Why should humans or computers determine who wins a title?

Let’s face it, as much as we all want the new playoff format (and even maybe an extended one on top of that), there will still be plenty of human error in the selection process. Granted, it can’t get worse than the way we do it now, but regardless, putting the decisions in the hands of a few randomly selected people – whether that’s in the polls or the selection committee – is just wrong, and extremely flawed.

I was reading a piece from David Jones, a sports writer from PennLive.com (for Alabama people, the AL.com of Pennsylvania), about his bias against the south and how computers should do all the talking. That sparked a thought that I’ve had many times, and am having again now. I’ve thought so many times about this idea, and I don’t know why we can’t make it work in football. (well, I do know, it’s obviously because of money, but let’s pretend for a while that money isn’t what it’s all about)

We have conferences and divisions, and records tell all.

End of story.

Every professional league does it, so why not college?

Yes, there are way more teams in college. I understand that professional leagues are held at around 30-32 teams – no more, no less – and the FBS has over 120. But let’s be fair here, of the 120+ teams there are in Division 1-A, only about 60 of them are in any type of contention from day one. That number goes all the way down to 2 before the final decision is made. That’s why college football should be split…again, but this time at the FBS level, cut it basically in half.

You may argue that it’s dumb to basically lift the power conference teams on a pedestal, and discredit the others. What about the Boise’s and TCU’s of the world who made a name for themselves year after year, and earned their spot with the big boys? Let’s be realistic, that rarely happens, and Boise has disappeared and been forgotten about less than 10 years after their run started, especially with Peterson gone now.

Let’s face it, if you are in a conference such as Conference USA, the MAC, or Mountain West – you’re never going to play for an FBS championship. Northern Illinois has had two great years now, and still receives no respect, and can’t win against the big teams anyway. Just as Division 1-AA (or the FCS) gives their teams a separate championship (while they all compete for the same titles in other sports), let’s do the same with the “mid-major” FBS schools. The split is there anyway. There are BCS schools, and the “other” schools. The state of Alabama has five FBS schools, but only two with a legitimate chance to play for a title.

So here’s what I propose. I’m calling it Division S. S can stand for whatever you want it to. Super. Stupendous. Stupid. Just go with it.

64 teams. Every team makes a bid to get in the league. Most big name programs get in, the others are relegated out to Division 1-A. For the sake of this argument, the stupid FBS/FCS titles are going out the window.

Division 1-A will consist of all schools not currently in the power conferences. That means Conference USA, American Athletic, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and independents (minus Notre Dame) will all make up Division 1-A. That means around 61 schools if my calculations are correct, which they are likely to not be. Regardless, those schools, plus the Division S rejects, make up the new Division 1-A.

Division S will consist of 2 conferences of 4 divisions each (so 8 overall) with 8 teams per division, which will be 64 teams total. Basically, the NFL system if you doubled the teams in each division.

The divisions would be as follows. This is just the teams I would assume would be in this division, but obviously things can change unexpectedly. Just go with it for now…

Western Conference

West Coast (Pac-12)

Washington
Washington State
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
UCLA
USC
California

Southwest (Pac-12/Mountain West)

Arizona
Arizona State
Colorado
Utah
Texas A&M
Texas
Texas Tech
Baylor

South Central (Big 12)

TCU
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Kansas
Kansas State
Iowa
Iowa State
Nebraska

Great Lakes (Big 10/12)

Minnesota
Wisconsin
Illinois
Northwestern
Missouri
Indiana
Purdue
Cincinnati

Eastern Conference

Southern (SEC)

LSU
Arkansas
Alabama
Auburn
Mississippi
Mississippi State
Vanderbilt
Tennessee

Southeastern (SEC/ACC)

Georgia
Georgia Tech
Florida
Florida State
Miami
Clemson
South Carolina
North Carolina

East Coast (ACC)

Virginia
Virginia Tech
West Virginia
Boston College
Duke
Maryland
Syracuse
Pittsburgh

Midwest (Big 10)

Ohio State
Michigan
Michigan State
Penn State
Kentucky
Rutgers
Louisville
*Notre Dame

The Division S season would consist of 11 games. 7 of those would be division games so each team plays their entire division. 3 of the remaining 4 games will be in-conference games, and one of them will be cross-conference. The cross-conference game will allow for fans who enjoy traveling abroad to experience one game each year in the regular season. Granted, not all teams will be able to achieve this, but between neutral sites, and trying to get a home and away game every other year, hopefully things will even out.

After the season is over, each division will have a champion. Tiebreakers will be initiated if needed. The winner is chosen simply by the best division record, similar to how it is now, with similar tiebreakers to determine a champion. Each of these 8 teams will receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Then the 8 runner-up teams will host the first round games. The remaining 8 teams will be determined by either two things:

A) a series of wildcard factors, 4 teams will come from each side. It will be difficult to determine 4 wildcards between 24 remaining teams, but it will be on records, head to head match-ups, non-division games, and more.

B) The third place teams from each division.

This is just a sample, but the 4 champion seeds will be determined on record and similar tiebreakers, down to a coin flip. Same with the 4 runner up teams in each division, and the wildcard teams as well.

