The inaugural College Football Playoff field is set, and the Oregon Ducks have the chance to go out and claim the school's first national title in football. The biggest surprise of the bracket unveiling was Ohio State, off a dominant performance in the Big Ten championship game, took the fourth and final spot, leaving Baylor and TCU to wonder, "what if?" This is a major choice for the committee, stating emphatically that being an outright conference champion and winning a conference title game holds more weight than losing to Virginia Tech in September. This is also a tremendous year to begin the four-team field. Can you imagine the hand-wringing at the prospect of having to leave either Alabama, Florida State, or Oregon out of the national title game? Yikes.
Cursing the BCS was an all-too-common occurrence in the sixteen years of its existence. Now that the committee has made things slightly-less controversial, let's take them back in time, and see how they would have seeded teams in the BCS era.
1998: Tennessee defeats Florida State in the inaugural BCS title game
The No-Brainers: Tennessee - undefeated SEC champs get in, especially when they're the only undefeated in the land.
The Contenders: Florida State (one-loss co-ACC champs w/ two-loss Georgia Tech, whom FSU beat); Texas A&M (two-loss Big XII champs, beat then-undefeated Kansas State in the Big XII title game); Kansas State (one-loss Big XII runner-up); Wisconsin and Ohio State (one-loss Big Ten co-champs who did not play each other in the reg. season); UCLA - (one-loss Pac-12 champs, only loss was @Miami in final week of season)
The CFP scenario: #1 Tennessee vs. #4 UCLA, #2 Florida State vs. #3 Wisconsin - Kansas State lost their conference title game, so I think they're out. Wisconsin trumps Ohio State because their loss was at a Michigan team that finished 9-3, while Ohio State's was at home to a 6-6 Michigan State. UCLA's undefeated conference resume is enough to overcome the late non-conference loss. The Florida Gators are the 2014 Michigan State of this season; their only losses were to Tennessee and Florida State.
1999: Florida State defeats Virginia Tech
The No-Brainers: FSU and VaTech both finished the regular season undefeated; they're in, no question.
The Contenders: Nebraska (one-loss Big XII champs, won their title game 22-6 over Texas, their only loss of the season); Alabama (two-loss SEC champs); Marshall (undefeated MAC champs); Wisconsin (two-loss Big Ten champs); Kansas State (one-loss Big XII, only loss to Nebraska); Michigan and Michigan State (two-loss Big Ten runners-up)
The CFP scenario: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Alabama, #2 Nebraska vs. #3 Virginia Tech - Wisconsin lost to 3-8 Cincinnati. I think that'd be enough to keep Ron Dayne and company out in favor of the Crimson Tide, who beat Florida in the SEC championship game. And Nebraska's resume, even with the loss, looks better than Virginia Tech's, so they get the 2-seed.
2000: Oklahoma beats Florida State 13-2
The No-Brainers: undefeated Oklahoma is in.
The Contenders: Washington, Oregon State, and Oregon (Pac-10 co-champs); Florida (two-loss SEC champs); Notre Dame (two-loss Notre Dame); Florida State (one-loss ACC champs); Miami (one-loss Big East champs)
The CFP scenario: #1 Oklahoma vs. #4 Florida State, #2 Washington vs. #3 Miami - Holy crap, this year was crazy. Miami beat Florida State but lost to Washington; Washington beat Oregon State; Oregon State beat Oregon, whose only two losses were to the Beavers and then-#5 Wisconsin. This would have been a mess to sort out, but I think Washington's wins over Miami and OSU have to put them in as the Pac-10's representative, and Miami's head-to-head win over FSU seeds them above the Seminoles. So we end up with a regular season rematch in one semifinal, and the BCS championship game in the other. Wow.
2001: Miami beats Nebraska
The No-Brainers: Undefeated Miami is in.
