DETROIT – Ron English couldn’t help but crack a short laugh when asked if he had thought about how the 2006 season would have played out in college football’s new four-team playoff system.
“God, why did you have to ask me about that?”
Those were the first words out of the fourth-year Eastern Michigan coach’s mouth.
Back in 2006, English was the defensive coordinator for a Michigan team that finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. The Wolverines went into their last game against Ohio State unbeaten before suffering a three-point loss at Ohio Stadium.
A one-loss Florida team ended up finishing No. 2 in the BCS, and went on to beat the Buckeyes in the national title game.
“So, if they did have [a playoff], it would have been exciting,” English said. “Because you know, that was a pretty good football team.”
Ohio coach Frank Solich was in another situation involving BCS controversy back in 2001. That season, Solich’s Nebraska team finished the regular season ranked second in the BCS despite not even winning the Big 12 North Division because of a blowout loss to Colorado in its final contest.
The Cornhuskers earned a spot to play Miami for the national championship in the Rose Bowl despite finishing fourth in the AP poll. Meanwhile, a one-loss Oregon team and a Buffaloes squad that won the Big 12 with two losses were passed over.
Nebraska was overmatched by the Hurricanes in the Rose Bowl, losing 37-14.
Solich said he thinks back to how that season would have played out under the new four-team playoff system that was announced in June. Starting in 2014, a committee will choose the four playoff teams after the regular season.
“It would have been very interesting,” said Solich, who was the Huskers’ coach from 1998-2003 before taking the Ohio job in 2005. “I think back to 2001 a lot and what we could have done differently.”
Despite the fact it could possibly have hurt him 11 years ago, Solich was just one Mid-American Conference coach that put his support behind the new system at Tuesday’s MAC media day at Ford Field in Detroit. Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren is also glad the new system is in place.
“I’m excited that they’re going to be able to settle who the best team is on the playing field instead of a poll,” Doeren said. “I think it’s good for the game. Still anxious to hear all the details of how it gets picked and where the money goes and the timing of all the bowl games and everything.”
One question that will remain to be answered is how often teams from any of the current non-automatic qualifying BCS conferences get involved. Since the BCS began in 1998, a school from a non-AQ conference has finished in the top four of the BCS standings twice after the regular season – TCU in 2009 and 2010. The Horned Frogs are now a member of the Big 12.
The last team from a non-major conference to win a national championship was BYU in 1984.
No MAC team has finished the regular season higher than 11th in the BCS standings, accomplished by Miami (Ohio) in 2003.
Akron coach Terry Bowden has been in favor of an eight-team playoff, which he thinks will eventually happen. Bowden coached playoff teams at the Football Championship Subdivision and Division II levels, and was in favor of an eight-team system when he worked as a broadcaster for ABC and a columnist for Yahoo! Sports.
“I’m a strong believer in an eight-team playoff,” Bowden said. “ I think the playoff that they got to, the four-team, is better than what we had, that it will create a Jan. 1 day of football that will be exciting and meaningful again. It hasn’t been for years. They should have gone to eight and it should be one more week before that, four sites, eight teams than down to two sites, four teams, and one site.”
To Bowden, there’s more of a legitimate chance of a non-AQ team competing for a title with an eight-team playoff. Boise State qualified for BCS bowl games in 2006 and 2009. Hawaii played in the Sugar Bowl in 2007, while Utah played in BCS games in 2004 and 2008. Utah joined the Pac-12 last season.
“I think you’ve got the possibility of an [unbeaten] MAC or a 12-0 Boise,” Bowden said. “Ball State when they were undefeated [in 2008 before finishing 11-2]. ... But I don’t see any light for schools like us with four.”