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The Playoff Era: What Could’ve Been in the BCS

The world of college football was altered on a large scale on one fateful Wednesday afternoon in June 2012 as the BCS Presidential Advisory committee announced that a playoff would be coming to the game as of the 2014 season. There was much rejoicing by the fans and media and with that we’re honoring the new system with “The Playoff Era” week here at Crystal Ball Run. However, before we go into the future and explore all the nooks and crannies of the new system, it’s only fair that we give ourselves a bit of a history lesson, so today we’re going on a journey to the past to discover just what a playoff would’ve done for the game back in the day and would the new system changed the outcomes at all?

For this exercise we only took the results from the 2004 season and beyond due to the fact that in 2004 the BCS system was tweaked and therefore going all the way back just wouldn’t give us a fair look into the system. So, let us dive in and enjoy a little trip in the way back machine as we find out just what the playoffs would’ve looked like

2004 Playoff

Top 4: 1) USC (12-0), 2) Oklahoma (12-0), 3) Auburn (12-0), 4) Texas (11-1)

Just Missed the Playoff: 5) Cal (10-1), 6) Utah (11-0), 9) Boise State (11-0)

- Overall this season was pretty straight forward in terms of who was the cream of the crop. The only real argument to be made that they got anything wrong was not putting that undefeated Utah team into the mix. They did become the first non-AQ to make a BCS bowl game and we should all know how that turned out as they absolutely crushed 20th ranked Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl 35-7.

- The matchups: USC vs. Texas & Oklahoma vs. Auburn.

Oklahoma vs. Auburn: Seeing the powerful Oklahoma team taking on the undefeated and a little under the radar Tigers squad would be a heck of a back and forth battle. The game would’ve featured one of the best battles of QB’s and RB’s versus each other in quite some time as Auburn featured a backfield out of this world with QB Jason Campbell and RB’s Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, while Oklahoma had Maxwell Award winner Jason White at QB and the freshman phenom known as Adrian Peterson at RB. In this battle you also have to look at the defenses and the edge is totally with the Tigers as they allowed just two teams all season to score 20 or more points (20 & 28). Oklahoma allowed back-to-back games of 35 points to its opponents and while it’s true the offense was juggernaut, the Auburn D was equally that in stopping offenses. Throwing away the results of Oklahoma getting their butts handed to them in the National Championship game I still think Auburn wins because of the defense.

USC vs. Texas: This is another interesting battle of the backfields as Texas had the dynamic duo of QB Vince Young (1,079 yds rushing) and RB Cedric Benson (1,834yds rushing) while USC featured some kids named Matt Leinart and RB’s named Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Of course we all know that their National Championship is vacated, but on the field this team was nearly unstoppable. They were great on offense and defense that year, allowing opponents just 13.3 points per game. This one could’ve been ugly in my book as Young was just a sophomore and this USC team was just that damn good.

National Champion: USC - In our mythical national championship game we get Auburn vs. USC in an absolute slugfest of a game. Auburn only faced one team during the regular season with the firepower even close enough to USC’s and that was the Georgia Bulldogs. But that offense still wasn’t close to what USC could do. It might not have been the highest scoring affair in National Championship game history, but USC in 2004 was simply one of the all-time great teams in college football so I’m going with the Trojans.

 

2005 Playoff

Top 4: 1) USC (12-0), 2) Texas (12-0), 3) Penn State (10-1), 4) Ohio State (9-2)

Just missed the Playoff: 5) Oregon (10-1), 6) Notre Dame (9-2)

- Once again, they seemed to get it right – those pesky computers are winning again! Oregon’s claim to getting into this playoff is rather weak after their complete collapse in a 45-13 humiliation at the hands of USC early in the season. Notre Dame would have to jump the ducks and Ohio State and their resume was thin at best in my book. However the computers do give us some classic matchups that’s for sure.

