(Note: This is the Who, What, Where and When. The Why can be found here)
Honestly, this is so easy those NCAA guys could do it in their sleep. Take the top 12 teams, rank ’em, and pit ’em against each other, giving the top four a first-week bye. The second week, No. 1 plays the winner of 5 vs. 12, No. 2 plays the winner of 6 vs. 11, etc.
Hey, if you want to, you can expand it to 16 teams. Or 24 teams, giving eight teams a first-round bye. But by then your post-season is getting pretty long — this isn’t the NBA, after all — so I would keep it at four rounds.
But what about poor Virginia Tech, you ask? They finished 13 in the rankings, with only two losses on the season. Haven’t we arbitrarily eliminated a team that had a legitimate right to consider itself one of the top 12 teams in the country? Aren’t they cheated by this system?
Yes, that case could be made. I will concede that there will always be arguments about teams in the ‘teens under this system. For this bracket, I’ve used the final BCS rankings. The NCAA can use whatever ranking system it wants; it doesn’t matter a whole lot, because if a team ends the regular season ranked 13th and gets eliminated from the championship playoffs, it’s not like anyone could say they were a legitimate contender to be No. 1. They were a legitimate contender to be No. 5, perhaps, but who really cares about No. 5?
The teams who are legit contenders, though, will have the chance to prove themselves, on the field, where it matters. Every year there are a handful of them, and only two get to actually play for the “championship.” Under this easy-to-implement system, 12 teams will.
For this exercise, I’ve tried to locate the games in warm-weather cities, preferably in cities that already have bowl games, and avoiding domes as much as possible. The top-ranked teams get the location that’s the closest to their campus. For some of the early games, we can even call them “bowls” if the NCAA thinks it will generate more revenue, but I think the fact that they’re mileposts along the road to a true college championship will make them important enough. The championship game is on January 1, the traditional final day of the college football season.
So here’s the prospective lineup:
WEEK 1 (December 11)
Game 1, Memphis, Tenn. (We’ll call it the Liberty Bowl): Wisconsin (5) vs. Missouri (12)
Game 2, Tampa, Fla. (Tampa Bowl): Ohio State (6) vs. LSU (11)
Game 3, San Antonio, Texas (Alamo Bowl): Oklahoma (7) vs. Boise State (10)
Game 4, San Francisco, Calif. (California Bowl): Arkansas (8) vs. Michigan State (9)
First round Bye: Auburn (1), Oregon (2), TCU (3) and Stanford (4)
Week 2 (December 18)
Game 5, Jacksonville, Fla. (Gator Bowl): Auburn (1) vs. Game 4 winner
Game 6, San Diego, Calif. (Holiday Bowl) Oregon (2) vs. Game 3 winner
Game 7, Dallas, Texas. (Cotton Bowl): TCU vs. Game 2 winner
Game 8, New Orleans, La. (Sugar Bowl): Stanford vs. Game 1 winner
Week 3 (December 24)
Game 9, Miami, Fla: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 winner
Game 10, Pasadena, Calif.: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner
Week 4 (January 1)
National Championship, Glendale Ariz.
Get your office pools ready!