What If There Was A Playoff? ... 2003
USC QB Matt Leinart
USC QB Matt Leinart
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 2003? What likely would've happened? CFN tries to figure out how a playoff would've gone.

If There Was A Playoff ... 2003

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 2003? Here’s the best guess with the seedings and the results.

Final BCS Ranking In Parentheses

ACC – Florida State (7)
Big East – Miami (9)
Big Ten – Michigan (4)
Big 12 – Kansas State (10)
Pac 10 – USC (3)
SEC – LSU (2)
Non-BCS – Miami University (11)
Wild Card – Oklahoma (1)

Bubble Busted: Ohio State (5), Texas (6)

Kansas State’s shocking upset over Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game killed Ohio State’s chance to get in as a Wild Card. Texas would’ve been disappointed, but it didn’t have much of a case to get in.

First Round Matchups

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 Florida State
No. 2 LSU vs. No. 7 Miami
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Miami Univ.
No. 3 USC vs. No. 6 Kansas State

Matchup Analysis:
The mother of all BCS controversies would’ve easily been settled with a playoff. USC was No. 1 in the human polls but finished third in the BCS, while Oklahoma finished third according to the humans and first according to the computers to end up first in the BCS. LSU came in a solid second and won the whole the national title, but USC was still claiming a piece of the championship thanks to the AP.

LSU would’ve had to play a home game in Miami against the Canes, but was tough enough defensively to have found a way to win; this wasn’t the Miami team of the previous few years. The Cane defense would’ve kept the game close, but LSU was the better team. Ben Roethlisberger’s Miami University team would’ve been the interesting novelty after winning 12 straight games following a 21-3 opening day loss at Iowa. The offense was unstoppable helped by a line that was more than good enough to have given Oklahoma’s defensive front problems, but the defense wouldn’t have been able to stop Jason White and the Sooner attack.

Darren Sproles and Kansas State might have been the hot team after blasting OU, but USC wouldn’t have had too many problems. The Wildcats lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Florida State wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t consistent. Chris Rix and the offense wouldn’t have been able to keep up with Braylon Edwards, Steve Breaston, Chris Perry and the Michigan O.

Projected Final Four

Rose Bowl – No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Michigan
Sugar Bowl – No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 USC

Matchup Analysis:
USC would’ve thrived on the road atmosphere. Matt Leinart and the offense had hung up 43 points or more in each of the final seven regular season games, and while the schedule wasn’t exactly challenging, the team really was that good. LSU struggled to put away Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, and it likely would’ve had problems late against the Trojan pass rush. Matt Mauck wouldn’t have had time to work, and Justin Vincent, the hero of the Sugar Bowl, wouldn’t have had much room to move. Oklahoma had put up monster numbers all season long, but it lost its mojo in the Big 12 title game. The much-maligned John Navarre would’ve been just good enough to pull off the upset over a Sooner team that had been exposed.

Projected National Championship:
No. 2 USC vs. No. 4 Michigan
Projected National Champion: No. 3 USC

Matchup Analysis:
USC won a 28-14 battle over the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl. The Michigan offensive line had a lousy game, but Navarre heated up just in time to make it interesting.

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