May 2, 2012

Borton's Blog: Imagine if…

The notion of a four-team playoff in college football intrigues a lot of people. It proved so compelling for one member of The Fort, it sent him on a mission back through the ranking archives.

FL_Blue began wondering how many times over the past half-century the Wolverines would have made such a playoff. Obviously, there's no definitive system established for determining the top four in the still-non-existent playoff, so he went with Associated Press polls prior to the bowls (insisting he doesn't trust the coaches poll after 1997).

Anyway, the results of his scramble through the archives produced the following match-ups:

1962: (1) USC vs. (4) Texas, (2) Wisconsin vs. (3) Mississippi

1963: (1) Texas vs. (4) Pittsburgh, (2) Navy vs. (3) Illinois

1964: (1) Notre Dame vs. (4) Michigan, (2) Alabama vs. (3) Arkansas

1965: (1) Michigan State vs. (4) Alabama, (2) Arkansas vs. (3) Nebraska

1966: (1) Notre Dame vs. (4) Georgia, (2) Michigan State vs. (3) Alabama

1967: (1) USC vs. (4) UCLA, (2) Tennessee vs. (3) Purdue

1968: (1) Ohio State vs. (4) Georgia, (2) USC vs. (3) Penn State

1969: (1) Texas vs. (4) Ohio State, (2) Penn State vs. (3) Arkansas

1970: (1) Texas vs. (4) Tennessee, (2) Ohio State vs. (3) Nebraska

1971: (1) Nebraska vs. (4) Michigan, (2) Alabama vs. (3) Oklahoma

1972: (1) USC vs.(4) Alabama, (2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Ohio State

1973: (1) Alabama vs. (4) Ohio State, (2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Notre Dame

1974: (1) Oklahoma vs. (4) Michigan, (2) Alabama vs. (3) Ohio State

1975: (1) Ohio State vs. (4) Alabama, (2) Texas A&M vs. (3) Oklahoma

1976: (1) Pittsburgh vs. (4) Maryland, (2) Michigan vs. (3) USC

1977: (1) Texas vs. (4) Michigan, (2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Alabama

1978: (1) Penn State vs. (4) Oklahoma, (2) Alabama vs. (3) USC

1979: (1) Ohio State vs. (4) Florida State, (2) Alabama vs. (3) USC

1980: (1) Georgia vs. (4) Oklahoma, (2) Florida State vs. (3) Pittsburgh

1981: (1) Clemson vs. (4) Nebraska, (2) Georgia vs. (3) Alabama

1982: (1) Georgia vs. (4) SMU, (2) Penn State vs. (3) Nebraska

1983: (1) Nebraska vs. (4) Illinois, (2) Texas vs. (3) Auburn

1984: (1) BYU vs. (4) Washington, (2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Florida

