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Your Take Revealed: A four-team playoff might not be the answer

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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Your Take is a chance to start thoughtful, spirited, intelligent and nice conversation about some of the hotter topics in college football. Your Take Revealed is the consensus using your comments and your thoughts.

Earlier this week, I asked if the BCS commissioners and Notre Dame were on the right track with a potential four-team playoff? After several comments, it's clear the fans aren't so sure.

"A 4 team playoff would be really weak, barely better than what there is now," wrote Andrew from College Station. "8-12 is better, but it would still find ways to snub teams."

Overwhelmingly, those who responded seemed to be in favor of a 16-team playoff (an idea that I liked) that would include all 11 conference champions and five at large teams.

"I would propose a 16 team playoff with each conference champ included," wrote Chris from St. Louis. "The remaining 5 at-large bids would go (to) teams with (the) highest ranking. Would almost always have the top 8 - 10 teams included and give the little guy a shot. Makes winning a conference championship worth something."

Obviously, there are flaws with using conference champions to fill out a playoff system, flaws that Alabama coach Nick Saban used while giving his argument against conference champions. Is the champion of the Sun Belt really expected to be able to go up against the champ of the SEC? That game actually happens during the regular season and while the Sun Belt team might hang for a half or so, it almost always ends up blown out. Of course there are always upsets, just ask Boise State or Iowa State or Appalachian State (apparently, you have to have State in your name to be an upset contender), but they are few and far between.

Still, it does allow equal access to the playoff, which is really what everyone wants in their own way. And, if you do well throughout the season, you have a good chance of securing one of the five at-large spots. Obviously, there would have to be rules set up for Independents like there are now for the BCS, but this would give college football its most equal-access solution.

"Regardless, there will be some who feel cheated, and can make a pretty good argument," wrote Derron from Indianapolis. "4 of the top 5 will likely meet in setup. Pick them however you want, polls, committee, stats... somebody gets mad. Rotate around the current BCS Bowls, so that 2 are the semis and the final one the Championship. Fans of contenders want a championship, the rest of us want entertainment, and the NCAA wants money. Those wanting 16 teams in are going with the "any given day" approach hoping their team has a stretch of luck."

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But would it be worth watching? Several of you who commented said no. That watching a team from a bigger conference beat up on a smaller conference would be "boring" and, for that reason, a playoff should be reduced to eight teams with all six BCS conference champions and two at-large, which would be open to the small conferences if one of them made it that high in the polls.

Of course, not everyone agrees that a 16-team playoff is the perfect solution. So do believe the commissioners and Notre Dame are on the right track.

"Anyone pushing a playoff larger than 4 teams is kidding themselves," wrote James from Boca Raton, Fla. "The commissioners explicitly stated on Monday that they are not considering 8- or 16-team models. Besides that, there are very obvious limitations from on the travel logistics and timeline for anything greater than 4 teams."

On the Dr. Saturday Facebook page (which you should all go like), a poster named The Plus-Two Plan had a good point that changing to a playoff is about baby steps and that perhaps asking for something larger than a four-team playoff might be too much. The BCS has adapted over time, why couldn't a playoff? Even if the commissioners decided on a four-team playoff initially, that doesn't mean that a larger playoff wouldn't be a viable option down the road.

There are other logistics involved such as how the polls work for the at-large teams. Several folks agreed with me about starting the polls in October and basing them on what has happened in the first month and a half instead of what the roster looks like. Also, there were several good ideas about where to play the games that would make them fan-friendly, preserve tradition and create some sort of home field advantage for the higher-seeded team.

"Start the thing the Saturday after Thanksgiving," Matt F from Minneapolis wrote. "These should all be at neutral sites (traditional bowl sites) and allow the stadiums & sponsors to keep the bowl naming rights. Keep the other bowls going for those teams that don't make the final 16. Rotate the "major" bowls on an annual basis, so that the national championship game will be played at a different "bowl" each year."

Matt's idea, which was shared by others, allows the teams and sponsors to continue making money, but it might hurt the fans on travel. Unless you kept everything regional like they do in college basketball. I also wouldn't be opposed to (as T M from Boise pointed out) having the first round games at the home of the highest ranked teams and then going neutral/traditional bowl site after that.

As expected, not everyone wanted a playoff system. Some thought it would ruin the game, others that it would be too much like the NFL. Valid point there, but I think the train is moving in the playoff direction and it's not slowing down. Of course not everyone will be happy. It's sports. There's always a winner and a loser, but I think giving a playoff a try, even in a modest four-team format, will allow us all to see if one system was better than the other, and, like we always have, ultimately adjust.

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