The contenders: Colorado (two-loss Big XII champs); Texas (two-loss Big XII runner-up); Nebraska (one-loss Big XII, did not make championship game); Illinois (one-loss Big Ten champs); Oregon (one-loss Pac-10 champs); Maryland (one-loss ACC champs); Tennessee (two-loss SEC runner-up), LSU (three-loss SEC champs)
The CFP Scenario: #1 Miami vs. #4 Nebraska, #2 Oregon vs. #3 Colorado - It's too bad Mississippi State lost the Egg Bowl this year, or else we'd have more of an answer of how the committee will handle a highly-regarded team that doesn't make its conference title game. Considering the other choices in '01, I think Nebraska gets in the playoff; Maryland and Illinois don't have comparable resumes. Had Tennessee beaten LSU, they'd have been in. But they didn't. And what we're left with is what really did play out in January '02, only Oregon would get their title shot against the 'Canes.
2002: Ohio State over Miami in an OT thriller
The No-Brainers: Undefeated Miami and Ohio State are locks. The BCS got an easy one this year.
The Contenders: Georgia (one-loss SEC champs); Washington State and USC (two loss Pac-10 co-champs, Wazzu won head-to-head); Iowa (Big Ten co-champs with Ohio State, did not play Buckeyes); Oklahoma (two-loss Big XII champs);
The CFP Scenario: #1 Miami vs. #4 USC, #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Iowa - This came down to three teams for two spots, after Washington State blew their shot by losing the Apple Cup to a mediocre Husky team. Iowa, Georgia, and USC were about as close as you can get; the Trojans were the only two-loss team - though those losses were to highly-ranked Washington State and Kansas State - but the Trojans finished the season by destroying UCLA and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. I think that gives them the nod over SEC champ Georgia, who lost to the best team they played all year (Florida).
2003: LSU beats Oklahoma, USC gets the AP national title
The No-Brainers: No undefeated teams this year. Four spots open.
The Contenders: USC (one-loss Pac-10 champs); LSU (one-loss SEC champs); Michigan (two-loss Big Ten champs), Oklahoma (one-loss Big XII runner-up); Kansas State (three-loss Big XII champs); Miami (two-loss Big East champs); Florida State (two-loss ACC champs)
The CFP Scenario: #1 LSU vs. #4 Miami, #2 USC vs. #3 Michigan - Unlike 2001, I think the committee would have no problem dropping #1 Oklahoma out of the playoff because they biffed their conference title game. Miami has a strong enough resume (wins over Florida State, Florida, West Virginia and a "good non-conference loss" to Tennessee) that it'd be enough to justify moving them in and bumping Oklahoma out. Keep in mind, it wasn't as though Oklahoma lost the Big XII championship game in double OT or something. They lost 35-7. That kind of fail won't get past the committee.
2004: USC blows out Oklahoma
The No-Brainers: Undefeated conference champs Oklahoma, USC, and Auburn are all in.
The Contenders: Utah (undefeated Mountain West champs); Boise State (undefeated WAC champs); Texas (one-loss Big XII, only loss to Oklahoma); California (one-loss Pac-10 runner-up, only loss to USC); Michigan (two-loss Big Ten champs); Louisville (one-loss Conference USA champs);
The Scenario: #1 USC vs. #4 California, #2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Auburn - Hey Mack Brown, if you wanted to be in the playoff so bad, you shouldn't have been shut out by Oklahoma. Cal's only loss of the year was a six-point loss to USC where Aaron Rodgers, after completing his first 23 passes of the game, had four shots inside the red zone at a win an came up short. Let's see that again.
2005: The Texas-USC masterpiece
The No-Brainers: Those two teams one line up.
The Contenders: West Virginia (one-loss Big East champs); Penn State (one-loss Big Ten co-champs); Ohio State (two-loss Big Ten co-champs, lost to Penn State); Oregon (one-loss Pac-10 runner-up, only loss to USC); Georgia (two-loss SEC champs)
The CFP Scenario: #1 USC vs. #4 Ohio State, #2 Texas vs. #3 Penn State - Oregon had its shot to prove it was championship-worthy, and was waxed by USC in Autzen. The Big East was particularly weak, with only four bowl teams, so West Virginia's schedule doesn't stack up. It's between Georgia, who finished the regular season ranked only 8th, and Ohio State, whose losses were to Texas and Penn State. I think the committee would give it to the Buckeyes and for the first time, two teams from one conference make it in to the same playoff.