1985: (1) Penn State vs. (4) Iowa, (2) Miami vs. (3) Oklahoma

1986: (1) Miami vs. (4) Michigan, (2) Penn State vs. (3) Oklahoma

1987: (1) Oklahoma vs. (4) Syracuse, (2) Miami vs. (3) Florida State

1988: (1) Notre Dame vs. (4) Florida State, (2) Miami vs. (3) West Virginia

1989: (1) Colorado vs. (4) Notre Dame, (2) Miami vs. (3) Michigan

1990: (1) Colorado vs. (4) Miami, (2) Georgia Tech vs. (3) Texas

1991: (1) Miami vs. (4) Michigan, (2) Washington vs. (3) Florida

1992: (1) Miami vs. (4) Texas A&M, (2) Alabama vs. (3) Florida State

1993: (1) Florida State vs. (4) Notre Dame, (2) Nebraska vs. (3) West Virginia

1994: (1) Nebraska vs. (4) Colorado, (2) Penn State vs. (3) Miami

1995: (1) Nebraska vs. (4) Ohio State, (2) Florida vs. (3) Northwestern

1996: (1) Florida State vs. (4) Ohio State, (2) Arizona State vs. (3) Florida

1997: (1) Michigan vs. (4) Florida State, (2) Nebraska vs. (3) Tennessee

1998: (1) Tennessee vs. (4) Kansas State, (2) Florida State vs. (3) Ohio State

1999: (1) Florida State vs. (4) Wisconsin, (2) Virginia Tech vs. (3) Nebraska

2000: (1) Oklahoma vs. (4) Washington, (2) Miami vs. (3) Florida State

2001: (1) Miami vs. (4) Nebraska, (2) Oregon vs. (3) Colorado

2002: (1) Miami vs. (4) Georgia, (2) Ohio State vs. (3) Iowa

2003: (1) USC vs. (4) Michigan, (2) LSU vs. (3) Oklahoma

2004: (1) USC vs. (4) California, (2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Auburn

2005: (1) USC vs. (4) Ohio State, (2) Texas vs. (3) Penn State

2006: (1) Ohio State vs. (4) LSU, (2) Florida vs. (3) Michigan

2007: (1) Ohio State vs. (4) Georgia, (2) LSU vs. (3) Oklahoma

2008: (1) Florida vs. (4) Alabama, (2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Texas

2009: (1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati, (2) Texas vs. (3) TCU

2010: (1) Auburn vs. (4) Wisconsin, (2) Oregon vs. (3) TCU

2011: (1) LSU vs. (4) Stanford, (2) Alabama vs. (3) Oklahoma State

It makes for some interesting daydreams, for certain. Imagine Bo Schembechler's 1974 team heading out to take on Oklahoma, rather than being stranded at home without a bowl game for a third straight year, despite a 10-1 record and a Big Ten championship.

How about Schembechler's final team moving into a showdown against Miami, then possibly playing Colorado or Notre Dame for the national championship? As much as he loved the Rose Bowl, Schembechler instead got USC in its back yard, with a crew of officials pre-warned to take no guff from him.

In 1997, fans across the nation would have very likely gotten to see the Michigan-Nebraska showdown for the championship. Former Olympian Carol Frost might have even administered the coin flip.

In 2006, Urban Meyer wouldn't have needed to lobby for a spot in the title game. He could have tried to win it against Michigan, as part of a Big Ten/SEC doubleheader that would have settled all arguments (well, most anyway).

Over those 50 seasons, the Sooners lead the way in imaginary appearances with 17, followed by Alabama (16), Ohio State (15), Miami (12), Nebraska (12), Florida State (11), Michigan (11), Texas (10) and USC (10) and Penn State (8).

Notre Dame would have scrambled into the playoff six times, while Big Ten teams Wisconsin (2), Iowa (2), Illinois (2) and Michigan State (2) could have each gotten a once-in-a-quarter-century turn in the spotlight. Northwestern and Purdue would have even made the cut, one year apiece.

The Big Ten, in its present iteration, leads the way in imagined appearances, with 57, followed by the SEC (46), Big 12 (33), ACC (31), Pac-12 (23), Independents (7) and the Big East (3).

Here are some other interesting facts, cited by the inquiring mind of a Fort numbers cruncher:

• A Florida school would have been in the playoff for 19 straight years (1984-2002).

• A Big Ten school would have been in the playoffs for 18 straight years (1962-1979).

• 10 of the 12 Big Ten schools register an appearance (all but Indiana and Minnesota).

• 9 of the 14 SEC schools feature an appearance.

• Colorado is the Pac-12 team with the second-most appearances after USC.

• Schools that have at least one appearance in the top four in each decade ('60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s) are: Texas, Michigan, Alabama, Nebraska and Penn State.

• School with most appearances as top seed: USC (6).

Carr became a playoff believer in 2006. He'd have taken his chances against the Gators for the opportunity to get another crack at Ohio State. Scanning this list, it's obvious a whole lot of arguments over the years could have been put to rest via a mini-playoff.


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