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Published: Saturday, 11/23/2002

College playoffs are the answer

A playoff system in Division I college football is not only the best way to determine a national champion.

A playoff format is perfect for television. Adopting a playoff formula has the potential to elevate college football to the top as the most popular sport on TV.

Move aside NFL. Take a step back college basketball and all of your March Madness. The NBA, NHL and all the rest can only dream of drawing the kind of viewership a college football playoff would attract.

Generally speaking, football is the No. 1 sport in the country, with the NFL being at the forefront. But college football and a playoff system could seriously challenge the NFL for top-dog status.

So now is the time for NCAA officials, college presidents, bowl officials and television executives to sit down and hammer out a deal to establish a playoff system. All sides would be the beneficiaries of such a plan.

Furthermore, a playoff system would help eliminate some of the controversy long associated with trying to determine a national champion. Even the present Bowl Championship Series hasn't been controversy-proof in deciding which two teams play in a national title game.

NCAA officials and college administrators can't argue that creating a playoff would create too much of a sacrifice for the student athletes away from their studies, since the lower divisions already have playoff systems in place.

Bowl representatives can't cry that a playoff system might cause some bowls to lose some of their luster, since some of the bowls are already involved in the BCS picture, and the ones that aren't don't have a whole lot of excitement now.

If there's any question about setting up such a format, there shouldn't be. That's the easy part of this deal. Take note.

A total of eight teams would qualify for the playoffs based upon the final regular-season rankings using the current BCS ranking system. Call it the Elite Eight when those teams take to the field for the first of three straight weekends of playoff games. It's feasible to think the quarterfinal contests would attract the kind of television viewership long associated with the first weekend of the college basketball tournament.

It's hard to think semifinal showdowns and the eventual championship game would not lure large television audiences. The time just seems right for Division I college football to catch up with every other major sport and utilize a playoff setup to crown its champions.

Furthermore, Ohio State's chance to play in the national championship game shouldn't have to come down to beating Michigan.

Twelve victories in a row without a loss should carry more weight than they actually do.

A playoff format already in place would make today's Big Ten showdown less of an all-or nothing contest and potentially more of a seeding game.

That's the way it should be.

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