The bracket would look something like this:

First Round Second Round QuarterFinals SemiFinals Finals
H  West Coast 1
H  So. Central 2
 Wildcard  Rose Bowl
 Pasadena, CA
H  Southwest 1
H  Great Lakes 2
 Wildcard  AT&T Stadium
 Arlington, TX
H  So. Central 1
H  West Coast 2
 Wildcard  U of P Stadium
 Glendale, AZ
H  Great Lakes 1
H  Southwest 2
 Wildcard  Host City to
 bid on game
H  Southern 1
H  East Coast 2
 Wildcard  Georgia Dome
 Atlanta, GA
H  Southeast 1
H  Midwest 2
 Wildcard  Superdome
 New Orleans, LA
H  East Coast 1
H  Southern 2
 Wildcard  Orange Bowl
 Miami, FL
H  Midwest 1
H  Southeast 2
 Wildcard

Questions about this format

What determines if a team is selected or not?

Every current FBS team that would want to be apart of Division S would have to submit an application to the governing body, be it the NCAA or someone else. Then a committee of university presidents, athletic directors, and coaches would choose the 64 teams and separate them into divisions according to geography.

To get in, a school must have a proven track record of success on the field, the ability to draw in fans, up to date stadiums, appropriate revenue, and more.

Should a member school want to drop out, or as a penalty it is to determined they be dropped from the Division S roster, then schools may apply for their position. The process would take a year, and the outgoing team would forfeit all games to their division rivals.

Why 64 teams?

64 is an even number when it comes to multiple factors. Postseason play is the most important one since that is the biggest problem with big time college football. While it could be possible to just take 32 teams, or let every team make the post season, the regular season still has to mean something. Many times, teams who end up losing one important conference game end up on the outside looking in (see Alabama this year), sometimes despite a better overall record, and are the better team according to the eye test. With this system, teams will play everyone to determine a solid division champion, but runner up teams will get a bid as well. There will also be wild card spots for teams to make the playoffs, potentially a third place team from each conference. This gives importance to teams with 1-2 losses and their non-conference schedule.

Why 11 games?

One of the biggest complaints against a playoff that we hear from the NCAA and big wigs trying to steal money on bowl games, is that they are concerned for player safety if they play too many games. With the current schedule consisting of 12 regular season games, plus conference title games for most, it can get to be a bit much if you add potentially 5 games to the mix. However, the FCS follows the exact same format I am proposing when it comes to season length, postseason bracket and amount of games. Some even play 12 then go to the playoffs. So a team would be playing a max of 16 games if they started in the first round and made it all the way to the championship in the 11-game system.

16 games is the length of the NFL regular season. 16 games is the length of the Alabama High School Athletic Association schedule counting preseason and all postseason games. So you’re telling me kids in high school can play that many games without a bye and still make it to the end of the season with their sanity, but college kids can’t? Give me a break.

I think 11 games, over the course of 12 weeks (one bye week for each team) is perfect. This allows for scheduling issues to be resolved, and to give teams a break. The schedule this year would have started on the same weekend (August 31st, Labor Day weekend), and ended on November 16th. Then a week break while the brackets are sorted, and teams can begin travel plans. The schedule would then be as follows (in the 2013 season):

Round 1 – November 30
Round 2 – December 7
Round 3 – December 14
Break for holidays
Round 4 – December 30
Round 5 – January 6 (Same day as the current BCS title game)

Teams would have three bye weeks in there, more than any other league that has seasons this long. One during the regular season, one between the regular season and postseason, and one between rounds 3 and 4.

People will also use the excuse that this will interfere with finals. The University of Alabama’s finals are this week (December 9-13), yet if they had played in the SEC Championship this past weekend, they would just be getting back barely in time to take their finals anyway. By round 3, there are only 8 teams left, and schools can make plans for if there is an issue with finals. People make a bigger deal out of this issue than it really is.

Why the neutral locations listed?

Because these locations are easier to get to for the certain divisions. These are familiar locations to the teams as the bowl games have ties to the current conferences anyway. The locations may vary slightly depending on scheduling conflicts with the NFL and other organizations. The national championship is currently in a bidding process for the new playoff anyway, and a site that hosted a quarterfinal or semifinal game may apply. However, there are many other professional stadiums that will fit the mold of what is needed for a championship. If a quarterfinal or semifinal site is deemed the national championship site, then another stadium can take it’s place in those rounds so two games aren’t played there.

So what happens with the other FBS teams?

I think they get a playoff of their own (although probably slightly smaller, like 8, 12 or 16 teams), and utilize that to determine their own 1-A champion in the same way Division S and 1-AA do. Then perhaps the other teams can continue with bowl games.

What about bowl games for other Division S teams?

That’s not a bad idea either. Maybe a mix of lower Division S teams can fall into a pool with other Division 1-A teams, and a bowl system can be devised from there. You might think that would be unfair, but there are already 10 bowl games that match teams from a power conference to a lower conference (counting the AAC as a lower conference). So I think if there was a system put in place where the same bowl games got to have their match-ups, and it still provided a place to go to for fan bases who didn’t make the playoffs, it would prove to be a good exhibition system for the lesser teams in each division.

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Jon Lunceford is a sports media broadcaster and digital professional. Jon is a graduate of the University of Alabama school of journalism, and played football at Birmingham-Southern College. He has also won two AHSAA Football State Championships while at Homewood High School and was a two-time World Cyber Games Team USA representative. He currently hosts Primetime on WJOX 94.5 and runs the high school athletics site JoxPreps.