Two questions entered my mind when watching pregame for the BCS National Championship game tonight.
1) Who is should be this year's national champion? The winner of the Florida/Oklahoma game? Utah? Texas? USC? There won't be consensus.
2) Why haven't Florida and Oklahoma played before this game? This one has a simple solution. Unlike college basketball where a major component of making the NCAA tournament is strength of schedule and quality wins, this is not the case for football. In the football rankings and polls, wins and losses generally prevail. This is why teams schedule unbalanced schedules in terms of home/road games, and why teams schedule creampuff opponents consisting of FCS and Division II teams.
To address these two issues, I think most people believe there should be a playoff at this point. Here's my solution.
In 2009 there will be 120 FBS teams. Lets have 10 conferences of 12 teams. Each team will play an 11 game schedule comprised entirely of their conference. No more creampuff schedules. The teams with the top two records in each conference will play a conference championship game. The winner will make a 10 team playoff.
Currently there are 11 conferences plus 3 independents (Army, Navy, and ND). Conferences today range from 8-13 teams each. This will obviously mean rearranging conference ties. How can the Big Ten not have 10 teams? It already has 11. One conference will have to be completely dissolved and teams rearranged. Most historical rivalries and traditions will stay in tact, but I can't think of a conference where there's not a team or two who could move. Would teams in BCS conferences want to move to Mid-Majors? Of course. Why wouldn't they like a better opportunity to win the conference and enter the playoff? This will also lead to more parity in recruiting and competition. Players would want to win championships by lifting a Mid-Major team through a poor conference instead of being one of several top players in a powerhouse conference in which only one team can win.
There can be regular season rankings, whether BCS or AP, as there are today, but the final rankings, published after the conference championship games will be used to seed the conference champs going into the tournament. The 7 seed will play 10, and the 8 seed will play 9. The lower seed who wins will face 1, and the higher seed who wins will play 2. This is similar to the NFL system of byes. From there we have an 8 team tournament, which means three more weeks of games before a champion is crowned.
The 9 games in the playoff will comprise the 9 largest bowls. The other bowl games can still exist, separate from the playoff system. This will create better matchups in the bowl games. Since the 9 largest bowl games will be played by 10 different teams instead of 18, we will have less bowl games pairing two 6-6 teams. The other bowl games will be played during the week between weekend playoff games. They will still be scheduled according to approximate quality as they are now.
This system means all teams will play a minimum of 11 games and a maximum of 16. Most teams would play 11 or 12 (only regular season or regular season plus a bowl). I'd prefer to keep the season short, so that means no bye weeks unless you make the playoff as a 1-6 seed. The playoffs begin the week following the conference championship games. I wouldn't mind skipping conference championship games and instead relying on regular season performance only.