How The New Proposed Playoff System Would Have Played Out Since 1998

Just how many national titles might USC have won under the proposed system? Before having to forfeit them all.

Land-Grant Holy Land (a very good Ohio State blog you must definitely check out) has a nice piece projecting all of the four team playoff model games since 1998 using the new proposed plan. The results offers advocates and detractors ample arguments for their perspectives with historical quarterfinal match-ups ranging from sacrificial lamb offerings to epic contests that would have changed multiple national title outcomes.

Let's dig into some match-ups h/t to Land-Grant Holy Land for the chart

Year Semifinal One Site Semifinal Two Site
1998 Tennessee (#1) Texas A&M (#6) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Florida State (#2) UCLA (#5) Orange Bowl, Miami
1999 Florida State (#1) Alabama (#4) Orange Bowl, Miami Virginia Tech (#2) Nebraska (#3) Orange Bowl, Miami
2000 Oklahoma (#1) Washington (#4) Fiesta Bowl, Tempe Florida State (#2) Miami (FL) (#3) Orange Bowl, Miami
2001 Miami (FL) #1 Oregon (#4) Orange Bowl, Miami Colorado (#3) Nebraska (#2) Fiesta Bowl, Tempe
2002 Miami (FL) (#1) Washington State (#6) Orange Bowl, Miami Ohio State (#2) Georgia (#3) Rose Bowl, Pasadena
2003 Oklahoma (#1) Michigan (#4) Fiesta Bowl, Tempe LSU (#2) USC (#3) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
2004 USC (#1) Utah (#6) Rose Bowl, Pasadena Oklahoma (#2) Auburn (#3) Fiesta Bowl, Tempe
2005 USC (#1) Notre Dame (#6) Rose Bowl, Pasadena Texas (#2) Penn State (#3) Fiesta Bowl, Tempe
2006 Ohio State (#1) Louisville (#6) Rose Bowl, Pasadena Florida (#2) USC (#5) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
2007 Ohio State (#1) Oklahoma (#4) Rose Bowl, Pasadena LSU (#2) Virginia Tech (#3) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
2008 Oklahoma (#1) Utah (#6) Fiesta Bowl, Glendale Florida (#2) USC (#5) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
2009 Alabama (#1) TCU (#4) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Texas (#2) Cincinnati (#3) Fiesta Bowl, Glendale
2010 Auburn (#1) Wisconsin (#5) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Oregon (#2) TCU (#3) Rose Bowl, Pasadena
2011 LSU (#1) Oregon (#5) Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Oklahoma State (#3) Alabama (#2)

With one caveat:

Remember, only conference champions ranked in the top 6 are eligible and if four such teams cannot be found, the next highest at-large is slotted in where there's a vacancy.

1998 - A weak year and the Aggies would have had a shot to win it all taking on Tennessee and a relatively feeble Florida St-UCLA winner. Those four teams would have been a legitimate crap shoot though it's hard to imagine the Aggie offense making a dent on the Vols. Sirr Parker disagrees.

2001 - Colorado and Nebraska would face off again right after Colorado stomped them 62-36 (and then upset Texas in the Big 12 title game. You just had recall flashes didn't you? Make yourself throw up. It helps). That immediate rematch has a very NFL feel and it just kind of sucks. 2001 Miami would have whipsawed Oregon and whoever won CU-NU anyway.

2003 - LSU vs USC in one quarterfinal. Oh hell yes. This might be the best argument for the playoff. After the smoke cleared from that bowl season, it was apparent that the Trojans and Tigers were the best teams in the country despite OU's regular season hype. Winner stomps Oklahoma - had they gotten by Michigan. A "true" MNC crowned.

2004 - See 2003. A nice recommendation for the playoff. Urban Meyer's impressive and undefeated Utah (still the best mid-major team I'd ever seen) has a chance to show their mettle against USC and OU takes on undefeated Auburn, who never had a chance to contest USC's #1 popularity poll ranking.

2005 - USC rematches the Bush Push with the Irish away from South Bend while Texas takes on Penn State at a neutral site or in Austin. The Texas-USC collision course continues.

2006 - An unattractive Louisville sneaks into the playoff to contest Ohio St while the true national title game probably goes down between USC-Florida. Very similar feel to 2003/2004 with a chance at a "true" champion.

2009 - The Horned Frogs get a crack at Alabama while Texas eviscerates the Bearkats. TCU gets another shot in 2010

2011 - Disrespected Oklahoma State gets a shot to make their case. And LSU probably craps the bed in the quarterfinal.

Observations:

  • Boise St, the team most often advanced as the mid-major who deserves a crack, never gets one. But Utah, TCU, Cincy, Louisville and others all get a shot at the prize. Some of those teams don't belong and it's also irritating to see a weak Virginia Tech teams soaking up spots. With the exception of 2004 Utah, I'm not really sure any of those teams could make a dent. So the debate simply expands from the two most worthy to debates as to whether we have the four most worthy. Is anything ultimately solved?
  • Would voters be influenced knowing that the top 4 have a shot at the MNC, instead of the top 2? Using historical BCS data assumes that voters wouldn't influence outcomes based on this new knowledge - and I'm pretty sure they would. Maybe little guys are squeezed out for traditional powers - particularly after some quarterfinal slaughters happen with Big East champs in years previous, or, alternatively, maybe Boise makes it in at the height of Boise mania. What do you think?
  • In weak years of college football (1998, 1999, 2006) where there are no dominant teams, the playoffs hold real drama and uncertainty. The problem is that it's precisely those years which argue for a 8-16 team field where a true Cinderella (on the football scale, the game dynamics won't allow a true NCAA basketball glass slipper) might win it all
  • In years like 2003, 2004, 2006, it's very difficult not to argue for a playoff. Media hype and lazy assumption crowns early champions, the season plays out, we realize we had it all wrong, all along, and we don't know who the toughest kid is on the block
  • Just as many quarterfinal games that would be epic and amazing would also be one-sided slaughters
I'm curious as to your thoughts, beloved readership.

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