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Welcome to the College Football Playoff 1998 home page! This althist has been a hit on alternatehistory.com, garnering 4,133 viewers as of August 23rd. This timeline, as you will read, imagines college football having installed a playoff system in 1998, and so far has included six seasons from '98 to 2003.
Introduction (from the forum)
The year was 1998. It was clear that college football needed to fix the broken Bowl Alliance, which had produced a shared title in its final year of existence. After the '97 season, college football executives sat down and drew up a new plan to fix college football's national championship debate once and for all.
But what the execs came up with was a far from perfect system. The Bowl Championship Series had many a glaring weakness, namely that it was just the Bowl Alliance, plus the Big Ten, Pac Ten, and the Rose Bowl.
But what if those executives and commissioners debated a little longer, thought a little harder, and worked a little smarter? The result, had more time been taken to hash it out, could have been revolutionary.
And so the synopsis of my inaugural alternate history, which, in a series of news articles, covers from its inception in 1998 to the present times a playoff system that never was.
Format (from the pages of the New York Times, August 1997)
At long last, college football will have a tournament to determine its champion.
In a press conference yesterday, college football commissioners announced the creation of the "Bowl-Playoff Alliance," a knockout playoff system designed to determine a real, true college football champion.
The system's fairly complex, so let's break it down into parts.
Sixteen Teams. The new system will boast sixteen teams playing four rounds. The first round will be played the second week of December, the quarterfinals around New Year's, and the semis and finals the second and third weeks of January.
Conference Championships. Every Big Six (SEC, Pac-10, Big Ten, Big XII, ACC, Big East) conference is mandated to play a championship game. The winners of each of the six championship games will advance to the quarterfinals.
For the SEC and Big XII, the conference championships will consist of division winners. The other four leagues, however, will place their top two teams in the championship games.
The sites of those championship games will be the venue of the team with the better conference record, with head-to-head being the tiebreaker. Beyond that, according to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, "conferences are free to break ties as they wish." Delany also noted that the potential exists in the future for those games to be played at neutral sites.
Wild Cards. The highest ranked teams not involved in the conference title games will be seeded 1-4 and placed in two games called the College Football Wild Card Games. The higher seed will host.
Bowls. "We had to preserve the tradition of the bowls," Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "They are an important part of the lore of college football."
The bowls, as a matter of fact, will matter more than ever. The six conference champions and the winners of the Wild Card Games will be placed in the Rose (yes, you heard it right), Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls, with care being taken to ranking, tradition, and geographical alignment. These games will be played New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
As for the eight losers in the first round, they, along with four other "high-ranked" teams, will receive bids to six bowls which will be marketed as the "Super Six." The Super Six will be played in tripleheaders on December 30th and January 2nd.
The winners of what are being called the BPA bowls will meet the second Monday of January in the semifinals, and then the third Monday in the BPA National Championship Game.
The commissioners stated that details regarding TV and the Super Six will be released at a later date.
Round of 16
Florida 54, Nebraska 0
Virginia Tech 30, Syracuse 27 (OT)
Florida State 51, Georgia Tech 7
Tulane 27, Wisconsin 16
Ohio State 49, Michigan 17
Tennessee 30, Mississippi State 10
Texas A&M 10, Kansas State 7