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What if College Football had a Playoff System since 1999? (Revised)

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  After Thursday’s wildly successful College Football Playoff debut, I got to thinking, why did they not do this sooner? If this was merely a year ago, we would have been faced with an Alabama versus Florida State National Championship Game, with Ohio State versus Oregon as the battle for number 2 in the Rose Bowl. Now on the surface these look like two outstanding games, and for the most part would have been, after a little debate, accepted as reality and went along with. The BCS would have provided for entertaining games, and would have given us a “champion” yet again. We would have all, however, still been left with that empty “what if” feeling. What if Ohio State didn’t stumble so early in the season? What if Oregon didn’t play so badly against a team early in the season that they thumped in the PAC-12 championship game? What if Florida State lost one of those 7 games in which they had to come from behind to win? Was Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss better then the losses by Oregon, Ohio State, TCU, and Baylor? Remember the days of “what if” when even though we were told we had one champion, those questions were still being asked.

    So I decided to think in the “what if” mindset some more, and I went back to the bowls of 1999, when for the first time the BCS gave us #1 versus #2. I looked back at every BCS bowl from 1999 through last year and I played the “what if” game, what if College Football installed the playoff system in 1999, would the outcomes and champions have been the same?


Actual Top 4         Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)     “What if” Title Game       “What if” Champion

1. Tennessee                Florida State vs Tennessee              Ohio State vs Tennessee             Ohio State

2. Florida State

3. Ohio State


 People forget how good that Tennessee team was. People also forget how good that Ohio State team was. They were one 2nd half letdown against Nick Saban’s Michigan State team away from going undefeated. They had the Thorpe, Butkus, Outland award winners and Heisman finalist on the same team. It was the best team Cooper ever assembled, and in a playoff they would have beaten Florida State and Tennessee.


Actual Top 4         Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)       “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Florida State        Florida State vs Virginia Tech               FSU vs Virginia Tech              FSU

2. Virginia Tech

3. Nebraska 

4. Alabama

The BCS got this one right. This was Florida State’s best team in their run, and they were too good this year to be beaten. Plus a Virginia Tech team with Michael Vick would have outscored a good Nebraska team.


Actual Top 4         Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)    “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Oklahoma           Oklahoma vs Florida State                 Oklahoma vs Miami             Oklahoma

2. Florida State

3. Miami

4. Washington

If you remember 2000-2001, Miami got cheated out of the title game by percentage points. In response they dominated a good Florida team in the Sugar Bowl. Miami would have had no problems beating an overrated Florida State team in the semi-finals. Oklahoma had one of the all-time great defenses this year. They shut-down Florida State in the title game and they would have done the same to Washington and Miami.


Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Miami                      Miami vs Nebraska                             Oregon vs Miami                  Miami

2. Nebraska

3. Oregon

4. Colorado

This was the first real controversy in the BCS era. Colorado beat Nebraska, yet Nebraska still snuck in over a very talent Joey Harrington led Oregon team. Oregon beat up Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, and they would have done the same against Nebraska in the semi-final. Miami was just too good. They would have smoked Colorado and beat Oregon in a high scoring, very entertaining championship game.


Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Miami                      Ohio State vs Miami                             Ohio State vs USC                  USC

2. Ohio State

3. Georgia

4. USC

Ohio State fans will not like me for this, but Ohio State played out of this world to beat a more talented Miami team. I don’t think they could have done that twice. If you remember, this top 4 was one of the most talent ridden top 4 in the BCS era. Any of the 4 could have won the championship. Ohio State would have played a great game and beaten Georgia. USC, which I think was the best team, would have beaten Miami in a competitive game and then beaten Ohio State who gave their all to beat Georgia.


Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Oklahoma                      LSU vs Oklahoma                             USC vs Michigan                  USC

2. LSU

3. USC

4. Michigan

This was one of the worst championship games in the BCS era. Both Oklahoma and LSU backed themselves into the championship game. Michigan was returning a veteran team that beat a very talented Ohio State team in the regular season. They would have handled the highly overrated Oklahoma team. USC was the prototypical USC team of the time; they were good. USC would have beaten Nick Saban and LSU and then Michigan in the championship game.


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. USC                                USC vs Oklahoma                             USC vs Auburn                     USC

2. Oklahoma

3. Auburn

4. Texas

This was the 2nd major controversy of the BCS era. A very deserving Auburn team who won their last games got jumped by a not-so-deserving Oklahoma team whom did not win out. This was such a controversy that Auburn officials actually bought a “National Championship” trophy after they won their bowl game. Oklahoma proceeded to get shellacked by USC in the title game for the largest BCS game blow-out of its time. Auburn would have beaten Oklahoma, but then lost to an extremely talented USC team. University of Southern California would have scrapped by Texas in a classic semi-final game.


Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. USC                                Texas vs USC                                  Ohio State vs Texas              Ohio State

2. Texas

3. Penn State

4. Ohio State

The USC versus Texas was probably the best title game of the BCS era. I would argue however that Ohio State was the best team that year. Ohio State was a wide-open dropped pass by their TE away from beating Texas in the regular season. This was the best team Tressel assembled. Ohio State had the best defense in college football with 3 NFL linebackers. They would have slowed USC down enough to beat them and then would have beaten Texas in the classic rematch. Penn State, who tied Ohio State for the Big Ten title and had no offense to speak of, would have been no match for Texas.


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Ohio State                Florida vs Ohio State                               Florida vs LSU                       LSU

2. Florida

3. Michigan

4. LSU

I had a tough time with this year. I think Ohio State, despite the championship game outcome, was a very good team. The more I thought about it, take away the Ginn injury, which was significant, Florida’s defense was still too fast for Ohio State and their cross passing game was too fast for our defense. Plus Troy Smith would have still become out-of-shape on the award circuit. Therefore I think Ohio State would have had just as difficult a time with JaMarcus Russell and LSU. Florida would have beaten Michigan in a style similar to what they did to Ohio State. Florida beat LSU earlier in the year; it’s tough to beat a team twice, LSU would have gotten the better of them in the title game.


  Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Ohio State                LSU vs Ohio State                                 Ohio State vs LSU                       LSU

2. LSU

3. Virginia Tech

4. Oklahoma

This year’s top 4 was probably the worst of the BCS era. All of the top 4 this year probably wouldn’t have won a game in other season’s playoffs. I thought USC and Georgia, the 5th and 6th ranked teams respectively were actually the most talented. I do believe, however, out of the top 4 teams, Ohio State and LSU were the 2 best. The outcome would have been the same with LSU winning it all. 


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Oklahoma                Florida vs Oklahoma                        Florida vs Oklahoma                 Florida

2. Florida

3. Texas

4. Alabama

I believe this year would have played out as it did, with Florida beating Oklahoma in the title game. Outside of the championship year, this was one of Bob Stoops best Oklahoma teams and Urban Meyer had Florida flying on all cylinders. Florida would have beaten a Texas team who struggled with Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and Oklahoma would have beaten Alabama, who got dominated by Utah in the Sugar Bowl.


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Alabama                     Alabama vs Texas                              Texas vs Alabama                  Texas

2. Texas

3. Cincinnati

4. TCU

The semi-final games this year would have been a joke. Both TCU and Cincinnati got beat handily in their BCS bowl games. Texas and Alabama were the 2 best teams this year. If we’re rewriting history however, a healthy Colt McCoy and Texas beat Alabama. If you remember, Colt went out in the 1st quarter with an injury and never returned. Texas, with a back-up, was still in the game until the 4th quarter.


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Auburn                     Auburn vs Oregon                              Auburn vs Stanford                  Auburn

2. Oregon

3. Stanford

4. TCU

Auburn, with Cam Newton was not getting beat this year. He was a one of a kind talent and the Auburn team was very talented. They would have played two tough games against a physical TCU team and an even more physical Stanford team, but in the end, they would have been champions. Stanford, getting a 2nd crack against Oregon would have won. Stanford this year was one of the best fundamental teams in college football history. They ran the ball well, played stout defense, and Andrew Luck was their quarterback.


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. LSU                         Alabama vs LSU                                   Stanford vs Alabama               Stanford

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

Andrew Luck in his senior year would have won a National Championship. Everything I said about Stanford the year before was true for this year, except Luck and the Cardinals were better. Neither LSU nor Alabama would have had enough offense to keep up with Stanford. Alabama would have slowed Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State, and Trent Richardson would have run down Oklahoma State’s back.


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. Notre Dame             Alabama vs Notre Dame                  Alabama vs Florida               Alabama

2. Alabama

3. Oregon

4. Florida

The title game this year would have been Oregon versus Alabama in the semi-finals. Florida and Notre Dame wouldn’t have come close to either Bama or the Ducks. This was the best of all the Alabama teams and I would argue they may have been the best of all the BCS era teams. No one was beating them in the playoffs.


 Actual Top 4      Actual Title Game (Winner in Bold)      “What if” Title Game     “What if” Champion

1. FSU                       FSU vs Auburn                                 Michigan State vs Alabama            MSU

2. Auburn

3. Alabama

4. Michigan State

I argued with people last year that Michigan State was the best team in college football. And since this whole article is based on my opinion, I feel like Michigan State, like Ohio State this year, would have gone on a playoff run after a dominating Big Ten Title Game win. Alabama lost a fluky game to Auburn, it wouldn’t have happened again. Michigan State had the best defense in college football, better then Florida State would have faced in years, and they would have confused and beaten Jamis Winston and Florida State.

Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Mike Banyasz

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