2006: Florida knocks off Ohio State
The No-Brainers: An undefeated Ohio State is in for sure, and a one-loss SEC champ Florida is, too.
The Contenders: Wisconsin (one-loss Big Ten runner-up); Michigan (one-loss Big Ten runner-up, only loss to Ohio State); Louisville (one-loss Big East champ); Boise State (undefeated WAC champ); USC (two-loss Pac-10 co-champ)
The CFP scenario: #1 Ohio State vs. #4 Louisville, #2 Florida vs. #3 Michigan - People were clamoring for a rematch after Ohio State-Michigan played a season-finale classic. Considering the other teams out there, including a Wisconsin team that Michigan beat and a USC team that laid an egg against UCLA in their last game, I think the committee puts the Wolverines in. And the 4th seed goes to one-loss Louisville over undefeated Boise State, keeping with the committee's angle of ignoring the small conferences.
2007: LSU emerges from the chaos as champs
The No-Brainers: This season was nonsense.
The Contenders: Ohio State (one-loss Big Ten champs); LSU (two-loss SEC champs); USC (two-loss Pac-10 co-champs); Hawaii (undefeated WAC champs); Virginia Tech (two-loss ACC champs); Oklahoma (two-loss Big XII champs); Kansas (one-loss Big XII); West Virginia (two-loss Big East co-champs); Missouri (one-loss Big XII runner-up)
The CFP Scenario: #1 Ohio State vs. #4 Oklahoma, #2 LSU vs #3 Virginia Tech - In this shitshow of a season, Virginia Tech gets in after avenging their loss to Boston College in the ACC championship game - their only other loss was to LSU. Oklahoma gets the 4-seed over USC after a dominant win over then-#1 Missouri in the Big XII title game. USC lost to Tavita Pritchard, and is therefore out, along with Kansas, Missouri, and West Virginia, who each lost their last game of the season.
2008: Florida beats Oklahoma
The No-Brainers: No undefeated teams, we shall judge them all!
The Contenders: Florida (one-loss SEC champ); Alabama (one-loss SEC runner-up; Oklahoma (one loss Big XII champ); Texas (one-loss Big XII); Texas Tech (one-loss Big XII); Penn State (one-loss Big Ten co-champs); Ohio State (two-loss Big Ten co-champs); Utah (undefeated MWC champs); Boise State (undefeated WAC champs); USC (one-loss Pac-10 champs)
The CFP scenario: #1 Florida vs. #4 Texas, #2 Oklahoma vs. #3 USC - This is the year when Texas beat Oklahoma, who beat Texas Tech, who beat Oklahoma, all of those the only losses of the year for those three teams. Oklahoma crushed Texas Tech, got the Big XII South title based on BCS rankings, and made the BCS title game. Texas gets in over Alabama, Penn State, and the undefeated small conference teams based on their wins over Oklahoma, Mizzou, Oklahoma State, and their only loss being on the Michael Crabtree buzzer-beater touchdown.
2009: Alabama dominates Texas
The No-Brainers: Both 'Bama and Texas were undefeated, and are in without question.
The Contenders: Georgia Tech (two-loss ACC champ); Cincinnati (undefeated Big East champ); Ohio State (two-loss Big Ten champ); TCU (undefeated MWC champ); Oregon (two-loss Pac-10 champ), Florida (one-loss SEC runner-up); Boise State (undefeated WAC champ)
The CFP scenario: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Oregon, #2 Texas vs. #3 Cincinnati - Say what you will about the Big East, but it was a solid conference in 2009. Cincinnati's undefeated run gets them a spot. The fourth spot is between the undefeated non-power conference teams in TCU and Boise State, and two-loss conference champs Oregon and Ohio State. We saw the committee this year give preference to big-conference team when they are good enough, and I think they'd do that here with an Oregon team that beat USC, Oregon State, Cal, and Arizona.
