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Does the 4 team playoff format really matter?
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Does the 4 team playoff format really matter?
   Posted by All Sports Discussion at  5/31/2012 8:01:37 PM  |  Follow us on Twitter: @scacchoops
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We’ve heard it all the last few weeks… What’s going to be playoff format? The Big 12 and SEC want the top 4 teams. The Pac 12, Big 10, ACC want the conference champs. I decided to take at both formats over in the BCS era; to find out is there really that much of a difference in the two. Is this really worth all the fuss? Let’s check it out… We’ll use the BCS standings to determine the top 4 teams.

For the sake of discussion in the event of a tie in a conference, we’ll give the higher ranked team the conference championship for that year.

2005 BCS Rankings

Top 4 Teams

USC (12-0), Texas (12-0), Penn State (10-1), Ohio State (9-2)

Conference Champs

USC (12-0), Texas (12-0), Penn State (10-1), Notre Dame (9-2)

Three of the teams are the same and you switch out a 2 loss Ohio State with 2 loss Notre Dame. Nobody is crying over that. Let’s say the Irish have some deal if they are higher ranked than the next conference champion.

 2006 BCS Rankings

Top 4 Teams

Ohio State (12-0), Florida (12-1), Michigan (11-1), LSU (10-2)

Conference Champs

Ohio State (12-0), Florida (12-1), USC (10-2), Louisville (11-1)

The top two teams are still in the playoffs and you switch out 2 loss LSU and 2 loss USC. That seems like a wash. Here though Louisville gets in over Michigan, but both with 1 loss. We’re really nit picking because a 11-1 Wisconsin team gets left out in either scenario.

2007 BCS Rankings

Top 4 Teams

Ohio State (11-1), LSU (11-2), Virginia Tech (11-2), Oklahoma (11-2)

Conference Champs

Ohio State (11-1), LSU (11-2), Virginia Tech (11-2), Oklahoma (11-2)

No Change…

2008 BCS Rankings

Top 4 Teams

Oklahoma (12-1), Florida (12-1), Texas (11-1), Alabama (12-1)

Conference Champs

Oklahoma (12-1), Florida (12-1), USC (11-1), Utah (12-0)

If there was a ever to prove the conference champ format is better, this might be it. Again the top 2 teams are the same, Texas and USC are swapped out but both with one loss. Here’s the kicker Utah gets in under the conference champ format over Alabama. That year Utah beat Bama by 2 Touchdowns… Hmm…

2009 BCS Rankings

Top 4 Teams

Alabama (13-0), Texas (13-0), Cincinnati (12-0), TCU (12-0)

Conference Champs

Alabama (13-0), Texas (13-0), Cincinnati (12-0), TCU (12-0)

No Change…

2010 BCS Rankings

Top 4 Teams

Auburn (13-0), Oregon (12-0), TCU (12-0), Stanford (11-1)

Conference Champs

Auburn (13-0), Oregon (12-0), TCU (12-0), Wisconsin (11-1)

Stanford and Wisconsin are both 1 loss that trade places. Ohio State, Michigan St. and Boise St. have 1 loss and don’t make it under either format. Three teams are the same.

2011 BCS Rankings

Top 4 Teams

LSU (13-0), Alabama (11-1), Oklahoma St. (11-1), Stanford (11-1)

Conference Champs

LSU (13-0), Oklahoma St (11-1), Stanford (11-1), Boise St. (11-1)

This would be the year that the top 4 argument is strongest. I’m not sure you would find anyone that would say Alabama wasn’t one of the top 4 teams in the country. In this case the Tide is out and Boise St. is in. Boise St. was a more than credible team. They proved it time and time and again, but the Tide being left out here wouldn’t make much sense. Also what if LSU had lost to Georgia in the SEC Title Game? There’s no question that LSU was still a deserving top 4 team.

Thoughts?

In 2 of the years (2007, 2009) we get the exact same lineup. In (2005, 2006, 2010), I think we basically have interchangeable teams with 1 or 2 losses, and other 1 loss teams getting left out. 2008 is the year the conference champ scenario is better while 2011 clearly supports the top 4 teams format. In all honesty I’m not seeing a superior format. What I am gathering from this is that what really matters is winning and having an elite record.

You go undefeated in a BCS conference you are going to be in the 4 team playoff under any format. TCU proves even a mid major can make it under either format. The fact of the matter is under either format teams will have a shot at the playoff. What’s the answer to every question is sports? Just win and everything else will take care of itself. I still believe this to be true in the vast majority of cases.

 

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