What If There Was A Playoff? ... 2002
Miami RB Willis McGahee
Miami RB Willis McGahee
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 2002? What likely would've happened? CFN tries to figure out how a playoff would've gone.

If There Was A Playoff ... 2002

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 2002? Here’s the best guess with the seedings and the results.

Final BCS Ranking In Parentheses

ACC – Florida State (14)
Big East – Miami (1)
Big Ten – Ohio State (2)
Big 12 – Oklahoma (7)
Pac 10 – Washington State (6)
SEC – Georgia (3)
Non-BCS – Notre Dame (9)
Wild Card – USC (4)

Bubble Busted: Iowa (5), Kansas State (8)

Iowa fans would’ve had a mega-fit after going unbeaten in Big Ten play along with Ohio State. The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes didn’t play, but Brad Banks and Iowa suffered a 36-31 loss to Iowa State for the lone blemish. USC lost two games but still finished fourth in the BCS before going on to blowout the Hawkeyes 38-17 in the Orange Bowl. Kansas State had a wee bit of a beef after going 10-2, but it didn’t even with the Big 12 North.

First Round Matchups

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Notre Dame
No. 1 Miami vs. No. 8 Florida State
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 7 Oklahoma
No. 4 USC vs. No. 5 Washington State

Matchup Analysis:
Notre Dame was mediocre by the end of 2002, evidenced by a 44-13 loss to USC before getting thumped 28-6 by NC State. The Irish would’ve been steamrolled over by Ohio State. While a Miami – Florida State rematch wouldn’t be ideal, it would be the obvious 1 vs. 8 matchup. The Noles provided a push in a 28-27 Hurricane win in mid-October, but ended up losing four regular season games before losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Miami would’ve won a rematch with ease.

The USC vs. Washington State game would’ve been a rematch of a 30-27 Cougar win that ended up sending Jason Gesser and the boys to the Rose Bowl. It would’ve made geographic sense to play the game again since Oklahoma would’ve been almost certain to play in Dallas. The OU battle with Georgia would’ve been one of the marquee matchups of the tournament. The Sooners had been upset by Texas A&M and were stunned by Oklahoma State, but won the Big 12 title and would’ve provided a brutal matchup for the SEC champions. It would’ve been a classic with the Sooner running game being a little bit better than Musa Smith and the Georgia attack.

Projected Final Four

Rose Bowl – No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 USC
Sugar Bowl – No. 1 Miami vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

Matchup Analysis:
USC was just starting to become amazing under Pete Carroll led by burgeoning juggernaut of an offense led by Heisman winner Carson Palmer. Ohio State had a special season when everything went right, but it got through unscathed by the skin of its teeth. USC would’ve used this game to set the big-game tone for the next several years with a great performance from the suddenly swarming defense. Miami would’ve had a problem with Quentin Griffin and the OU running game, but the Canes had too much firepower and would’ve moved on with a big second half led by a huge passing day from Ken Dorsey.

Projected National Championship:
No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 USC
Projected National Champion: No. 4 Miami

Matchup Analysis:
USC was great, but it wasn’t 2002 Miami quite yet. Assuming Willis McGahee was still healthy, and didn’t get hurt like he did in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State, Miami likely would’ve gotten through the firefight with yet another national title. It wouldn’t have come without a major battle as the tremendous USC defensive front would’ve generated consistent pressure all game long.

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