As we watch this college football bowl season come to a close, we prepare ourselves for the continued debate that is sure to follow. Thanks to Utah’s recent thumping of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and the still memorable defeat of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl at the hands of Boise State, the discussion for greater inclusion of non-BCS teams has grown hotter than ever. I am still appalled by college football elitists that cling to the notion that schools without tradition don’t deserve a shot at the title.
As a fan of the ACC, there is no doubt in my mind this year’s Utah squad would have reined Supreme in that conference. Can you honestly name a team in all of the ACC, Big East or PAC 10 – with the exception of USC – that would be favored today in a game against Utah? Heck, Florida versus Utah on a neutral field would see the Gators favored by perhaps no more than 3 points, and that’s only because Florida possesses more raw talent.
It’s time for a change in college football. No, not a playoff system. I happen to agree with the notion the entire season is itself a playoff system. Otherwise, Southern Cal would or Texas would be in the BCS title game (and we’ll leave Florida and Oklahoma’s respective 1-losses to the side for now). What we need is a return to the old with a step forward to the future.
I need to first begin by clarifying my proposed BCS overhaul is not an original idea of mine. Rather it’s a hodgepodge of ideas and arguments that I’ve heard over the years and again, most recently, in the last couple of weeks as the discussion about college football rages on. Yes, some nuances are uniquely my own, but overall it’s really just a summary of a concept I think can lay the foundation to a system that will give us all what we want; an undisputed national champion.
The first step is to level the playing field. This means that ALL conference must play a conference championship. Either the NCAA drops their incredibly ridiculous requirement of 12 teams in a conference in order to have a conference game or we make the existing ‘smaller’ conferences bigger. Move Utah and Boise State, two consistent programs in the past 5 years (49-14 and 55-9, respectively), into the now PAC 12. Force Notre Dame to stop living in the past, drop their NBC contract and join the Big 10. No need to rename the conference given that A) there already exists a Big 12 Conference and B) they’ve lived with the name and 11 teams for 18 years. The Big East could fold in several respectable teams from both the MAC and C-USA and perhaps change their name to the Big Least.
The next step is to eliminate pre-season rankings. Nothing does more to stack the deck for or against a team like pre-season rankings. This is where the notion of tradition and big names really comes into play. Writers give credit to teams with a large amount of returning starters or highly rated freshman classes. In the end, it’s all a guessing game. Where would Utah have played had they started the season ranked in the top 10 as opposed to unranked in both the Coaches and AP poll? Here are some teams ranked ahead of the Utes in early September: Clemson, Kansas, BYU, Illinois, Tennessee and USF. I say hold off on rankings until after week 5 of the college football season.
All BCS teams would have to play at least 3 non-conference games against other BCS schools. The conference versus conference schedules would be rotated, much in the same manner the NFL does with it’s inter-conference scheduling, and BCS teams would not be allowed to schedule tune-up games against the likes of East Tennessee State or Tulane (please note the self deprecation in that comment).
The winner of each of the BCS conferences (Big Least, Big Ten, Big XII, ACC, SEC and PAC 12) would earn an automatic bid with the remaining two spots awarded as at-large berths. In the event three teams from the same conference finish with a better record and ranked higher than the champion from another conference (as we saw in this year's Big XII), the bowl committee would have the choice to select the higher ranked team for their respective game. It’s also important that each BCS conference use the same formula for determining a champion (once again see this year's Big XII).
Finally, move all the BCS bowl games back to January 1. Yes, I know this presents a TV scheduling fiasco. I also admit that every several years you will have a major conflict with the NFL. Nevertheless, all four BCS bowls would be played on one, colossal judgment day. Then, two of the four winners would be selected to play the following week in a ‘Plus One’ championship game. The two teams selected would be determined using a complex formula which includes the AP and Coaches poll, strength of schedule, margin of victory in their bowl game, and fan factor. That’s right, fan factor. Borrowing from the insanely popular American Idol, a component of what determines the participants in my Plus One national championship would be fan voting. I can see it already. “Text G8RLVR to 4567 to see your Florida Gators in the title game.” On thing is for certain: the TV networks and wireless service providers would be all over this idea!
I admit my idea is flawed at so many levels but you have to admit, it'a a lot better than the BCS we have today.