My college football championship proposal

This is the time of year when people pushing playoffs for major college football like to roll out their flawless plans for how to make college football championships as debate-free as the NFL. I’m against playoffs for major college football, but even so I think I can come up with a better plan than what’s being put forth – typically the “seeded” set of 4, 8, 16, 32 or 64 teams that would fight out a traditional playoff schedule.

And, as a fan of the team that won the BCS title in 2007, I should point out that I was just as against a playoff when LSU finished 11-2 with no title in 2006 as when they finished 12-2 with the BCS title last year.

At the core of my plan are two assumptions:

1) Until you reach Bowl Season, major college football is the most exciting, dramatic and interesting sport there is. That can’t be messed with. Stanford upsetting USC or Kentucky stopping LSU on 4th down in overtime must matter or you lose the greatness of the game.

2) There will never be surety in selecting teams to participate in a championship system. This is not a league like the NFL where you have 32 teams playing 16 games in a roughly equal schedule. There are 120 teams playing 12 or 13 games, including games against teams not among the 120 D-I teams. Selecting 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 or 64 teams to be in a playoff would always be a highly subjective exercise.

So, then, what to do? Just build upon the elimination system already in place for many conferences.

The SEC, ACC, Big 12, MAC and C-USA already use the conference championship game format and every other conference except the Big Ten plays a full round-robin schedule to name a sure champion. Then you have the four “independents” in D-I.

Therefore, after the regular season you’re currently left with 10 undisputed conference champions, likely two Big Ten teams (Ohio State and Michigan, no doubt), Notre Dame and at most three other teams who could legitimately claim a place in the BCS title race (sorry, Georgia). The 120 teams become 16 just through the course of the season.

But I’m sorry, Big Ten. You have to get with the program. You’ve got 11 teams and play 8 conference games. That’s pathetic. If you and Notre Dame want to be in a national championship mix, suck it up and get together. You’ll be 12 teams and have a conference championship game.

Army and Navy, welcome to the Big East and a 10-team, 9-game schedule. Western Kentucky, meet the Sun Belt.

This, however, leaves us with 11 conference champions in the mix. We need an even number. Time to consolidate and shuffle the mid-majors. C-USA, MAC, WAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt are full of hasty cast-offs from failed conferences and illogical associations (such as La. Tech being in the WAC and TCU being in the Mountain West). Figure out how to put the 51 teams into four conferences. The MAC already has 13 teams, so three 13-team conferences and one 12-team conference all with conference title games is a good way to make the mid-major teams earn a shot at the big time. Bye-bye Sun Belt is what I figure, along with re-shuffling to create better regional lineups.

Now we would have 10 teams in the mix. Those would become five through bowl games. And I’m strongly for preserving the bowl traditions.

- Sugar Bowl: SEC v. Big 12
- Rose Bowl: Pac-10 v. Big Ten
- Orange Bowl: ACC v. Big East
- Fiesta Bowl: WAC v. Mountain West
- Cotton Bowl: C-USA v. MAC

All the other bowls would happen as usual. I gave the fifth “qualifying” bowl to the Cotton instead of the Peach because the Peach is a darn good SEC / ACC bowl and nobody cares much about the formerly-significant Cotton.

After the five qualifying bowls (all played on New Year’s Day, by the way – and no other bowls that day), the two teams who won their bowl games and are rated best by the BCS system would play in the BCS Championship Game the second Saturday after New Year’s Day (unless New Year’s Day is a Saturday – then it’s the next week). That game would rotate among the five sites.

And you’ll notice that the bowls would feature consistent conference matchups, not “seeded” matchups that change. You’ll also notice that the Sugar, Rose and Orange match the big boys, while the Fiesta and Cotton put the mid-majors together. That’s because this is not a playoff. If a Boise State that beats BYU in the Fiesta Bowl ends up ranked ahead of a Georgia that beat Texas in the Sugar Bowl or a USC that beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, then so be it. The two teams in the BCS Championship Game would absolutely have earned their spot.

