The mere thought of applying a 4-team playoff to seasons that have already passed is intriguing, even in the most boring of seasons. But some playoff hypotheticals are downright mesmerizing, especially in the more chaotic seasons.
A committee would have had its hands full in 1996. The final AP poll of the regular season on Dec.9th was
#1 FSU (11-0 )
#2 Arizona State (11-0)
#3 Florida (11-1)
#4 Ohio State (10-1)
#5 BYU (13-1)
Everyone else had two losses except for #10 Virginia Tech and #24 Army, neither of which would have gotten a single look from the committee. I think BYU would have had an argument, but not a successful one.
Florida won the title in 1996 with a Sugar Bowl blowout over FSU.
I'm going to assume that a committee would have been in line with the AP's top 4, with FSU as the one seed, and who knows on the others. But any way you slice it, I think Ohio State would have an excellent chance of winning this. They were the best team of that season but choked it all away vs. Michigan in November.
Can you imagine how that would have changed John Cooper's tenure? How it would have extended it. What a turn of events, compared to how it went down in the actual 1996. It would have had such a significant impact on all the events that followed.
Here's one that would have changed the course of college football, perhaps. Maybe not, but it's an interesting hypothetical. Since this is within the BCS era, we will use the BCS poll to sort this one out. After losing to Kansas State in the Xll title game, Oklahoma stayed #1 in the BCS rankings; I'm going to assume that the committee would have dropped them to 3rd. LSU is your top seed, USC is 2nd, and two-loss Michigan is 4th.
LSU won the 2003 BCS Title, and USC won the 2003 AP title
USC wins this without a doubt, and Saban fails to win his first national title. I don't know that this changes Saban's career all that much, but it might have put him taking the Alabama job in 2007 while still looking for his first national title. On the other hand, it really starts the Pete Carroll run off with more of a bang, winning the undisputed title rather than sharing it. And without the LSU title, does Les Miles even win a title at LSU? These are all interesting hypotheticals.
A 2-loss LSU that lost to a bad, and eventual 5-loss Arkansas team in the final week of the regular season, WINS THE BCS TITLE! Only in fantasy land, right? Nope, that's exactly what happened in 2007.
The BCS top 8 was #1 Ohio State (11-1) #2 LSU (11-2) #3 Virginia Tech (11-2) #4 Oklahoma (11-2) #5 Georgia (10-2) #6 Missouri (11-2) #7 USC (10-2) #8 Kansas (11-1). A two-loss LSU probably misses the top 4 after the committee weighs in. I'm going to hold to that position. I'm also going to assume that a one-loss Kansas grabs that 4th spot; I've got Ohio State as the top seed, Oklahoma #2, and USC #3, as I've stated in a previous article.
LSU won the 2007 BCS Title
USC takes home the trophy, which means Carroll wins his 3rd Natty, and Miles DOESN'T win his only natty. A pretty profound turn of events, no?
Certainly, everyone knows that Cam was great. Auburn's defense was adequate, and luck also counts. Does Auburn win the natty in a playoff scenario? Nope; not in my opinion.
Auburn was the BCS champs for 2010
The BCS top 6 in the final regular season poll has Auburn (13-0) at 1, Oregon (12-0) #2, TCU (12-0) #3, Stanford (11-1) at 4, Wisconsin (11-1) #5, and Ohio State (11-1) at 6. A committee probably has it the same as the BCS rankings did. Firstly, Auburn gets the top seed, Oregon at #2, TCU #3, and Stanford 4th.
The January 2011 headline: TCU wins its first national title since 1938!
Consequently, Auburn was begging to get beat in 2010, and TCU had the defense to disrupt Cam's rhythm. In addition, TCU was the top scoring defense in 2010 giving up just 12 points per game, and just 228 yards a game. The best defense Auburn faced in 2010 was Alabama, and they gave up 60 more yards a game than TCU. That shakes out as an entire drive erased vs TCU for Auburn.
Do you want to talk about chaos? Let's talk about how a 4-team playoff shakes out in 2013. The kick-six Iron Bowl moment knocked the Tide out of the BCS title game. But had it happened under the CFP system, which started the following year, Bama probably gets the 3rd or 4th seed of the inaugural playoff.
FSU won the 2013 BCS Title
The BCS top 4 was 1. FSU, 2. Auburn, 3. Bama, and 4. Michigan State. Firstly, I want to start out by saying that FSU likely goes down to Michigan State in the semifinal. '13 FSU is among the most over-rated national champions of the last quarter century. Michigan State probably does to FSU the same thing that Oregon did to them the following season; rattles Winston and creates turnovers. Bama wins the revenge semifinal game vs Auburn.
And Michigan State wins their first national title since 1966. How's that for a shake up?