- The matchups: USC vs. Ohio State & Texas vs. Penn State

USC vs. Ohio State: Why would this be an interesting game? Well the Buckeyes’ only two losses all season were to the other two teams in the playoff and both by a TD or less (Texas – 22-25 & PSU – 10-17), so it’s not as if they don’t belong in the conversation. The clear leader of OSU that season was standout LB AJ Hawk and the defense. The offense had some star power as well though with QB Troy Smith alongside WR’s Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr., and Anthony Gonzalez. USC would counter with an undefeated team featuring that same dynamic group of Leinart at QB and RB’s LenDale White and Reggie Bush. The difference between 2004 and 2005 USC was that the defense wasn’t nearly at the same level. I think Ohio State would’ve given USC a huge push, but in the end I take the defending national champions in what would’ve been a hell of a game, probably a nail bitter.

Texas vs. Penn State: The 2005 Penn State Nittany Lions were one of the most under the radar one-loss teams of the last decade. Sure the offense wasn’t full of huge star quality names (at least to the casual fan) but they were led by Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Michael Robinson at QB and a solid RB in Tony Hunt. They scored under 20 points just one time in Big Ten play (the 17-10 win over Ohio State) and their one loss was a game for the ages at the Big House, where Michigan won 27-25 on a last second play. Penn State was a team built around an awesome defense that featured linebackers Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor as well as stud DE Tamba Hali. Matching up against that defense would’ve been 2005 Heisman runner-up Vince Young who led a Texas offense was simply unstoppable for the most part. The only time the Longhorns didn’t score 40 or more points was the 25-22 victory over Ohio State. Sorry Big Ten fans, but Penn State just doesn’t have enough to keep with VY and Co. as Texas cruises in this game.

National Champion: USC – We all know the story of the actual game that was played at the Rose Bowl that season, it may go down as the single greatest National Championship game of all-time, but I’m guessing if we played that game over again USC wins probably 99 out of 100 times. It took everything and the kitchen sink from VY to pull out that victory and while I think they could compete obviously I just believe that USC wins that game if it were replayed.

2006 Playoff

Top 4: 1) Ohio State (12-0), 2) Florida (12-1), 3) Michigan (11-1), 4) LSU (10-2)

Just Missed the Playoffs: 5) USC (10-2), 6) Louisville (11-1)

- The 2006 season made it pretty clear that it was a Big Ten/SEC dominant kind of season. Louisville probably had the stronger of the two cases to make it into the playoff, but they were quite an unknown quantity. I think looking at them vs. the likes of LSU and USC I’d say this is the first time they might have gotten it wrong. The Big East that season had a loaded top of the conference with the Cardinals, West Virginia, and Rutgers all being Top 15 teams. So if I had my way LSU wouldn’t have made it, but alas they do by the computers.

- The matchups: Ohio State vs. LSU & Florida vs. Michigan

Ohio State vs. LSU – Want to talk about star power? Say hello to the Tigers of LSU in 2006. They were loaded with talent, albeit young talent outside of QB JaMarcus Russell. Names like Jacob Hester, Dwayne Bow, Early Doucet, Brandon LaFell, and Glenn Dorsey doted the roster. We all know that this team (virtually intact) won the 2007 National Championship, but I believe they also would’ve given Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and the undefeated Buckeyes a heck of a semi-final game. People forget just how great of a team this OSU bunch was, I mean they didn’t give up more than 17 points until The Game, which they won 42-39. However, I think they were a bit slow on the defensive side of the ball and LSU was all about speed. It’s simply a bad matchup and the Tigers advance in this one.

Florida vs. Michigan: Talk about interesting games, this one features two teams that both could be capable of winning the national title. Let’s remember that Michigan vs. Ohio State was just a few weeks ago and had this been 2011 it would’ve warranted a re-match by the BCS standards of today. So getting these two teams together would be a perfect way to settle the argument over who deserved to be in, let alone win the National Championship of 2006. Florida was in the midst of using both Chris Leak and the one and only Timothy Richard Tebow at QB. Leak was definitely the passer of the group and saw way more of the playing time, but we were just getting a glimpse of how good Tebow was about to become. The rushing attack of Tebow, DeShawn Wynn, and Percy Harvin was one scary thing to look at. Michigan on the other hand would be countering with a high-powered offense of their own featuring Chad Henne at QB and Mike Hart at RB. Henne had some crazy good targets in Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham at his disposal as well. But the issue with this team was it wasn’t really tested until the Ohio State game and they failed that test. Florida had some very good offensive weapons, but the defense really isn’t that impressive outside of Reggie Nelson at Safety and Ryan Smith at CB. This one is a hard one to call, but I think the Wolverines might have a harder time dealing with all the things this Florida team can throw at you, so it’s Gators winning a close, close game.

