Ross Maak: College playoff a Plus (1)? |

Ross Maak: College playoff a Plus (1)?

I’m a little out of my comfort zone here since I follow the NFL much more closely than I watch college football.

Still, I couldn’t turn on ESPN on Tuesday without someone talking about the possible “Plus-1” scenario for a Division I college football playoff.

One thought kept cropping up.


Don’t get me wrong, anything is better than the BCS mess that exists right now, like arguments as to who gets to play in the big game and who got left out and why they got left out. USC loves to argue that there’s an East-Coast bias, for example.

So now reports have surfaced that the powers that be are looking to add a “Plus-1” game. As far as I can tell, it means four teams would play in the semifinals and two would then play for the national championship.

Better? Sure. Is it really going to solve anything? Doubtful.

Let’s take last year as an example. Who are the final four? Keep in mind, we’re not going by post-bowl game results here, we’re talking at the end of the regular season.

So, you’re probably going to take 12-0 Ohio State, right? Then probably 12-1 Florida, who had only one loss to Auburn in week seven. Those two are easy. From here, it gets difficult.

Now we have two spots to fill with 11-1 Louisville, 11-1 Wisconsin, 11-1 Michigan and 12-0 Boise State. How do you not take Boise State? They never lost, so how can you leave a perfect team out of a shot at the national championship?

Well probably because they didn’t beat a Top 25 team all season. Michigan, meanwhile, had just one loss and it was to the No. 1 team in the nation, Ohio State.

Then there is Louisville, which lost in week 9 to No. 15 Rutgers and Wisconsin, which suffered its only loss way back in week 4 to then-No. 6 Michigan.

All have earned a right to be there. Michigan has to get in since its only loss is to the top-ranked team in the nation. That leaves one spot left for Boise State, Wisconsin and Louisville.

Is it Boise State’s fault they play in a weaker conference with no ranked teams? The Broncos may play out West, they may play on a ridiculously colored field and they may be saddled with the simple fact that they play in a state known most for its potatoes.

Does all that add up to not deserving a shot at the national championship?

Personally, I don’t think so. For me, Boise State is in. (I was arguing for Boise State before they ever tried the famous game-winning trick play against Oklahoma, by the way.)

That leaves Louisville and Wisconsin on the outside looking in. If I’m Wisconsin, I’m livid. The Badgers haven’t lost since week 4, and that was to a late-season national championship contender. I doubt Louisville fans would keep quiet, either. One loss shouldn’t take a team out of the championship race – even if that’s currently the case.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this “Plus-1” idea is bad, it’s just not nearly good enough. It’s a quarter-step in the right direction.

I’m not saying they should go March Madness on us and send 64 teams into a single elimination tournament (even though, at last count, that’s how many teams currently earn a trip to a bowl game). But they could invite eight or, even better, 16.

I know, I know. Even in the 64-team basketball tournament there are “bubble teams” and teams that whine about getting left out. But when the dust settles, they weren’t teams that were realistically going to be competing for a national championship.

It doesn’t matter where the cutoff is, there will be teams whining that they didn’t get in. But if you take the top eight or 16, you’ve really narrowed the field of “bubble teams.”

Again, take 2006 as an example. Let in Florida, Ohio State, Boise State, Michigan, Louisville and Wisconsin. Then pick the best of the two-loss teams (USC, LSU, Oklahoma, Auburn, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Wake Forest, Rutgers, BYU and TCU.)

It’d be tough, but when the dust settled it’d probably be USC and LSU. That’s a pretty good playoff right there. A few may cry foul, but Oklahoma, Auburn and Notre Dame just weren’t quite in the same league as Florida and OSU. Close, but not quite.

Expand it to 16 (like every other division in college football does) and the rest of the two-loss teams are suddenly in the mix. It would be easy enough to justify dropping a couple of the lesser teams off that list (BYU and TCU, for instance) to give teams like Arkansas and Virginia Tech a shot. Maybe even Tennessee or the mighty California Golden Bears get their shot.

According to those reports on ESPN, though, these “Plus-1” rumblings and rumors haven’t even been brought before the college presidents or bowl officials. Only after they give their stamp of approval will I actually believe this is a possibility.

A step in the right direction? Yes. But only if it continues to move toward a permanent solution – namely, playoffs.


To contact Sports Writer Ross Maak, e-mail or call 477-4244.

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