The other three? They would be conference champions and champions of “their bowl”. Both of those things matter quite a lot – just ask the Pac-10 or Big Ten about how much “Rose Bowl Champions” means. Not making the BCS Championship Game – sure, that would suck. But the subjective nature of the current BCS would be reduced tremendously, and rational fans would realize their disappointment is outweighed by keeping all that is good about major college football intact.

New Year’s Day would be an amazing event, as would the BCS Championship Game. And the other bowls would stay as is – and people sure seem to enjoy most of those now.

This system would keep the regular season as is, preserve the significance of the bowls and add a “filter” to the selection of the two “best” teams. You would be selecting two teams from the five who won their conference championships and beat another conference champion in their bowl game instead of the 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 or 64 teams which have … some kind of subjective “good” qualities … and deserve a chance to prove that by tearing apart the best regular season in all of sports.

In the grand scheme of things, this would be only a minor adjustment to the game, and would create new excitement while taking 90% of the bad elements of the BCS off the table. I’d endorse it.

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4 Responses to “My college football championship proposal”

  1. TCL says:

    I endorse it.

  2. Drew W says:

    Sorry sir, but I cannot endorse such a plan that allows conferences such as the WAC, Mountain West, and MAC a permanent seat at the big kids table. I also see a major flaw in your selection of the “best two out of five” to play for the championship. This method will be skewed by the winners of the Fiesta & Cotton having blowout wins over weaker teams getting more consideration over the major confereces who fight it out in a bloody grudge match.

    Some things I do like though. I like moving the bowls back to New Years Day. I remember when the first of the year was significant. I also endorse the combination of the conferences. I would take it a step further & force everyone to have 12 (or more) teams & hold a championship game. If you want to stay independent or not join a conference, no problem, but you do not even get a chance to play in any of these bowls, let alone the championship game.

    It is a good start. It just needs some tweaks.

  3. Cap'n Ken says:

    Well, I gotta win the Meathead endorsement … so some rationale for the mid-major inclusion:

    - They’re sort of at the big-kids’ table now because of this inclusion formula. And you end up with the Boise States and Hawaiis arguing that going undefeated in their weak paths puts them on par with an undefeated or one-loss big-conference team. This five-bowl system puts another filter in the system. Arguing that Hawaii should go after they beat BYU when USC just beat Ohio State, LSU just beat Oklahoma and Virginia Tech just beat West Virginia is not an argument that’s going to win many times.

    - I should note, I suppose, that my BCS ranking would be much more data-driven and less skewed toward human voters. That’s kind of a given with me, but you’d take the human “feel good” bias out of the system that way.

    - I haven’t looked back year by year to know for sure, but is there any previous BCS season where a mid-major would have stood a shot after the regular bowls to go to the title game? I wouldn’t think so.

    - And if a mid-major fought their way up to a better-filtered 1 or 2 spot, I’m OK with them being in the title game. Would be a very, very rare occurrence, I believe.

    I didn’t mess around too much with the conferences because I really believe mucking with the regular season and tradition is a bad thing. But, yeah, you could whittle the play-in bowls down to four really easily, and probably down to three if you forced consolidation and dropped some Kent States and Fla. Internationals out of 1-A.

  4. Drew W says:

    I think that in a playoff or “plus one” system, Urban Meyer’s 2004 Utah team and the sneaky bandits of Boise State (circa 2006) would have the best case of any mid-major to play for the title. Take away the fact that Utah went undefeated the same year that an undefeated SEC team (Auburn) was shut out of the title game, and Boise St had to use high school trickeration to beat OU in overtime the same year that Ohio State was anointed to the championship much like Hillary Clinton was anointed to the White House. On their individual records alone, those two teams make the best cases for a mid major. And at the time, I challenge you to find anyone that thinks that either team would have given us a better game for the title. Well, I will give you that Utah would have been a better opponent for USC than OU was in 2004, but the outcome would have been the same. Even Auburn would have taken Urban’s team behind the woodshed. Also, to think that Boise St would have provided a challenge to either tOSU or UF in 2006 is equally suspect.

    I think we are arguing the same side here. The only difference is that I do not think they deserve an automatic seat at the table when we all know they will never play for the big trophy.

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