The more I hear about the potential four-team playoff, the more I dislike about it. Hopefully, when the Presidents vote on the final plan today, we'll get something better than what has been floated around the past week. Don't get me wrong, a playoff is definitely a step in the right direction, but that step is just as contentious as the BCS ever was.
Maybe it was too much to ask for such stark change in such a small period of time. Certainly the fact that we're even talking playoffs, and actually on the cusp of a playoff, is a positive sign and should be embraced by college football fans across the country (globe?), but I can't help but think we're wobbling our way to even more controversy with what the BCS Presidents are mulling over these final few hours.
Instead of the Larry Scott compromise, which laid out that top-six conference champions would get priority over non-champion teams, we've got one where the fate of all four teams will be left in the hands of a selection committee. That committee will use a plethora of unknown means to make their selections and that is where this problem lies.
Who makes the selection and how can we trust their opinion? I guess that's where the playoff will sink or swim. If the selection committee is diverse enough, unbiased enough, it may work. If it's packed with SEC and Big 12 honks, people who make selection solely based on name power and not necessarily overall resume, is this really any better than the BCS?
Scott proposed the possibility of a plus-one and while not ideal, and certainly sounding more regressive than an overall playoff, at the moment, with so much up in the air about the legitimacy of a playoff selection committee, I actually might favor it more than the current proposed four-team playoff.
Hear me out for a second.
I've already said that I doubt 2004 and 2008's Utes would have been included in a four-team playoff and I stand by that. However, in a plus-one, a situation where there is no traditional playoff, they very well could have played their way into the championship game.
Jason Kirk here at SBNation actually broke down the possibility of a plus-one and both years Utah busted the BCS, they would have been afforded a better opponent in their bowl game and a chance to position themselves for a title run.
In 2004, he surmises the Utes would have played undefeated Auburn, whereas USC would have played Iowa and Oklahoma would have played Texas. Now, it's still probable, as he points out, that the Trojans play Oklahoma in the national championship game. But, and this is just conjecture on my part, it's possible the Sooners lose to the Longhorns (Oklahoma did in fact beat them 12-0 earlier in the year) and that automatically opens the doors for a Utah-Auburn winner to take on USC.
In 2008, it would have been a much easier path. The projection there puts Utah and Florida in the same bowl game and with the Gators entering the game ranked first, a victory over Urban Meyer, regardless of what happens in every other bowl game, would have put the Utes in the national championship game.
So, with a plus-one in '08, compared to a four-team playoff, Utah goes from having no chance at the championship to actually playing for one if they take care of business.
I know, I know, but we're not in the Mountain West anymore! We don't have to worry about this anymore. Sure we do. Just ask Stanford last season. Because they lost to Oregon, who had two losses of their own by the end of the year, they would have most likely been left out of a four-team playoff, but would have been allowed a chance in a plus-one because of their bowl position.
That's not to say a plus-one is perfect. It isn't. In fact, I'm sure a great deal of fans will groan at the rematch possibilities and the fact we could still end up with more than one undefeated team by seasons end (though, to be fair on that latter point, this is the case with a four-team playoff too). But, from the perspective of the underdog and not the programs that will almost certainly always get the nod if they do just enough, a plus-one is far more favorable to the Utahs and Boise States of the world and because of that, because I have the instinct to want a fair system, it's hard for me to fully get on board with this four-team playoff idea. Not when too many deserving teams will be left out. I guess, after years of being shunned by the Big Boys, I've grown sympathetic to their plight, even if we're now part of the haves instead of the have-nots.
Ultimately, what this shows, is that there is no good solution that's on the table. A four-team playoff is better than the BCS system - for some programs. It will also prove to be a disadvantage for non-BCS members and in some instances, members of the Big East & ACC, who feel they'll have to jump through even bigger hoops to get to the postseason.
A plus-one, while not much better, at least opens the door to a more leveled playing field, at least in theory.
I'm guessing most will still want a four-team playoff and I understand why. For the most part, I agree, except I can't help but get caught up on that selection committee. I fear, and hopefully I'm wrong, that we'll find ourselves in a position where the selection committee is just as corrupt as the old system we're leaving. In that regard, we're only mildly better off and I would much rather take my chances with a plus-one. But that's just me.