If we have said it once, we have said it a thousand times in this blog series alone. The Premier League has provided all major sports leagues in the United States with the blueprint for how to structure themselves. This generic regular season/playoff structure just does not work.
We have proven it with the NBA, NHL, and MLB already on this website. We are in the middle of proving it with college football as well.
Alabama, at the time of this writing, just won this year’s national championship in college football. They were the #4 seed into the four-team playoff. Many people (us included) thought that they should not be included in the playoff at all since they did not win their own conference, or even their own division. Their national title, however, is seen by some as retroactive justification for their inclusion.
But that is not the case. It just means that they played the best at the end of the season. They took advantage of a flawed system and won the two games that actually mattered. In this flawed system, it means we call them champions. We will never know if they actually are.
The Real Problem:
To recap, American sports fans want their champions decided on the field, which is the right desire. In college football, computers and pollsters helped to determine the champion under the historical bowl system and the more recent BCS system. To resolve this, they demanded a playoff. They thought this was the solution.
It wasn’t. The same controversy still exists. See Alabama above. It still exists because the problem was not the lack of a playoff. As we pointed out in the last post, it was the existence of conferences. The division of teams into conferences keeps the best teams from playing each other.
If/when two top teams do happen to play, it still does not resolve the problem because no two teams have an identical schedule. Therefore, their win-loss records are arbitrary.
The college football playoff has to go. Conferences have to go.
The Premier League (and English football in general) has the solution for a replacement.
There are currently 130+ teams in the top level of college football. Here is what should happen:
- Divide all teams evenly into East and West.
- Further divide the teams based on performance into 13-team divisions. For now, let’s call them East 1 and West 1, East 2 and West 2, East 3 and West 3, and so on.
- The top 13 teams in the East go into East 1. The same goes for West 1. Fill all divisions down until you run out of teams. Note that you could incorporate FCS, Division II, and Division III into this as well by creating more East and West divisions.
You now have a structure. Here’s how the games would play out:
- Each team plays the other 12 teams in its division. That is the entirety of its regular season schedule.
- At the end of the regular season, the East 1 and West 1 champions meet in the national championship.
- In all other divisions (e.g. East 2, West 2, East 3, West 3, etc.), the first place team is “promoted” to the next highest division.
- In all divisions, the last place team is “demoted/relegated” to the next lowest division.
- Just like now, any team with a winning record at the end of the regular season plays a bowl game. Bowl games would need to be slightly reworked so that arrangements were made within this new division structure rather than the existing conference structure (which could easily be done).
Based on this year’s results, college football would look like this:
East 1 – Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Auburn, Ohio State, Miami, Penn State, Florida, Florida State, Virginia Tech, LSU, Georgia Tech, Louisville
West 1 – Oklahoma, Wisconsin, USC, Stanford, TCU, Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan, Texas A&M, Washington, Oregon
East 2 – NC State, West Virginia, Ole Miss, Maryland, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Duke, Central Florida, South Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Boston College
West 2 – Washington State, Utah, Kansas State, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Boise State, Northwestern, Iowa State, Texas, UCLA, Houston, California
And so on. You get the point.
How great would it be if all these teams played each other during the season, leading to a true championship game at the end of the season?
Under this structure, the best part of college football – which existed before the playoff – will return to the sport.
Before the playoff, the regular season mattered so much more. Teams had to win every week to be considered for the national championship. Each week was essentially an elimination week.
Now, teams can lose a game or two, and they might be fine. Again, see Alabama above. Because a committee decides the playoff teams after the regular season ends, we do not know which games actually matter when they happen.
The drama of the regular season working its way to an eventual champion is gone.
However, if we follow the solution outlined in this post, it would return. Teams in the same divisions will play the same schedules. A championship game would still be played, and it will determine a true champion. On the field.
And we will watch. We will watch so much more than we do now. We will watch every week, starting in August and not stopping until January when the season ends. We cannot afford to miss a game because every game matters.
We need this. We deserve this. No more playoffs. Our time is too valuable. Let’s demand a better way.
The Premier League has shown us that something better is available.
Some, of course, would disagree, and they would present some legitimate objections. Don’t worry. We have thought of those. We will cover those in our next post.