A Modest Proposal

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.

–Matt Dover


Filed under College Sports, Matt Dover

5 responses to “A Modest Proposal

  1. Mr. Bunny

    I’m not sure who this Matt Dover character is, but calling the SEC the best conference of 2004 is highly questionable. With only four teams finishing in the AP Top 25, the SEC was behind the ACC (5.) The SEC just wasn’t super impressive that year and Auburn had a weaker strength of schedule (which is why they weren’t in the mix.) In their bowl game they squeaked by Va Tech by 3 points.

    Besides the SEC bias in this article, the proposal is very solid. Keep up the good work. Go Nigeria!

  2. More of the SEC “we play the toughest schedule” bias BS. ESPN just released a list of the top 10 gutsiest teams (Teams that play BCS teams in their non conference schedule) and biggest bullies (teams that never choose BCS teams for their non conference schedule.) The results aren’t startling to anyone but SEC drones.

    7 out of the top 10 gutsiest teams come from the ACC with FSU ranked #1. As far as the top ten teams that play the least amount of BCS non conference teams, the SEC has 5 teams out of the top 10.

    This means that the SEC has gotten by by beating up on cupcakes and when they have 3 losses they blame it on playing in a “tough” conference. Other conferences play much tougher non conference schedules. Its plain and simple to see. Is the SEC afraid of what might happen if they play big schools from the BCS? Might tarnish their reputation?

  3. Matt Dover

    Obviously this Mr. Bunny guy is feeling a little envious of the SEC. The SEC has been hands-down the most competitive conference from top to bottom for at least the last half decade. No conference has been able to even pretend to match up to the depth of the SEC. Who have the SEC’s 7th, 8th, 9th best teams been over the last half decade? Oh just teams like Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee. And as for the 2004 rankings, which reveal the top teams in each conference, the SEC and ACC had the same number of teams (5) in the coaches’ poll top 25 (the one that counts). Furthermore, there were two SEC teams, Auburn and Georgia, who finished ahead of the top team in the ACC. As for Auburn winning by 3 points in their bowl game, let’s take a look at who they were playing. Oh yeah, it was the ACC champion, Virginia Tech. ACC #2 FSU lost to SEC #5 Florida in the two conferences’ only other top-tier matchup.

    Now let’s look at the teams that weren’t ranked. The 5th place team in the ACC standings was North Carolina. Unfortunately for UNC, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams were all practicing for basketball season and weren’t available for football coach John Bunting. UNC’s nonconference record included blowout losses to Utah, Louisville, and Fresno State. And the teams behind UNC were certainly nothing to write home about. After all, they finished behind North Carolina. In football.

    The SEC meanwhile boasted several talented teams like Arkansas, Alabama, and South Carolina, who all had losing conference records. Even traditional bottom-feeders Vanderbilt had were more dangerous than usual, featuring current Broncos QB Jay Cutler. While Vandy was nowhere near the top 25, it can easily be assumed that they would have dominated Duke.

    Now, all of that said, I am not arguing that Auburn was neceassarily better than USC or Oklahoma that year (although I think a compelling argument can be made that they were indeed better than Oklahoma). The point is that the current system is broken when a team that plays in the (sorry Mr. Bunny) best conference goes an entire season without a blemish, they deserve at least a shot to prove they are the best in the nation.

    P.S. On a personal note, while Auburn was screwed in 2004, I’m glad it happened and their fans deserved it.

  4. Matt Dover

    Mr. Bunny’s envy of the SEC is made perfectly clear when he dares to suggest that the SEC teams play a weak schedule. Let’s look at the SEC schedules this season, broken down by how many top 25 teams they play and BCS non-conference teams on the schedule…

    Georgia: 6 (Arizona State & Georgia Tech)
    Florida: 3 (Miami & Florida State)
    LSU: 5
    Auburn: 4 (West Virginia)
    Alabama: 4 (Clemson)
    South Carolina: 4 (Clemson & NC State)
    Tennessee: 5 (UCLA)
    Mississippi: 6 (Wake Forest)
    Kentucky: 4 (Louisville)
    Mississippi State: 3 (Georgia Tech)
    Vanderbilt: 5 (Wake Forest & Duke)
    Arkansas: 6 (Texas)

    That’s an average of every single SEC team playing 4.6 ranked teams. Every team except LSU plays a BCS non-conference team and several play two.

    Now let’s compare to the ACC…

    Wake Forest: 1 (Mississippi, Baylor, & Vanderbilt)
    Clemson: 3 (Alabama & South Carolina)
    Florida State: 3 (Colorado & Florida)
    Virginia Tech: 0 (Nebraska)
    Miami: 1 (Florida & Texas A&M)
    Boston College: 1 (Notre Dame)
    Maryland: 2 (California)
    Georgia Tech: 2 (Georgia & Mississippi State)
    North Carolina: 0 (Rutgers, Connecticut, & Notre Dame)
    NC State: 4 (South Carolina & USF)
    Virginia: 3 (USC and Connecticut)

    That’s an average of 1.6 ranked teams for every ACC team. At the same time, the ACC does play more BCS nonconference teams (23 to the SEC’s 15). So I will give you that the ACC plays a little bit tougher nonconference slate, but it doesn’t come close to compensating for the brutal intra-conference schedules the SEC teams face.

  5. Pingback: Time for a Little ‘I told you so’ « The Unbearable Lightness of Teaching

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