Forget the politics and the college presidents that stand in the way of a major college football playoff.

Pretend there was no bowl system to protect. No unbreakable bond between the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl. No Bowl Championship Series.

Sounds like paradise to many fans.

If big-time college football could have a playoff, and boy could it use one this season, here’s a good way to do it.

Eight teams. No more. No less. The last thing anybody wants is to ruin the best regular season in sports. A playoff would take the win-or-else edge off some regular season games, but not much.

There are 120 teams in the Bowl Subdivision. If only eight get a chance to play for a title after the season, there will still be very little margin for error.

Especially because six of those eight spots will go the champions of the big six conferences: the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and the Pac-10.

The other two spots are wild cards to be determined by some type of formula comparable to what’s used in the BCS standings, a combination of polls and computers. One suggestion: Put extra weight on the nonconference schedule for teams vying for an at-large bid.

That could lead to all types controversy about who should be in and who should be out and that’s not a bad thing.

When former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer came up with the idea that eventually grew into the BCS, he realized some controversy is good for the sport. It keeps people talking about college football.

The problem with the BCS is too often it’s impossible to figure out which teams should fill the two slots. When No. 3 has as a good as case to play the national championship as Nos. 1 and 2, it takes away from the title game.

If Missouri and West Virginia win next week and play in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 7 in New Orleans, we’ll be talking for weeks about why Ohio State – or Kansas or LSU or Georgia – isn’t in the game instead of who is.

Defenders of the BCS say there will always be complaining about teams getting left out, no matter how many are included. In an eight-team format, Nos. 9 and 10 would gripe.

True, but that will blow over as soon as the first-round games kick off and by the time the championship is decided 9 and 10 will be all but forgotten.

So what to do with the teams from the other five conferences? They’ll be eligible for at-large bids and the system can be weighed in a way that makes it easier for them to get in than non-champions from other leagues.

Hawaii will earn an automatic bid to the BCS this season by finishing in the top 12 of the standings, even if a team from the one of the major conferences is eligible for an at-large and ranked ahead of the Warriors.

Keep that rule or something similar in place, leaving at least one spot open to an underdog. Also, let the standings decide the seedings.

Making some educated guesses about what lies ahead – just for the fun of it let’s say Oklahoma beats Missouri in the Big 12 title game – here’s what the first round matchups could look like:

No. 1 West Virginia (Big East) vs. No. 8 Hawaii (at-large)

No. 2 Ohio State (Big Ten) vs. No. 7 Oklahoma (Big 12)

No. 3 LSU (SEC) vs. No. 6 Virginia Tech (ACC)

No. 4 USC vs. No. 5 Georgia (at-large)

That leaves Missouri and Kansas out, which should provide lots of fodder for debate for the week or two leading up to the first games.

If only it were this simple in the real world.

HEISMAN RACE: Darren McFadden, Tim Tebow, Chase Daniel and Pat White are looking like the guys who’ll be headed to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation on Dec. 8. It wouldn’t be surprising if Colt Brennan got there, too.

It took a while for the Heisman race to develop, but down the stretch it has heated up.

All five were brilliant last weekend in leading their teams to victories.

Tebow has had an unprecedented season, becoming the first major college player to have at least 20 rushing TDs and 20 touchdown passes. He’d be the first sophomore to win the Heisman.

McFadden has rebounded from a sluggish October with a stellar November. He tied an SEC-record with 321 yards rushing against South Carolina and led the Razorbacks to a 50-48 triple-overtime upset of LSU last week. He’s numbers are better than last year’s when he was the Heisman runner-up.

Daniel and White have their teams a win away from the national title game and were at their best Saturday.

Daniel went 40-for-49 for 361 yards and three TD passes in a 36-28 victory against Kansas. White ran for 186 and accounted for three TDs in a 66-21 win over UConn.

Brennan kept Hawaii perfect with 495 yards passing and five TDs in a 39-27 win over Boise State.

Tebow and McFadden have the advantage for now, but the other three all have one more game to make a case.

Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at rrusso(at)

AP-ES-11-25-07 1823EST

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