National Champion: Florida – We have our first ever regular season rematch as the Gators won the original game 23-10 at home over LSU. That game was in the middle of the season and both teams were quite a bit different by the end of the year. In the end I just don’t see LSU being able to beat this team, they simply are too young to handle what Florida would be throwing at them, give me the Gators to be National Champions just like they were in real life.

2007 Playoff

Top 4: 1) Ohio State (11-1), 2) LSU (11-2), 3) Va Tech (11-2), 4) Oklahoma (11-2)

Just missed out: 5) Georgia (10-2), 6) Missouri (11-2)

- Interestingly had the Big XII Championship game gone down differently Missouri was looking at a spot in the National Championship that season and in this case would’ve been in the playoffs, but they lost to Oklahoma and moved from the top spot to 6th in the BCS standings in one fell swoop. Once again the damn computers seemed to have gotten the teams just right, let’s not forget that Oklahoma did take down a top 5 Missouri team, not once, but twice during the season.

- The matchups: Ohio State vs. Oklahoma & LSU vs. Va Tech

LSU vs. Va Tech: For the second year in a row we have a rematch of a regular season game, but this time in a semi-final matchup. The Bayou Bengals opened up a complete can of ass kicking on the Hokies in week 2, winning 48-7. However, this was also a team that found a way to lose games to both Kentucky and Arkansas, not exactly the cream of the SEC crop back then. Since that Week 2 defeat the Hokies only lost one other game, which was to 10th ranked Boston College. So, it’s fair to assume that the Hokies had a bit of an issue getting over the hurdle of the cream of the crop in college football in 2007. Give me the Tigers of LSU, although I wouldn’t foresee a huge victory like in the original meeting of these two teams.

Ohio State vs. Oklahoma: Talk about opposites colliding on the gridiron, holy cow. Ohio State’s stout defense held opponents to an average of 12.8 points a game in 2007 vs. the Oklahoma offense that put up 42.3 points a game. This could be one of the juiciest of the semi-final matchup’s we would’ve seen. This is the Ohio State defense that was led by James Laurinatis, the Butkus Award winner (nations top LB) and amazingly found a way to win games with Todd Boeckman as their QB. Seriously, I couldn’t have picked the guy out of a lineup if I tried and I follow the Big Ten quite in depth. However, what Boeckman lacked Chris “Beanie” Wells more than made up for as he rushed for 1,609 yards that season. Oklahoma’s offense had the likes of QB Sam Bradford, Juaquin Iglesais and Malcolm Kelly at WR, and the two-headed RB monster of Allen Patrick and DeMarrco Murray (rushed for over 1,700 yards combined). Defensively this wasn’t a bad team at all as they allowed just 20.3 points a game and had future star Gerald McCoy along with stud LB Curtis Lofton (157 tackles). Ohio State has lost two straight years in the semi-finals, but this is their breakthrough season in our retrospective as that defense was just plain out sick and I think more than capable of handling what the Sooners were throwing out there in 2007.

National Champion: Ohio State – In real life this was a 38-24 victory for LSU and for good reason because the Tigers could flat out put points on the board. Their lowest offensive point total of the season was 21 points in the SEC Championship game against Tennessee. There’s also the battle of Matt Flynn vs. Todd Boeckman, I’m sorry but give me the consistency of Flynn any day of the week. He wound up with just over 2,400 yards passing with 21TD’s to just 11INT’s on the season and the speed around him was just unreal. Ohio State just didn’t have the horses to matchup on that day and I don’t think if you played the game again the end results would be much different honestly.

2008 Playoff

Top 4: 1) Oklahoma (12-1), 2) Florida (12-1), 3) Texas (11-1), 4) Alabama (12-1)

Just missed out: 5) USC (11-1), 6) Utah (12-0), 9) Boise State (12-0)

- This is really the first season I think the computers don’t win out. Put a group of humans together and Utah and Boise State may have gotten the shot they deserved at competing for the National Championship. Hell, they took out Alabama in their BCS Bowl game in a complete route 31-17, but we wouldn’t have known that going in, so giving them the shot at the likes of Oklahoma and Florida would have been a great thing to see, but alas we have to live by the computers picks for this little exercise.

