Over the course of the next four months, my space on the ULOT blog will be devoted to the greatest of all American sports: college football.
While college football remains just that–the greatest of all American sports–there persists an ongoing controversy over how best to determine a national champion.
Under the current system, the top two teams in the BCS rankings at the end of the season play one another for the national title. While this provides fans with a “championship” game, it has proven very difficult to pick the two best teams. In 2004, Auburn won the championship of the nation’s best conference, and did so without losing a single game, yet was left out of the title game. In 2006 and 2007, Ohio State did make it to the title game by virtue of emerging as the best team in a rather uncompetitive conference. In both instances the Buckeyes were humiliated by an “undeserving” team with more losses. These instances—examples from merely the last four years—illustrate the need for a more comprehensive and equitable way to decide the national champion of college football.
Here is my proposal for how college football should determine its national championship:
Things that wouldn’t change:
– the regular season, 12 games, just as in the current system
– conference championships, decided in most cases by actual championship games or in other cases by regular season records
– the BCS rankings, calculated using a combination of computer rankings, the USA Today coaches poll, and the Harris poll
– all bowl games, which would all be played just as scheduled in the current system
Things that would change:
– at the end of the regular season (and conference championship games) the champions of the six major conferences would qualify for the new Bowl Championship Series
– in addition to the six major conference champions, any non-major conference champion who finishes in the top 10 of the BCS rankings at the end of the season would qualify for the new Bowl Championship Series
– to round out the new eight-team Bowl Championship Series, the remaining spots would be filled by the highest ranked teams who either did not win their conference championship or choose not to be a part of a conference
– the eight teams that qualify for the new Bowl Championship Series would compete in a Bowl Championship play-in game the second weekend of December (the weekend following the conference championship games). The highest ranked team would host the lowest ranked team. The second highest ranked team would host the second lowest ranked team. The third highest ranked team would host the third lowest ranked team. Finally, the fourth highest ranked team would host the fourth lowest ranked team.
– All eight Bowl Championship Series teams would compete in the four current BCS bowls on the same dates that they are currently scheduled. The two lowest ranked losers would meet in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1. The two highest ranked losers would meet in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5. The highest ranked winner would play the lowest ranked winner in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. The second highest ranked winner would play the second lowest ranked winner in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
– Finally, the winners of the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl would face off the in the BCS title game on Jan. 8.
– If two teams from the same conference were slated to meet one another before the championship game, the lower ranked of the two teams would swap spots with the team ranked one spot below them.
The bottom line:
– What you have is essentially a playoff (quarterfinals=the play-in games, semifinals=the BCS bowl games, and final=the championship game) within the structure of the current bowl system.
– while these changes may seem drastic and complex, there would only be a grand total of four games (the play-in games) added to the approximately 700 college football games played each season. These four games would only extend the season by one week, and even then only for the eight involved teams.
– The non-BCS bowls would not change at all. The same teams would still participate and nothing would be taken away from them, in terms of finance, prestige, or attention. The play-in games would be played before the traditional bowl games, and the BCS bowls would be played after the traditional bowl games
Now that I’ve unveiled my proposal, here’s what’s going to happen this season on my blog:
Each week I’m going to cover the college football season as if my proposal were actually in operation this year. For example, I’ll be covering the race for each conference’s automatic berth into the new Bowl Championship Series, as well as the “wild card” race for the additional two spots available for the new Bowl Championship Series. When it comes time for the playoffs, we’ll break down the matchups and wonder what could have been.
In addition to covering this hypothetical race, I’ll also be releasing my own rankings each week. However, I will not release any rankings until after Week 8, since this is really the earliest in which you can objectively judge teams.
Finally, I will also be ranking the conferences each week, starting after Week 3. The rankings will be based solely on inter-conference matchups. No intra-conference matchups will be used in these rankings. More on this later.