By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
Now that we are in the midst of what ESPN calls its most wonderful time of the year–the slate of relatively meaningless Bowl games or college football’s version of the NIT, I often wonder about how great this week really would be if we actually had a playoff for the national championship.
Quite frankly, I am fed up with the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in its present form and the fact that only two contestants for the national championship game are selected based on some elaborate computerized or media concocted system. Are unbeaten Alabama and Texas really the best teams in the nation—what about unbeaten Boise State or TCU?
And what of Florida—should one loss in the Southeastern Conference Championship game totally eliminate from title contention? No, it shouldn’t.
That’s why I say for the umpteenth time, let’s scrap the BCS in its current form and just have a 16-team playoff just like Div. I Football Championship Subdivision. If the NCAA, the TV networks, and the Bowl organizers were smart, they could make a lot of money and it would be as big as March Madness is to college basketball.
Why have a Bowl Championship Series without a true series? Why limit it to just two teams? Let’s go all the way and have a playoff.
Since there are 11 conferences in what is known as the Div. I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Div. 1-A), the champions of those conferences would receive automatic bids to the playoffs. This would give the Boise State’s and the TCUs the opportunity to show how they really stack up against the bigger conferences. The other five at large spots would go to the highest ranked teams according to their ranking in the final BCS standings .
Ultimately, this would mean that teams will strive harder to win their conference titles and it will convince the powerhouse teams to schedule harder non-conference opponents instead of the usual cupcakes. Instead of Florida playing McNeese State or Florida Atlantic, they might take on Southern Cal or even intrastate rival Miami.
According to the final 2009 BCS standings the highest ranked non-conference champions are No. 5 Florida, No. 10 Iowa, No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 12 LSU, and No. 13 Penn. State—those teams would receive at-large bids.
For example , if we were to have a 2009 FBS playoffs and using the current BCS standings as a guide. Your No. 1 seed would be Alabama, who would face No. 16-seed Troy-champions of the Sunbelt Conference in the first round. No. 2-seed Texas would face No. 15 seed and Mid-American Conference champion Central Michigan. Big East Champion Cincinnati, as the No. 3 seed, would take on Conference USA winner and No. 14 seed East Carolina.
No. 4 seed TCU would play No. 13 seeded Penn State. In a classic 5 versus 12 match up, Florida would play SEC rival LSU. No. 6 Boise State would play against no. 11 Virginia Tech.
You would have a heck of first-round match up in the 7-10 match up between Pac-10 Champion Oregon and Big 10 runnerup Iowa. No. 8 seed Ohio State would play Atlantic Coast Conference champion Georgia Tech who would come in as the No. 9 seed.
The winner of that 8-9 game would have a potential matchup against 1-16 winner, which would probably be Alabama. What a second round matchup that would be?
If you had a playoff this year with my format, you would have a compelling first round, especially from No. 5 on down. You might have some upsets here when you think about some of those matches.
Where would they play and what about those Bowl sponsors
With about 34 bowl games under the current situation, you can take about 16 of those locations and convert them into first round playoff sites. To please those Bowl sponsors and their need for making money, keep their names as sponsors—BCS First-Round presented by Eagle Bank or BCS First -Round sponsored by MAACO. Similar to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, you can do it by region. Another possibility would be to play the first round games at home field of the higher seeded team. Personally, I prefer playing all the games at a neutral site in several cities that host bowl games.
Your quarter final games could be played at places that typically host the non-BCS New Years Bowl along with one of the BCS sites. For example, one quarterfinal game could played be at the Outback Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, or The Florida Citrus Bowl. The one BCS site that would host a quarter final game would be the site that hosted the championship game the previous year. Since the Orange Bowl hosted the championship last season, it would host one of the quarterfinal games—one scenario would be the game involving the top seed.
College football’s version of the National Semi-Finals would be played at two BCS sites with the championship game being played at another BCS site. For example, the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl could host the two semi final games while the Rose Bowl would still host your championship game. You can play with how you would rotate the sites, but you would still include all those bowl sponsors and their big money.
By the way, the ranked teams that don’t make it to football’s version of the Big Dance, can still play in a bowl game. I’m sure ESPN, FOX and all the other sports networks will have enough air space to put the games on for your hardcore college football fans. After all, there is still the NIT in college basketball—It would be something to reward a team that’s gone from 5-7 to 7-5.
For all those who have traditionally said that a playoff would interfere with the student athletes final exams.. Here’s a solution. The playoffs could start the week before Christmas when most universities are finishing up or are done with their finals. Opening round games being played on Friday and Saturday before Christmas.
If you start the tournament the week of Christmas, you would have one heck of a New Year’s Day with the quarterfinal games. If you do start the playoffs the week before Christmas, your semifinals would fall on New Years Day. For example, you could start the Rose Bowl semifinal game at 5: 00 and your Orange Bowl (or Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl) as the next game 8:45 p.m.
The national championship game, of course, would be a week after New Years Day—the way it is now.
And by the way, you can start the day with those other Bowls like the Capital One or the Outback Bowl just the way it is now and people will come out and watch because that’s what football fans do on New Year’s Day anyway.
You gotta better solution. Okay, cool.
I’m sure there are about 10,001 flaws in my idea or we can’t do this because of money, school presidents, politics. For example, I know the supporters of the BCS conferences aren’t going to like the idea that we let the smaller, non-BCS conferences like the Sun Belt, the Mid-America Conference, the WAC, the Mountain West or Conference USA get automatic bids for doing something like winning their conferences.
Let’s face it, we’re dealing with the mentality from the big conferences that has a problem with Boise State (who beat the PAC-10 champion earlier this year) and TCU playing in a BCS game because they believe their third place team is better than either of those teams (Yeah, SEC I’m talking about you in particular).
But to hell with their arrogance. I think my idea would be fair. If the WAC champion is taking on the second or third place team in the SEC, let’s prove it on the field in a playoff. To quote Parliament Funkadelic’s George Clinton, “let’s take it to the stage.”
The bottom line a national championship should be decided on the field and not by the media or the coach’s poll. If you got something better, I’d love to hear it. If you can modify what I’ve got, cool.