3 + 1 = a 4-Team Playoff


The Big Ten wants a 4-team playoff with conference champions only. The SEC wants a 4-team playoff that is simply the top 4 teams regardless of conference. Who wins?

Well, as in all negotiations there has to be some give and take….a compromise. One that I’ve seen, which could happen is taking the top 3 conference champions + the top remaining team regardless of whether they won their

conference or not. If this scenario was done in 2011, it would have been 1. LSU (SEC Champ), 2. Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champ), 3. Oregon (PAC 12 Champ) + 4. Alabama (highest ranked team outside of the above three, #2).

What does this do – I’m not sure. There is likely to be a caveat that the three conference champions have to be in the Top 6. Well, I would hate to see them be #1, #5 and #6. Then #3 and #4 get left out. It is likely an ugly way to do the 4-team playoff, but it’s a compromise that will at least get us a 4-team playoff.

The conference champions only model would seem to be the cleanest. But not all conferences are created equal. Notre Dame is sure to raise a fuss on that, and don’t they have to sign off? It won’t be conference champions, but it most likely won’t be just the top 4 either.

There is some question about how to select the teams in a playoff. Whether it’s selecting 4 teams or just one at-large, I don’t think a committee is the way to go. Committees work (supposedly) in basketball and baseball but their questionable decisions won’t be as contested as football would. In those sports, there are 64 teams…questions about seeding or the last few teams in aren’t as big of a deal as who’s the 4th team in a 4-team playoff. There will have to be a formula. Perhaps an RPI will replace the computers, go back to the AP….something like that.

I don’t really see any scenario where a 4-team playoff can satisfy everyone. If it’s conference champions the SEC and Big 12 won’t be happy. If it’s the top 4 the Big Ten and PAC 12 won’t be happy. If it’s a plus one (play all the bowls, then come up with top 2 teams) that’s decided, it is likely to cause more disgust that what we have now. The 3+1 idea is likely to give us a 4-team playoff, but it’s not as clean as it could be with a slightly larger one. Eventually, I think we’re headed for a larger playoff than just the four.

I am still in favor of a 6-team playoff or an 8-team playoff. The 6-team would include byes for the top 2 conference champions and then select four at-large spots. The 8-team playoff would allow the top 4 conference champions to host the top 4 at-large teams. And of course, the more playoff teams there are, the better chance Mississippi State would have to get in.

All the big wigs are set to meet again this week to try and get it all hammered out. We’ll see what happens, at least we are headed toward a playoff of some kind.