (bye)
(1) Ohio State (bye)
(4) Oklahoma vs (5) Georgia
(3) Virginia Tech vs (6) Missouri
(2) LSU (bye)
(1) Ohio State (bye)
(4) Oklahoma vs (5) LSU (reseeded to minimize rematches) (3) Louisville vs (6) Michigan
(2) Florida (bye)
Upside: no legitimate contender can bitch about not getting a seat at the table, and the bye weeks create an incentive to continue winning, even if you've locked up your conference. But the risk here is "tournament creep"; as NCAA basketball fans can tell you, it's always easy to add "just one more game" every few years, and with two bye slots just begging to be given to some mid-major conference champ or championship game runner-up, we could be up to 8 teams by the end of the decade, and at the point the floodgates would be all but open.
Conclusions? I have none; I just wanted to think through the possibilities (and the good folks at RollBamaRoll have kindly allowed me a spot to publish those thoughts). I'm much more interested in what you think. So...tell me how wrong I am.