College football playoff confidential

More than 100 players weigh in on college football's biggest question: BCS or playoff?

Updated: August 11, 2010, 8:56 AM ET
ESPN The Magazine

Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesPlayers dream about winning a national championship, but what's the best way to give out the trophy?

President Obama wants one. Joe Paterno is on board. Consider Urban Meyer in, too. But how do college football players feel about a playoff?

In College Football Confidential, we polled 135 players from across the country. The panel we convened consisted of 72 players from BCS schools (63 from non-BCS conferences). Thirteen of our voters played in a BCS game last year, and 24 finished the year in the Top 25.

For The Magazine preview issue, we asked questions ranging from the players' top 10 teams to the use of hostesses in recruiting. But we also hit the players hard with three straight playoff-related questions.

What we found was that players want a playoff -- but don't dare take away their bowl games (and the accompanying gift bags).


Question: Do you want a playoff?

Overall
135 FBS players
Yes: 62.2%
No: 37.8%

BCS players
72 from BCS conferences
Yes: 61.1%
No: 38.9%

Non-BCS players
63 from non-BCS conferences
Yes: 63.5%
No: 36.5%

Most players want a playoff.

Said one Heisman contender: "Yes, but they'd have to shorten the regular season. We couldn't play 13 games and then have a 16-team playoff. Eight could work, though."

A Conference USA senior: "Yes, with 24 teams. I believe in it because every other level of football I've ever played, from Pop Warner to high school, has a playoff, and so does the NFL."

One Big Ten defensive standout believed he has it all figured out: "I've got the perfect solution. Take the top 16 ranked teams in the country and play it off like the World Cup. Take the next 24 teams with winning records and put them in bowl games."

A BCS QB: "It should be a 10-team playoff. The four BCS games should be the first round, with the two highest-ranked teams getting a bye. Then play a bracket from there."

Others vote no.

A likely All-America offensive lineman: "The argument I always make is that one year when Texas had four straight games against ranked opponents and they finally lost against Texas Tech because they were so worn out. In the final game, you want to get the best out of every single team. That wouldn't happen in a playoff system."

An ACC senior: "For one thing, with a playoff, you'd have the same issues we have now, with some 10-2 team that won their last six games getting left out and not being happy about it."

A likely All-MAC player: "I've been very in-between on this, but I'll say no. It extends the season to 14 or 15 games for the championship teams, and maybe more. That's way too many games, and another six weeks or two months of playing. That's too hard on us."


Question: Would you rather have an FCS-style, 16-team playoff (no bowls) or the current system?

Overall
135 FBS players
FCS: 29.6%
Current system: 70.4%

BCS players
72 from BCS conferences
FCS: 29.2%
Current system: 70.8%

Non-BCS players
63 from non-BCS conferences
FCS: 30.2%
Current system: 69.8%

One SEC voter who previously wanted a 32-team playoff chooses the current system here: "How many fans are actually going to travel to these road playoff games? I'd like to see a playoff, but we're not going to get that without answering a lot of tough questions."

One FCS-style playoff voter: "The BCS is garbage. Get a bunch of teams in a bracket and let's see who's the best."


Question: Would you rather have a college football career with three bowl trips or one playoff trip?

Overall
135 FBS players
3 Bowls: 77.0%
1 Playoff: 23.0%

BCS players
72 from BCS conferences
3 Bowls: 73.6%
1 Playoff: 26.4%

Non-BCS players
63 from non-BCS conferences
3 Bowls: 81.0%
1 Playoff: 19.0%

Said one Big 12 star who previously voted for a playoff (and suggested starting with 16 teams): "If you put it that way, I'd rather have the bowl trips."

Said a probable All-SEC pick: "We say we want to go to bowl games for the trip and the school, which is all true. But we all joke that it's actually all about the gift bag."

A standout offensive lineman: "Bowl trips are so much fun. It's a fun thing to do at the end of the year. My wife can come out and get rewarded for putting up with football for six months."

A MAC player: "The whole bowl experience is great. It's just like bowl camp, a good time to bond with the guys after a long season. Then when you go to the bowl destination, it's even better. I'm not sure with a playoff system you have that."

Another MAC player: "I'd take the bowl trips. They're a treat for us and awesome for our fans and our school. Everyone should have that experience in their college careers."