No reason to restrict a four-team playoff

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
4:40
PM ET
The more I hear about a proposed four-team playoff in college football, the more I wonder if some of the formats being tossed out there are genuinely what’s in the best interest of the game or geared more toward ending the SEC’s dominance.

The key debate with any four-team playoff is going to be how those four teams are selected.

And along those lines, you’re starting to hear some (most recently Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott) suggest that only conference champions should be eligible.

That’s nonsense.

If the two best teams in college football one year happen to be USC and Oregon, you’re telling me that only one of them gets invited to the party?

Notice, I used a Pac-12 example there.

Let’s get out the truth serum before we answer this next question, but is there anybody out there who really believes that Alabama and LSU weren’t two of the best four teams in college football last season?

Sure, Alabama had its chance at home during the regular season and lost in overtime to LSU, but that doesn’t mean that the Crimson Tide weren’t better than everybody else at season’s end. That beatdown in the Big Easy was pretty convincing.

Therein lies my point: More times than not, the SEC is going to have multiple teams that are deserving. A year ago, the BCS standings the final week of the regular season had a distinct SEC flavor – 1. LSU, 2. Alabama and 3. Arkansas.

So if you’re using the BCS standings to select the teams, do you pick the four conference champions that are ranked the highest in the BCS standings after all of the conference championship games?

Last season, that would have been No. 1 LSU (SEC champion), No. 3 Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion), No. 5 Oregon (Pac-12 champion) and No. 10 Wisconsin (Big Ten champion).

Under that format, No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Stanford would have been left out of the playoff equation.

And how do you justify a team that wins a weak conference (See Wisconsin last season in the Big Ten) and then backs into the national playoff ranked No. 10 in the BCS standings?

Two of the most popular complaints about the BCS standings are that the human voters are biased and the computer rankings are skewed.

Perhaps so, but could you imagine the politics if a selection committee were formed to pick the four teams?

Here's another thought: Add the strength of schedule quotient back in as one of the components of the BCS standings. That way, schools (and, yes, SEC schools have been some of the worst offenders) aren't as quick to schedule nonconference cupcakes.

I like the idea of playing the semifinal games at the sites of the highest seeded teams. It’s important to keep the pageantry and tradition that make college football so special a part of the playoff festivities.

Then you can play the championship game at a neutral site.

But don’t restrict what’s a good step for college football by limiting a playoff to conference champions only.

The idea is to gather the best four teams in the country – period – and then let those four teams decide it on the field.

If not, why even go down the playoff trail at all?

Chris Low | email

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