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Best case yet for playoffs



At long last, what has become an annual wish for so many college football fans might be coming true.

Finally, after years of real, but ultimately futile, discontent, we might be on the verge of a season that brings America what it has wanted for so long an indisputable argument for a playoff tournament to determine a true, unquestioned national champion.

In most other autumns, only one team worthy of a shot at No. 1 has been wronged by the Bowl Championship Series. The much-hated BCS, inspired by the obsession of salvaging the major bowls as we've known them, instead has become a yearly joke. There's nothing special about the consolation bowls leading to the BCS Championship Game, matching the top two teams based on rankings and computer programs.

But for those who have long clamored for playoffs, embracing each year's victim Auburn, Southern Cal, Georgia or whomever hasn't created a large enough revolt to force the long-awaited tournament.

Now, though, we could have the Perfect Storm. All that has to happen is for Alabama to lose, most likely to Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game, and for Texas Tech to slip, perhaps Nov. 22 at Oklahoma.

That would mean no unbeaten teams from the BCS-member conferences, with unscathed Utah, Boise State and Ball State not able to move high enough even if they don't lose.

Instead, we could have a flock of teams with one loss, all totally deserving a chance at the national title: Florida, Southern Cal, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Alabama and Penn State. That group spreads from coast to coast and includes most "power" leagues. And come early December, five of those seven are guaranteed to be screwed by the BCS.

It doesn't have to be this way. The other three divisions in college football have at least 16-team playoff brackets to decide their champions. Nobody has ever condemned the extra games for causing injuries or negatively affecting academics two anti-playoff arguments used to preserve the BCS.

My preference has always been for eight teams (the subject here last Nov. 29), using existing bowl sites for the seven games. But what's wrong with 16? Various times, I've heard from credible sources that the TV revenue for such a tournament not to mention the scope of national attention would eclipse that of the Super Bowl.

Here's one stab at what could've been this year's first round, in bracket order, guessing at rankings/seedings as of Dec. 7 and avoiding teams from the same leagues playing until the third round:

1. Texas (12-1) vs. 16. Ball State (13-0)

8. Boise State (12-0) vs. 9. Penn State (11-1)

5. Alabama (12-1) vs. 12. Ohio State (10-2)

4. Southern Cal (11-1) vs. 13. Florida State (10-3)

2. Florida (12-1) vs. 15. TCU (10-2)

7. Texas Tech (11-1) vs. 10. Cincinnati (11-2)

6. Utah (12-0) vs. 11. Georgia (10-2)

3. Oklahoma (11-1) vs. 14. Michigan State (9-3)

Please don't argue with the details. Obviously, somebody other than Cincinnati could win the Big East, and somebody other than Florida State could win the Atlantic Coast. Just substitute your preferences and go from there.

The point is, look at how many of those first-round games would draw big TV audiences. Next, move on to the quarterfinals with these matchups: Texas vs. Penn State. Alabama vs. Southern Cal. Florida vs. Texas Tech. Utah vs. Oklahoma.

Like that? Then imagine your semifinals, which could be any combination. For this exercise, let's go with Texas vs. Southern Cal and Florida vs. Oklahoma.

Would you take that Final Four? The semifinal doubleheader would be delicious, no matter which two would make it to the championship game. Best of all, there would be no arguments. Just the entire country, riveted by the weekly progression.And by the way, if Air Force could win out (Saturday against Brigham Young, Nov. 22 at TCU) to finish 10-2, the Falcons could face Florida in the first round.

So there you have it, the Perfect Storm. Now, if it could just be the real thing.

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