- The matchups: Oklahoma vs. Alabama & Florida vs. Texas

Oklahoma vs. Alabama: Bama was just starting to become the force that they are today back in 2008, but they weren’t quite on the same level as the Sooners. That team was really, really good. Oklahoma scored 50 or more points in 9 of their 13 games before the National Championship game and scored 60 or more points in the final 5 games of the regular season and the Big XII Championship game. Sam Bradford won the Davey O’Brien Award that season and realistically this one I don’t think would’ve been close at all. Bama would counter with John Parker Wilson at QB and the two running back system of Glenn Coffee and Mark Ingram, call me crazy but give me Sam Bradford and Co. any day of the week over John Parker Wilson. So, the Sooners move on to the National Championship game.

Florida vs. Texas: This was Mr. Tebow at his finest, as he became a leader and not just a super player. His stats weren’t on the same level as the 2007 version of Tebow, but he meant more to his team this season. Add in the rushing of WR Percy Harvin and RB Chris Rainey and you have a three-headed monster that ran for over 1,800 yards. Oh, and this team actually had a defense as well, one that gave up just 12.9 points a game, so this was a very complete team. Texas had a massive offense lead by Colt McCoy and his WR duo of Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby. However, this team struggled to run the ball unless it was from McCoy and going against a Florida defense that was among the very best in the country that season that recipe isn’t exactly one for success. The Gators move on.

National Champion: Florida – It’s all about the defense for the Gators usually, but they proved it on the field in shutting down that massively successful Sooners offense. Oklahoma could only muster up 14 points in the real life version. I think if you play this game over they probably would’ve scored more points, but Florida was just the better team on a matchup level and I can’t go against the results we actually saw on the field that season.

2009 Playoff

Top 4: 1) Alabama (13-0), 2) Texas (13-0), 3) Cincinnati (12-0), 4) TCU (12-0)

Just missed out: 5) Florida (12-1), 6) Boise State (13-0)

- Here it is, the exact reason why a playoff was and is coming. How the heck do u separate 5 undefeated teams? Sure, in the new system Boise State would’ve been left out, but someone will always be left out. At least in the playoff we’ll get a chance to see it hashed out on the field of play and I know this season cried out for exactly that, but instead we only got Alabama vs. Texas and saw Cincinnati and TCU lose in their BCS bowl games to Boise State and Florida respectively. But they never had a shot at playing the other undefeated teams, so I’m happy we can play this out on paper at least.

- The matchups: Alabama vs. TCU & Texas vs. Cincinnati

Texas vs. Cincinnati: This was the season that put Brian Kelly on the map and pushed him right in to the Notre Dame job, but this was a team that was really unknown going into the season and is the classic case of having to prove it on the field. They played four ranked opponents during the regular season, but none were ranked higher than Pitt at 15. Tony Pike had a season for the record books at Cincy and RB Isaiah Pead along with WR Mardy Gilyard formed a heck of a loaded trio on offense, but their issue may have come on the defensive side of the ball as they had issues stopping opponents. Texas came in on the back of Colt McCoy once again, but it also had an issue finding a durable and steady running back with their leading rusher being Tre’ Newton (552 yards). Cincinnati’s defense is so weak that McCoy is way more than enough to win it alone.

Alabama vs. TCU: For me this is the best semi-final matchup in all the seasons we’ve looked at so far. TCU was just simply unstoppable and were led by Andy Dalton at QB. Offensively the Horned Frogs put up 40 or more points in 7 games that season, but they are matching up against a great Alabama team that only gave up 11.7 points a game. Offensively the Tide put up good numbers themselves under the leadership of QB Greg McElroy and also had the RB duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to counter. This would have been a heck of a defensive battle as TCU only allowed opponents to score 12.8 points a game, just behind the Tide in those numbers. Now, there’s the whole level of competition argument but TCU gives the Tide a lot to worry about before ‘Bama pulls out a late victory.

National Champion: Alabama – Texas runs into one of the best defenses we as fans have seen in quite some time up to that point and frankly Alabama was on another level in 2009, so I think you see them win the National Title about 100 out of 100 times. They won the real game 37-21 and I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t have won that game by around the same amount more often than not.

