If there had been a playoff ...

Why the SEC wouldn't have won six in a row and the best teams left out

Originally Published: June 27, 2012
By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders
Jim Harbaugh & Andrew LuckHarry How/Getty ImagesThe 2010 Stanford team would have had a chance to make some noise in a four-team playoff.

The SEC has been the most dominant college football conference of late, winning six straight BCS National Championship Games and placing 11 teams in the top five of the final Associated Press poll over the same span.

The new playoff system approved by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee on Tuesday favors the SEC as well, at least in terms of participation. The SEC lobbied hard for a system that would place the top four teams in the country into the playoff, and over the past six seasons, that model would likely have favored the SEC more than any other conference.

Nine SEC programs have been ranked among the top four in the final BCS rankings entering the bowl season since 2006, and the SEC featured two teams among the top four in three seasons (2006, 2008, 2011). Those numbers dwarf what would have been the probable playoff participation of other conferences.

Based on this data, it might appear as though the new playoff format would favor the SEC more than the current BCS system already does. But when we went back and ran projections based on the potential playoff matchups of the past six seasons, it became clear that appearances can be deceiving.


To read more on how a four-team playoff model could have shifted the national title results of the past six seasons, including a look at the best teams that still would have been shut out, sign up for Insider today.

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com