A lot of people have pointed to what happened in last weekend's Ind-NY Jets game as an example of how playoffs would ruin the NCAA FBS regular season. Since INDY rested its starters in a game it clearly could have won, this proved that if FBS instituted a playoff, the regular season would end up with meaningless games in which teams rest their starters once their playoff status is determined. Here are several reasons why this is a terrible analogy and can't happen in CFB.
1) In CFB you have 120 teams fighting for 8/12/16 playoff spots, whereas in the NFL it is 16 teams for 6 playoff spots in each conference. Thus, 1 loss means a whole lot more in CFB than it does in the NFL---thus, the reason why the regular season in CFB is currently so important (perhaps too important but that is another discussion for another day) and would continue to stay important. The sheer # of teams involved (37.5% make playoffs in NFC & AFC, compared to 6.6- 13.3% in CFB) makes the NFL comparison incorrect.
2) Also the NFL has 2 different playoff brackets (due to 2 different conferences) whereas CFB would have 1. Thus, it would be much harder to clinch a #1 or #2 seed in CFB than in the NFL. In other words, if the NFL had 1 large bracket with all 12 playoff teams or the Super Bowl home field advantage was determined by team record (as is case with NHL & NBA), then the Colts would have had less of an incentive to sit their starters. Also related to this is the fact that it is impossible to clinch a #1 seed in CFB because there are so many teams with similar records. The Colts had a 3 game lead with 2 to play. This does not happen in CFB. There are too many teams with similar records (for example, this year alone 5 undefeated teams) and thus, it is impossible to clinch the #1 seed. Thus, the Indy scenario would not happen
3) Third, this again relates to the above points, but losing a game in the final weeks--even if it did not affect one’s playoff qualification status because they had already won their conference (Ohio State) or secured a spot in the conference championship game (ALA-UF)—would undoubtedly affect the seeding. For example, under Dan Wetzel’s plan Ohio State would get the #8 seed and host their first round game. If they rested their starters against Michigan and lost, they would probably drop to a #11/12 seed and would not host a game at any point in the playoffs.
Or look at Alabama. If they lost their last game against Auburn they still would have played in the SEC title game. Now, if they lost that game, then they probably would not have made an 8 team playoff—at least this year with 5 undefeated teams. They still would have made a 16 team playoff, but with 2 losses they would have been seeded much lower than with only 1 loss to the #1 team in nation. Thus, they would not have had as much home-field advantage (only 1 round or 2 depending on 8/16 team playoff) as they would have had they beaten Auburn. If they won SEC title game, they would have received an automatic berth, but they would not have been seeded #1 and quite possibly would have been #3 or #4. This again would result in fewer home playoff games (depending on 8/16 team) and thus, losing the Auburn game would not be “meaningless”.
4) Teams would never, EVER sit starters against a rival and risk losing a game even if their playoff status was known. Rivalry games are so important and a playoff would not diminish these. If you need proof regarding the increased importance of rivalry games over general winning, see John Cooper. Also, the reason that rivalry games are so important is because the vast majority of them only happen once in a year unlike the NFL where most of them happen twice (Skins-Cowboys, Bears-Packers, Steelers-Ravens, etc.)---they could happen twice a year in conferences that host a championship game (ACC, SEC, etc.) but most of the important rivalries are in the same division anyways (Texas-Oklahoma, Auburn-Alabama, etc.)
So to summarize (yes I know that is not possible at this point), the INDY scenario is not applicable to CFB due to several factors (# of teams, scarcity of playoff spots, seeding & home field advantage, 1 bracket vs 2) and it's time for people to stop claiming that what INDY did would never happen in CFB.