What If There Was A Playoff? ... 2001
Miami QB Ken Dorsey & RB Clinton Portis
Miami QB Ken Dorsey & RB Clinton Portis
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 2001? What likely would've happened? CFN tries to figure out how a playoff would've gone.

If There Was A Playoff ... 2001

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 2001? Here’s the best guess with the seedings and the results.

Final BCS Ranking In Parentheses

ACC – Maryland (10)
Big East – Miami (1)
Big Ten – Illinois (8)
Big 12 – Colorado (3)
Pac 10 – Oregon (4)
SEC – LSU (13)
Non-BCS – BYU (NR)
Wild Card – Nebraska (2)

Bubble Busted: Florida (5), Tennessee (6), Texas (7)

There would’ve been a lot of complaining about the automatic spot for the non-BCS team. There wasn’t a clear-cut team that would’ve deserved the bid considering few were buying into a 12-1 BYU squad that built up a 12-0 record by beating no one, and then was exposed in a 72-45 loss to Hawaii. Louisville might have been the choice after going 10-2, but it didn’t beat anyone of note until a Liberty Bowl victory over BYU. With Colorado winning the Big 12 title game and Nebraska finishing No. 2 in the BCS rankings, Texas was knocked out. Tennessee had a shot to play for the national title there for the taking, but in a playoff format like this, would’ve been knocked out after being stunned by LSU. Florida lost its shot with a home loss to Tennessee.

First Round Matchups
No. 3 Colorado vs. No. 6 Illinois
No. 1 Miami vs. No. 8 BYU
No. 2 Nebraska vs. No. 7 Maryland
No. 4 Oregon vs. No. 5 LSU

Matchup Analysis:
Colorado might have struggled in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oregon, but it was on a roll late in the year with an opportunistic defense and Chris Brown leading a devastating running game. Illinois had a high-powered passing attack, but Kurt Kittner and Brandon Lloyd wouldn’t have been enough to get the win. Miami would’ve beaten BYU by 50 at home. Maryland was the upstart team of 2001, but on the big stage against a Nebraska team that was still good, despite the ugly loss to Colorado, this wouldn’t have been close. The Oregon vs. LSU matchup would’ve been interesting. Rohan Davey, Josh Reed and the LSU passing game would’ve given the Duck secondary fits, but Oregon proved it could come up big in Phoenix with the Fiesta Bowl win over Colorado. Joey Harrington would’ve been along for the ride as the Duck running game would’ve shown surprising power on the way to the Final Four.

Projected Final Four

Rose Bowl – No. 2 Nebraska vs. No. 3 Colorado
Sugar Bowl – No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 Oregon

Matchup Analysis:
Oregon was good with a quick strike offense and enough speed to keep it close, but Miami had too much talent on defense and too much firepower on offense to blow it. The Canes played eight teams that finished with winning records and allowed 117 points all year. The Nebraska vs. Colorado showdown would’ve been fascinating. The Buffs got the Huskers once, but the guess is that it wouldn’t happen again. Again, Nebraska, led by Heisman winner Eric Crouch, really was good. There was a reason the Huskers finished the year No. 2 in the BCS.

Projected National Championship:
No. 1 Miami vs. No. 2 Nebraska
Projected National Champion: No. 1 Miami

Matchup Analysis:
The 2002 Rose Bowl: Miami 37 – Nebraska 14. And it wasn’t even that close.

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