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A game of "what if...": What would be different if a four-team college football playoff started earlier?

A game of "what if...": What would be different if a four-team college football playoff started earlier?

College football announced last week that, starting in the 2014 season, a four-team playoff will decide the National Championship. It was a watershed moment for the future of college football. But imagine if the powers that be had come to this conclusion earlier... when they should have.

Let’s go back and take a look at what might have happened had the old men running the best game in the world starting paying attention when they weren’t so old. It’s a game I call “What if…” and in this instance, what if there had been a four-team playoff created earlier, like in 1998, when the BCS created? How would things have changed?

You could probably show significant changes in every single year since 1998 if there was a playoff, but then again maybe it doesn’t change at all. I looked at each year from 1998 to present to examine what might have happened, and here are the top five years things that could have been different with a four-team playoff. I assume that a standard playoff format holds, and No. 4 plays No. 1, and No. 2 plays No. 3 and the two meet for the Championship. And away we go!

No. 5, 2000: Florida State/Miami

What happened: The No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners beat No. 2 Florida State, 13-2, in the Orange Bowl for the National Title. The 11-1 Seminoles were selected over the Miami Hurricanes, who also were 11-1 and beat FSU earlier that year.

What if... the top 4 played?

1. Oklahoma
2. Florida State
3. Miami
4. Washington

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Washington; No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Miami

The Result: The start of a dynasty?

The Seminoles laid an egg in the Orange Bowl against a solid OU team when Mark Richt took the Georgia job, and that still would have happened, only earlier against the U. I think Miami wins the rematch in the semifinal with FSU, and with the Sooners beating the Tuiosopo-led Hooligans Huskies, it would have set up a Miami-OU title game, and I think Miami wins that game. Sorry, Sooners (not really). With that win over OU Miami would have been the two-time defending national champion playing  for a third straight against Ohio State in 2003.

No. 4, 2010: 3 Undefeated

What happened: Michael Dyer pops up from a would-be tackle and runs for 37 yards to set up a game-winning field goal for Auburn, who beat Oregon, 22-19, to win the National Championship.    

What if… the top 4 played?

1. Auburn
2. Oregon
3. TCU
4. Stanford

No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 4 Stanford; No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 TCU

The Result: The wrong team loses to Auburn 

TCU beats Phil Knight. Their defense was terrific in 2010, plain and simple. Auburn’s defense was nice, and you saw how well it handled Oregon. I think TCU does the same thing, and the redheaded assassin Andy Dalton gets them enough points to beat Ducks. The way-overdressed kids in ties still get to wrap Toomer’s Corner, but they beat TCU to do it.  

No.3, 2004: 3 Undefeated, The Auburning

What happened: USC laid a colossal beat down on Oklahoma, 55-19, and the only thing uglier than the game was Ashlee Simpson’s horrific halftime show in the Orange Bowl.

What if… the top 4 played?

1. USC
2. Oklahoma
3. Auburn
4. California

No. 1 USC vs. No. 4 California; No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Auburn

The Result: The same 

Auburn gets their own spotlight in this “What if…” scenario because it’s nearly inconceivable to think now that an undefeated SEC team could be left out of the National Title picture. I think OU wins that game (gasp, SEC fans, someone ELSE wins) and USC hammers Cal (not Texas, who was No.6 in the BCS that year) to set up the same game, with a similar result, in the Orange Bowl. Maybe an extra game and they rethink Ashlee Simpson. Crime against humanity, Orange Bowl. Here it is so you never forget. 

No. 2, 2009: 4 Undefeated

What happened: Alabama broke Colt McCoy and then broke Garrett Gilbert and beat Texas, 37-21, in a game that sucked.

What if… the top 4 played?

1. Alabama
2. Texas
3. Cincinnati
4. TCU

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU; No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Cincinnati

The Result: The same 

The fact that Texas and Bama would have throttled TCU, and Cinci is irrelevant, because the fact there were four teams (actually five with 12-0 Boise State) means they needed to play. This scenario is exactly why it should be settled on the field, right? No reason to assume it when you can prove it.

No. 1, 2003: Split National Title

What happened: 
The USC Trojans smacked Michigan around the Rose Bowl and the LSU Tigers beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. USC was named National Champs by the AP Poll while LSU was won the BCS Title, creating the first split National Championship since 1997.

What if… the top 4 played?

1. Oklahoma
2. LSU
3. USC
4. Michigan

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Michigan; No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 USC

The Result: One champion 

OU hammers Michigan, I have no doubt. I think UCS beats LSU, but that’s debatable. What’s not debatable is one of them wins and plays Oklahoma and one National Champion is named. Isn’t that the end goal, one national champion? The fact that two teams got a ring is ridiculous. It should have shown how stupid the system was, the system the came along as a result of the split National Title in 1997. The BCS is created in 1998, and six seasons later another tie? Dumb that happened in 2003. Dumber still that they didn’t do anything to fix it after the fact.

What did I miss?