Mendenhall says credibility is key to BYU competing in four-team playoff

On Tuesday, June 26, 2012, a committee comprised of university presidents and conference commissioners approved plans for a four-team playoff in college football. On Wednesday, June 27, 2012, the four-team playoff was a topic of discussion at the BYU Football Media Day.  

The four-team playoff will begin in 2014 with a selection committee deciding which four teams will participate. The committee will take into consideration a team’s win/loss record, its strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether or not the team was a conference champion.

The consensus from football’s top programs is the four-team playoff is a step in the right direction from the BCS system. LSU coach Les Miles, Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops all agree a playoff is better than what they had before.

Kelly told ESPN that although far from perfect, this improves everyone’s chances at winning a national championship. “We’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “Four is obviously better than two.”

For teams like Oregon, Oklahoma and LSU, the four-team playoff gives them that much more of a chance at playing for the national championship. During the BCS era, they each finished the regular season ranked third or fourth at least once, just being left out of the national championship game. But does this change to a playoff format benefit a school like Brigham Young?

The Brigham Young Cougars were on the edge of qualifying for a BCS bowl from 2006-2009, finishing between 14th and 20th in the final BCS rankings each of those seasons. As a member of the Mountain West Conference, a non-automatic qualifying conference, the Cougars always had an uphill battle of reaching one of those elite bowl games. However, the BCS did implement some rules to make it at least possible to qualify as a member of a non-automatic qualifying conference.

During the BCS era (from 1998-2013), if a member of a non-automatic qualifying (non-AQ) conference finished the season with the highest ranking out of all of the non-AQ conference schools and was conference champion, there was a chance it would play in a BCS bowl game. If that school was in the top 12 it would receive an automatic berth to a BCS bowl. A top 16 finish and ranked higher than at least one BCS automatic qualifying (AQ) conference champion, would also result in an automatic berth for that non-AQ school. There was also the ability to receive an at-large berth from the bowl selection committee.

While BYU has never qualified for a BCS bowl during the BCS era, they have been close to meeting those requirements. Now, however, with the change in how the national champion will be crowned, the BCS system will go away, and there will be no such thing as automatic qualifiers and non-automatic qualifiers.

This could be good or bad for BYU. With no automatic qualifiers, every team should have a fair chance at qualifying for the major bowl games and the four-team playoff, right? Probably not. The polls and the voting will still largely favor schools from major conferences. Now that there are no automatic qualifiers and non-automatic qualifiers, there is no need to have a set of rules increasing the ability for the non-automatic qualifiers to be invited to a major bowl.

Aside from making it to the big bowl games, what are BYU’s chances of getting invited to the four-team playoff?

“I know we’ll have to go undefeated… maybe twice,” Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Wednesday at the BYU media day.

Mendenhall’s opinion is probably realistic. With BYU still working out the kinks in scheduling tough opponents as a football independent, it will take some time to establish credibility. But Mendenhall feels that this is a possibility.

Credibility as a football team comes from scheduling tough teams, and usually going on the road and beating them,” he said. “We are consistently a top-25 contender. But we keep looking up. We want to be a top-10 contender.”

If BYU can get 10 or 11 wins each season with the schedules it has in the next few years, being in the top-10 is very possible. Head-to-head wins over teams like Texas, Notre Dame and Boise State would bolster the team’s resume, and would be more than enough to satisfy a selection committee for college football’s final four. Will the lack of a conference championship hurt the Brigham Young Cougars? What will end up being better for BYU, the BCS system or the new playoff system? Only time will tell. Who knows, maybe the BCS wasn't as bad as we thought for all the non-AQ schools.

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