What If There Was A Playoff? ... 1998
Ohio State QB Joe Germaine
Ohio State QB Joe Germaine
Posted Jan 14, 2012

With all the fun every year with March Madness and the NFL Playoffs, it's a shame college football isn't able to come up with a similar way to crown a champion. What if there was an eight team college football tournament in 1998? What likely would've happened? CFN tries to figure out how a playoff would've gone.

If There Was A Playoff ... 1998

What If There Was A Playoff ...
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It's that time of year ... the second guessing season.

What might happen if Oklahoma State got its shot? How would TCU have done if it got its shot at Auburn at the end of the 2010 season? How about if Boise State got a chance at Alabama in 2009 or if several other BCS fiascos were decided on the field?.

Forget basketball's gimmicky post-season, where a seventh best team in a conference gets a shot to play for the national title, rendering the regular season relatively meaningless. CFN has created the best of all possible worlds for a playoff to make sure the regular season still holds the weight it does now, if not more, while providing the solution everyone wants (outside of Bill Hancock, the college presidents, the yellow-jacket bowl kids, and 99% of the coaches). Here’s the plan …

Take the six BCS conference champions and give them automatic bids. Take the highest ranked non-BCS league champion (Notre Dame included), and give it an automatic bid. The eighth and final slot would be a Wild Card, which would go to the top ranked team in the BCS that isn’t already in.

We'd have to keep this in the land of the real with the geographic and economic concerns in mind by rewarding the top four teams with a first round home game - fan bases aren't going to travel to three neutral field sites if their team goes to the national championship.

The seeds wouldn’t necessarily go according to BCS ranking, again, with the idea to put teams close to the right region to make sure the opposing fans can get there as easily as possible.

The Final Four games would be held in Pasadena and New Orleans, and the national title would rotate sites like it does now. Meanwhile the rest of the bowl system would be kept in place. If you watched the Liberty Bowl before, you’d still watch it if there's  an eight team playoff.
So what would've likely happened had the CFN system been in place since the BCS was in place in 1998? Here's the best guess with the seedings and the results.

Final BCS Ranking In Parentheses

ACC – Florida State (2)
Big East – Syracuse (15)
Big Ten – Ohio State (4)
Big 12 – Texas A&M (6)
Pac 10 – UCLA (5)
SEC – Tennessee (1)
Non-BCS – Tulane (10)
Wild Card – Kansas State (3)

Bubble Busted: Arizona (7), Florida (8), Wisconsin (9)

Texas A&M's shocking win over Kansas State in the Big 12 championship would've ruined the dreams of Arizona, who would've ended up getting the Wild Card with a KSU win. There would've been a big debate and a major controversy about the Big Ten tie-breaker with Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan all finishing 7-1 in conference play. The Badgers' lone loss came to Michigan and they didn't play Ohio State, while Michigan's Big Ten loss came in Columbus. OSU lost in the final moments against Michigan State for its only loss of the season. Assuming the tie-breaker would then be the BCS rankings, OSU was fourth and Wisconsin ninth. Arizona would've been ticked off after going 11-1 with the lone loss coming to UCLA, while Florida's late-season loss to Florida State all but ended any hope of the Wild Card

First Round Matchups

No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Texas A&M
No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 7 Syracuse
No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 8 Tulane
No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 6 UCLA

Matchup Analysis:
Kansas State, even with the loss in the Big 12 title game, would’ve received a No. 3 seed, but it would’ve been punished by having to go to Phoenix where UCLA would’ve had a Pac 10 home field advantage. UCLA would’ve deserved the higher seed than A&M, but would’ve been given a 6 seed for geographic interests.

The high-powered Bruin offense likely would’ve won a shootout over Michael Bishop’s Wildcats. Tulane and Shaun King would’ve put up a fight before giving up a big fourth quarter in a loss to Tennessee. Remember, even though the Green Wave went unbeaten, there were only two regular season wins over teams that finished with a winning record. The best victory came over a Louisville team that went 7-5. Donovan McNabb and Syracuse would’ve been shut down by Florida State’s phenomenal defense, and Ohio State, who beat Texas A&M in the 1999 Sugar Bowl 24-14, would’ve beaten the Aggies in Indy.

Projected Final Four

Rose Bowl – No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 6 UCLA
Sugar Bowl – No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 4 Ohio State

Matchup Analysis:
Tennessee found ways to win. UCLA couldn’t stop the run and would’ve been run over by the Vols, even though the game would’ve been played in Pasadena. As good as Florida State was defensively, Marcus Outzen and the offense would’ve struggled. The Buckeyes would’ve kept the Seminole O in check to get to the national title game.

Projected National Championship:
No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Projected National Champion: No. 4 Ohio State

Matchup Analysis:
The 1998 Ohio State team was better than it ever received credit for with five future first round picks playing key roles, a steady quarterback in Joe Germaine, and a defense that was a rock. The D had a bad fourth quarter in the 28-24 loss to Michigan State, but that was it as the Buckeyes didn’t allow more than 17 points against anyone else. Tennessee was magical and managed to pull out close games … flip a coin. Tennessee’s offense was fine, and had an explosive element in WR Peerless Price, but the call would’ve been a huge win for Jon Cooper and Ohio State in an ugly war.