2010: Auburn beats Oregon, thousand of pantsless drunk people are sad
The No-Brainers: Auburn and Oregon
The Contenders: Oklahoma (two-loss Big XII champs); Wisconsin and Ohio State (one-loss Big Ten co-champs, Wisconsin won head-to-head); TCU (undefeated MWC champs); Stanford (one-loss Pac-10 runner-up, only loss to Oregon)
The CFP scenario: #1 Auburn vs. #4 Stanford, #2 Oregon vs. #3 Wisconsin - True, it was a different era where the top small-conference teams were more comparable to the big-conference teams, compared to this year's Marshall or Colorado State teams. But I still don't see the committee in its current iteration letting in a small-conference team when there are deserving big-conference teams available. And in this case, one-loss Wisconsin and Stanford teams are very much deserving. Oregon gets a shot at Montee Ball and company a year early, and Auburn gets beat up by Stanford before the championship game.
2011: The Alabama-LSU rematch
The No-Brainers: LSU is undefeated, and in the playoff.
The Contenders: Alabama (one-loss SEC); Oklahoma State (one-loss Big XII champs); Oregon (one-loss Pac-12 champs); Stanford (one-loss Pac-12); Wisconsin (two-loss Big Ten champs)
The CFP scenario: #1 LSU vs. #4 Oklahoma State, #2 Oregon vs. #3 Alabama - Oklahoma State lost at Iowa State in a bit of weeknight nonsense. It cost them a shot at the BCS title. In a particularly underwhelming year at the top, they grab the #4 spot, and get their chance vs. LSU. I think Oregon would grab the 2-seed over Alabama, but really, it doesn't matter. They'd still meet, and it'd be glorious. Let me just point out, this would be two CFP appearances in two years for Darron Thomas, the greatest QB Oregon has ever had.
2012: Bama vs. Notre Dame, in the worst BCS title game ever.
The No-Brainers: Notre Dame, I guess. They were undefeated, but they were the flimsiest big-time undefeated team ever, even moreso than this year's Florida State team.
The contenders: Alabama (one-loss SEC champ); Oregon (one-loss Pac-12); Stanford (two-loss Pac-12 champ); Georgia (two-loss SEC runner-up); Kansas State (one-loss Big XII co-champ); Oklahoma (two-loss Big XII co-champ, lost to Kansas State); Florida State (two-loss ACC champ); Florida (one-loss SEC); South Carolina (two-loss SEC)
The scenario: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Stanford, #2 Notre Dame vs. #3 Florida - First, Ohio State was ineligible for postseason play; if they weren't, they'd be in. That opens the door for a team who didn't win their conference outright. This debate comes down to Oregon vs. Kansas State vs. Florida. Oregon's loss was in overtime to Stanford; Florida's was a 17-9 loss to SEC East champ Georgia; Kansas State's was a blowout loss to Baylor. Will the committee value a conference title that wasn't decided on the field enough to overcome that difference? I don't think so. So it's Oregon vs. Florida. Florida sported wins over LSU, South Carolina, and Florida State. Oregon's big wins were over USC, Arizona State and Oregon State. As much as I'd hate to say it, because I think the 2012 Oregon team was the best Oregon team of all time, I think the committee picks the Gators. Could the committee leave Stanford out for an Oregon team it beat? No way, considering how it dropped TCU like a rock in the final rankings. Oregon's out.
2013: Florida State over Auburn in a thriller.
The No-Brainers: Florida State is the only lock.
The Contenders: Auburn (one-loss SEC champion); Central Florida (one-loss AAC champion); Michigan State (one-loss Big Ten champion); Baylor (one-loss Big XII champ); Stanford (two-loss Pac-12 champ); Alabama (one-loss SEC); Missouri (two-loss SEC runner-up);
The CFP scenario: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Baylor, #2 Auburn vs. #3 Michigan State - I could definitely see Alabama taking Baylor's spot here, but I think an outright Big XII title means something in this case. I have a hunch the committee would have seen the Kick-Six Iron Bowl as a playoff play-in game, leaving room for Baylor to get a shot despite getting beat handily by Oklahoma State.
Now, as we all know, Tyrone Willingham is far smarter than I, and probably would have made smarter decisions than I. And I'm sure there are those of you out there with corrections for me. Be sure to leave them in the comments!