Everyone has their own solution for college football's lack of a playoff. I sketched mine out a while back, and I'm just now getting around to typing it all out. This solution is a dream scenario that could never happen, but say we could do whatever we wanted... here's what I would do.
Reorganize the conferences
If there's one thing the Pac 10 has figured out, it's conference size. The Big 10 has it figured out in name only, but added an 11th team. They're trying to add a 12th now to be like everyone else, but that's not a good route to go. Here's why.
A 12-team conference means you don't get to play everyone in your conference every year in football. You can go two years without playing half of the teams in your own conference! And if you're lucky, like half the Big XII North every couple years, you avoid the good half of the other division (Big XII scheduling is set up so some teams miss Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech in the same season).
Here's the beauty of a 10-team conference. You play every single team in your conference every year. There's no question who's the champ then. Sure, it may come down to a tie-breaker, but if it's a two-team tie, they definitely played each other. And if it's a 3-team or more, you just need better tie-breakers in place than the Big XII. And you don't need a conference championship game. The season was your conference championship because you had a chance to beat every team in the conference. Sure, it adds one more conference game than most teams currently have, but in this scenario, everyone would be doing it. And without the need for the conference championship game, every week still matters!
Want to know how it gets even better? You use these same conferences for basketball, and you play every team twice. No divisions. No only playing only half the league home-and-away. You play everyone twice. More on that later in a post that will include the new conference for schools with no football team (The Why Do You Exist Conference).
Onto what I'm getting at.
We take the current BCS conference teams and reorganize them into 10-team conferences. There are 66 BCS teams currently. We need four more to round out the conferences, and there were exactly 4 I felt were worthy of the bump-up due to recent, but sustained, success:
So now we have our 70 teams. What will we look for when reorganizing? I want to keep rivals together and have everything make geographical sense. It ended up being possible to make no two teams that are in the same state end up in different conferences. So without further ado, here are my revamped 10-team conferences:
I was able to keep everything geographically well-contained with the exception of the Northern Conference. The leftovers were pieced together to make the last 10-team conference, but it's still not too large geographically; just has the two outliers.
A quick note for the Tech/ACC fans. I wanted to keep Clemson and South Carolina in the Southern Conference, but as I got further around the map, I had to go back and switch them for the Mississippi schools to balance everything out.
You end up with the same two most powerful conferences basically. The Southern Conference took some of the best SEC and ACC teams, and the Southwest Conference is basically the Big XII South plus LSU. Scary. The Pac 10 is the only one that didn't change at all.
Finally, rivals that are currently out-of-conference (Georgia/Georgia Tech, Florida/Florida State, Iowa/Iowa State, Kentucky/Louisville, Clemson/South Carolina) are in the same conference. And I'm helping the environment and schools' budgets by minimizing travel expenses!
So how does this become a playoff idea?
Well, you've got 7 indisputable conference champions unless a 3-way tie occurs. In that case, the newer, better tie-breakers are in effect. I'm not here to solve all the world's problems. Just the conference realignment and playoff bracket.
Take your 7 conference champs and let a committee, much like basketball's selection committee, add an 8th, at-large team and seed the 8 playoff teams. Now you've got yourself a nice little 8-team college football playoff. Everyone there won their conference except the one team a qualified committee deems the best team in the country that didn't win their conference. Now you've got a playoff, and you can't tell me every week doesn't matter with this playoff. You've basically got to win a 9-week conference playoff to get in.
True, your non-conference games won't matter as much, but neither will the polls. All you're trying to do there is boost your resume to be voted the best team in the country that's left out in case you don't win your conference.
What do we do about the bowls?
Let the rest of the country play them. There are still a lot of good teams out there. Still conference bragging rights. Even moreso now that they're completely regionalized and each one's champion is competing for the national championship. This is a dream scenario, so I'm not worried about money corporations, TV, and schools would lose. But you can't tell me this 8-team playoff wouldn't gain a lot of attention.
How many games would a team play?
Well, to win the national championship, a team would have to win 3 playoff games. Everyone in the country will play 9 conferences games, and pick whatever number you like for non-conference. Let's say everyone plays 3. None are taken up by rivals because they're in your conference. Sure, some minor ones may be lost, and Florida and Tennesse can schedule each other every few years if they want, but the main ones are on the conference schedule.
Anyway, that means 12 regular season games for everyone, one bowl game for bowl teams, and up to 3 games for playoff teams, so TWO teams will play 15 games. Everyone gets at least 12. That doesn't sound so bad. Plenty of teams play 14 including their bowl now.
So there it is. What do you think? I'm sure I forgot some of the things I wanted to say, but basically, I would love for every conference to have 10 teams so they all play each other every year (and twice in basketball), and I would love a playoff to determine a true, undisputed national champion every year. I can dream, can't I?
EDIT: I knew I forgot a couple things that I'd think of this morning. Notre Dame - sorry... you have to be in a conference now. I don't care how many "rivalries" you have. Schedule some in the non-conference games. And if the selection committee deems an undefeated team outside these conferences to be the best team to fill the 8th playoff spot, that works, too.
Let us know what you think in the comments section.