2010 Playoff

Top 4: 1) Auburn (13-0), 2) Oregon (12-0), 3) TCU (12-0), 4) Stanford (11-1)

Just missed out: 5) Wisconsin (11-1), 6) Ohio State (11-1)

- Well, once again it looks like this could’ve been a season that the computers got it right. It’s hard to argue Stanford doesn’t belong and Wisconsin does because of the losses they suffered – Oregon beat Stanford and Wisconsin lost to Michigan State, so which one is a better loss? Well, Wisconsin’s loss was at least a close one and also against a Top 10 BCS team and Stanford got absolutely crushed by Oregon, so you could make the argument that the Badgers deserved the shot at the National Title over the Cardinal, but that’s what the selection committee will have to deal with in the future.

- The matchups: Auburn vs. Stanford & Oregon vs. TCU

Oregon vs. TCU: People may think this one’s all about offense, and while both teams were highflying offenses, it’s the defenses that need to be examined in this matchup. Oregon’s D only gave up 18.7 points a game, but TCU was better with allowing only 12 points a game to their opponents. While Oregon may have the speed let’s not forget that TCU’s defense was equally as fast that season. It would be a hard one to pick, but my gut tells me the Horned Frogs were for real that year and could hang with and beat the Ducks, so give me TCU winning this game and making the little guys proud by making the National Championship game.

Auburn vs. Stanford: Not much to like in this game between Stanford and Auburn simply because of Cam Newton. I know they aren’t exactly the same, but Stanford’s defense couldn’t hang with Oregon and dual-threat QB’s gave them issues all season long and Newton was the best of the bunch, with a better arm than Darron Thomas to boot. Give me Newton over Luck in this great matchup.

National Champion: TCU – Now you may think I’m totally crazy, but it’s all about the defense for the Horned Frogs in this one. They have faced a ton of talented QB’s and Cam Newton doesn’t scare them. I also don’t like the fact that Auburn’s defense had to be bailed out time and again by Newton in that season, especially against an offense like the Horned Frogs had on the field in 2010. We’ve got our first non-AQ National Champion in the history of the BCS with this victory.

2011 Playoff

Top 4: 1) LSU (13-0), 2) Alabama (11-1), 3) Oklahoma State (11-1), 4) Stanford (11-1)

Just missed out: 5) Oregon (11-2), 6) Arkansas (10-2)

- No arguments here as to the make up of the playoff field as these schools were clearly the cream of the crop last year.

- The matchups: LSU vs. Stanford & Alabama vs. Oklahoma State

Alabama vs. Oklahoma State: They say defense wins championships and Alabama had one of the best defenses in the country and one of the best of all-time, giving up an average of only 8.2 points a game. That is simply unreal. However, they are going up against one of the best offenses in the nation in Oklahoma State. QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon form one of the best tandems in the country as well and led an offense that scored at a 48.7 points a game clip (2nd nationally). It would’ve been really entertaining to see this game and while they say defenses win championships I say the Cowboys offense wins this game, it’s simply that good and it’s defense is good enough to stop an o.k. Bama offense.

LSU vs. Stanford: The Tigers were simply the best team in college football through the regular season last year. Stanford was very balanced under the leadership of Andrew Luck, but I don’t see them getting past LSU by just being balanced. That and the Tigers defense was just behind the Bama one in allowing very few points to their opponents, giving up only 11.3 points a game. In this one the defense wins out and LSU moves on.

National Champion: LSU – The title game of Okie State vs. LSU would again be a heck of a matchup, but LSU has more defensive weapons in the secondary than Bama and who wouldn’t want to see Tyrann Mattheu/Morris Claiborn vs. Justin Blackmon? I know I would and I have a feeling the Honey Badger would win a few more than most against Blackmon and the ride stops there for the Cowboys as LSU wins it’s first national title in our playoff system.

Again, these are just my thoughts on how things would play out had we had these matchups. It also goes to show you that for all the hatred and flaws of the BCS it’s flaws were more about the fact that they may not have gotten the single game correct, but they certainly got the playoff matchups spot on more often than not. It will be interesting to see if the new human selection committee can do as well as the computers did in the past.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy has been covering college football for nearly half a decade and is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com. He's also a featured columnist covering college football for Bleacher Report.

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