BCS Playoff: Alabama Would Have Done Just Fine The Last Four Years


The Alabama Crimson Tide needn’t worry about inclusion in a BCS playoff. In the playoff system the 11 conference commissioners (and Notre Dame’s AD) decided to implement starting with the 2014 season — Alabama would have made the cut three out of the last four years.

The new four-team, playoff-style system will start New Year’s Day 2015 and will take the top four teams in the Bowl Championship Series poll, according to a proposed plan.

This got us thinking — what if there’d been a playoff system in recent years?

As noted above, the results wouldn’t be all bad for Alabama. In each of its two championship seasons, it would have had one more game standing in the way of taking the crystal football, but the Tide also would have made the cut for the 2008 semifinal games.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of how each playoff would have worked out if the new format had been in place the last four seasons:


Actual BCS Championship matchup: Florida Gators vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Champion: Florida

Hypothetical games with playoffs:

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Alabama
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Texas

Breakdown: Could Alabama have beaten Oklahoma? Would they have carried the bad vibes from the Florida loss into that game the way they did against Utah in the Sugar Bowl? It would have been interesting to see, and the 2008 playoffs would have all been instant classics — all four teams were traditional powerhouses with very strong squads on both sides of the ball.

Interesting here, was the chance of two rematch possibilities in the championship game. Had Florida and Alabama both won, the BCS title game would have been a rematch of the SEC Championship. Had Oklahoma and Texas won, it would be round two of the Red River Rivalry, which Texas won 45-35 earlier in the season.

Also interesting is Oklahoma finishing No. 1 in the Week 16 BCS standings: There was such a strong surge of voters trying to push Oklahoma past Texas, they secured enough No. 1 votes in the polls to take the overall No. 1 spot, despite being ranked 2nd in the AP Poll, ESPN’s poll and a few others.

Had Florida beaten out Oklahoma for the No. 1 ranking (and had a playoff system been in place, of course), the semifinal games would have both been rematches of games played earlier in the year. The Alabama-Florida rematch would have been played immediately following the teams’ first bout.

Possible avoided snub: Texas Longhorns. The Big 12 South ended in a three-way tie in 2008, and even though Texas had beaten Oklahoma in the regular season, the computer polls and the human polls had Oklahoma beating Texas out to play for the Big 12 Championship and, subsequently, the BCS title game. There was much outcry over Texas not finishing No. 2, especially since Oklahoma’s only loss came to Texas (whose only loss was to Texas Tech.)


Actual championship game: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas Longhorns

Champion: Alabama

Hypothetical games with playoff:

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

Breakdown: Is there any question here as to whether the National Championship would have still been between Alabama and Texas? Both TCU and Cincinnati would have probably been overmatched. Florida destroyed Cincinnati that year in the Sugar Bowl. TCU lost to Boise State, but neither team really proved themselves out of conference against BCS AQ competition. TCU, more than likely, couldn’t have hung with Alabama for four quarters, especially given the Tide’s size, speed and strength at all positions that year.

Possible avoided snub: A mid-major and Cincinnati. Playoff advocates have argued the unfairness of mid-majors being left out of the BCS title game since the system started in 1998. They’ve played in other BCS bowls with varying degrees of success, but, if there had been a playoff system in place in 2009, TCU and Cincinnati (though in the Big East and not technically a mid-major) would have had their chances against the big boys. Boise State would have been left out, which is ironic, since they’re usually the team anti-BCS advocates clamor over.


Actual championship game: No. 1 Auburn Tigers vs. No. 2 Oregon Ducks

Champion: Auburn

Hypothetical games with playoff:

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

Breakdown: TCU beat a tough Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl in 2010. Oregon was lightning fast that year, and had completely different philosophies on offense and defense than the Badgers. TCU would have had to play a near-perfect game to beat the Ducks.

The Auburn-Stanford game would have been mighty interesting, though. The AU secondary had been its weakest link all season, and Andrew Luck and Co. might have been more than it could handle. Stanford’s defense would have played the Tigers differently than Oregon did, too; not that Auburn did much against the Ducks offensively that night.

Possible avoided snub: TCU. They lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl the year before, but came back strong in 2010 to beat a legitimate Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl. Of all mid-majors left out in recent years, the 2010 TCU team might have had the best chance at making a run at a national title, had a playoff existed.


Actual championship game: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama

Champion: Alabama

Hypothetical games with playoff:

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State

Breakdown: The LSU and Alabama defenses would have both been much too tough for Stanford and Oklahoma State. Both teams dismantled every opponent they played all year, except each other (in the regular season, that is). On the other side of the ball, the Stanford and Oklahoma State defenses wouldn’t have stood a chance against the power run games Alabama and LSU brought to the table.

Without a full month to concentrate on LSU and a tough Oklahoma State team in front of him, would Saban have been able to put together the flawless game plan for LSU he did? Probably, and watching the blitz packages he and Kirby Smart would have put together for Mike Gundy’s offense would have been fun indeed.

Possible avoided snub: Oklahoma State. The outrage died when Alabama throttled LSU Jan. 9, but in the time between the BCS matchups were announced and the game was played, the controversy over Alabama edging the Cowboys was the hot-button issue that national media wouldn’t put away.

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