The BCS is better than the playoffs when it comes to determining a “true” national champion this year.
To put it in the simplest terms, a playoff would have meant that LSU would have had to play even more games to win the championship. People forget this when arguing for a playoff. Each additional game is a chance for LSU to lose what almost everyone agrees they deserve.
Let’s see what 4- and 8-team playoffs would have meant mathematically.
Hypothetical Numbers #1: Let’s be incredibly generous and say LSU is so good, they would beat any top 8 team 90% of the time.
Under the BCS, LSU would have a 90% chance to be crowned national champions.
In a 4-team playoff, it drops to 81%.
In an 8-team playoff, that drops again to 72%.
Hypothetical Numbers #2: Something a bit closer to reality, but still generous: LSU would beat Alabama 60% of the time, OK St 70% of the time, and the rest of the top 8 80% of the time.
Under the BCS, LSU has a 60% chance or 70% chance to be crowned national champions (depending on who ends up #2).
The math for the playoff systems is more difficult. In a 4-team system, LSU would be playing #4 then the winner of Alabama vs OK St. The chance of LSU winning the championship is somewhere between 48% and 56%. While the exact number depends on the odds of Alabama vs. OK St., it’s not much better than a coin flip.
In an 8-team system, obviously, it’s even worse. If LSU gets lucky and doesn’t have to play #2 or #3, they would have only a 51% chance to win all 3 games. The odds are somewhere between 38% and 51%, depending on the odds of #2 and #3 making it to the national title game.
I’m well aware playoff proponents will argue that the playoffs are better anyway because things are decided “on the field”. And that’s fine, as long as they are aware of what they are getting. There are simply too few games played during the football season to have a high degree of confidence that a “true” national champion was crowned, whatever the system.