So, you want an alternative?
How current BCS lineup would look under different postseason plans
Posted: Thursday December 30, 2004 12:13PM; Updated: Thursday December 30, 2004 1:05PM
By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
For college football fans, New Year's has long been the greatest time of year. The pageantry of the Rose Bowl. The huge stakes of the Orange Bowl. Wall-to-wall football on TV.
As has become increasingly common since the advent of the Bowl Championship Series, though, this particular bowl season has been tainted by disappointment and controversy. While giddy Oklahoma and USC fans are flocking to Miami, conflicted Auburn fans are gearing up for a Sugar Bowl that feels more like a consolation prize; puzzled Cal fans are still trying to figure out how they wound up in the Holiday Bowl; and college fans in general are wondering why they're stuck watching undefeated Utah play 8-3 Pittsburgh in one of the supposed four biggest games.
Surely, there's a better way to do this.
Many would like to see Division I-A football finally join every other sport on the planet in adopting a playoff. The presidents, seeing it as a bastion for commercialization and a further infringement on academics, want nothing of it. OK then, say the critics, at least give us a championship game after the bowls, a so-called "plus-one model." In fact they are adding an extra game starting in 2006 -- but it has no bearing whatsoever on determining the champion.
Finally, a small but growing contingent of presidents, fed up with the annual headaches of the BCS, say why not scrap the thing altogether, and go back to the good 'ol' days when rankings played no part in bowl games and the national title was purely mythical? A step backward for sure, but would it be any worse than what we have now?
With this year's BCS bowls right around the corner, SI.com shows what the lineup might look like under one of four alternative scenarios -- the five-bowl system the BCS will introduce in 2006, a plus-one model, an eight-team playoff and with no system at all.
First, the existing lineup and how it came to be:
The BCS awards spots to the six major-conference champions and, after placing the top two teams in the title game (Orange), places the other four based on conference affiliations. SEC champion Auburn automatically goes to the Sugar, Big Ten champion Michigan to the Rose. The two at-large spots this year were automatically awarded to Utah, by winning its conference and finishing in the top six, and Texas, which didn't win its conference but finished in the top four (edging out 10-1 Cal). The Rose, by losing the No. 1 team, Pac-10 champ USC, got first choice of replacement teams and chose Texas. The Fiesta, by losing the No. 2 team, Big 12 champ Oklahoma, got second choice and took Utah. The Sugar got next pick and took Virginia Tech, leaving the Fiesta with Pittsburgh.
The five-bowl model (begins with 2006 season):
The selection process for the new system has yet to be determined, so this is just an educated guess. It's presumed that the conference alignments will remain unchanged, and that the city that hosts the title game (in this case Miami) would be last in the selection order. There would be four at-large berths, meaning both Cal and Texas would make it. A conference champ (in this case Utah) would need only to finish in the top 12 rather than the top six, but only one such berth would be guaranteed, meaning Louisville and Boise State would still likely be excluded. The Orange, with its ACC/Big East tie-in, selects Virginia Tech as its host team. The Rose, having lost USC, selects Cal, and the Fiesta, having lost Oklahoma, selects Texas. The Sugar has first choice of remaining teams and selects undefeated Utah. The Fiesta goes next and selects an at-large team, Georgia. The Orange is left with Pittsburgh. Under this scenario, the Rose, Fiesta and Sugar would all get better matchups than they would have under the current system, but would bring no further clarity to the national title picture.
A plus-one model:
With No. 1 and No. 2 now being determined after the bowls, all games would retain their regular conference alignments. That means Pac-10 champ USC goes to the Rose Bowl and Big 12 champ Oklahoma goes to the Fiesta Bowl, while the Orange selects ACC champ Virginia Tech as its host team. Using current rules, Texas and Utah claim the two at-large berths. The Sugar gets top choice of remaining teams and selects Texas. The Orange gets second choice and selects Pittsburgh. The Fiesta gets Utah. The result is three compelling matchups, though the No. 1 team, USC, gets an opponent ranked 13th, while the No. 2 team, Oklahoma, faces No. 6 Utah and No. 3 Auburn faces No. 4 Texas. Also, if Oklahoma, USC and Auburn all won their bowl games, the pollsters or selection committee would face an even tougher conundrum determining the two teams for the title game.
An eight-team playoff (using the existing BCS bowls):
There could be any number of variations of this format, but one thing is certain: To truly stage a credible playoff, the BCS would have to abandon the concept of conference champions and simply take the top eight teams. Big Ten champion Michigan and Big East champion Pittsburgh, by finishing outside the top eight, would head to the Capital One and Gator bowls, respectively. The bowls hosting the first-round games could still utilize a "host-team" concept -- i.e. USC playing in the Rose Bowl -- if those teams finished in the top four. Their opponents, however, would be determined by seeding, regardless of location or conference alignment. In this scenario, the Rose would end up with a somewhat unappealing rematch of the season's very first game, while the other three would all have compelling matchups.
No organized system (i.e. pre-1992):
Prior to the advent of the Bowl Coalition in 1992 (a precursor to the BCS), bowls were free to make deals with whichever teams they pleased, with the exception of the Big Ten and Pac-10 champs, which always went to the Rose Bowl. The Sugar had a similar arrangement with the SEC, the Orange with the Big Eight (now the Big 12). In this scenario, USC and Michigan go to the Rose, Auburn is a no-brainer for the Sugar, Oklahoma for the Orange. Once upon a time, Texas would have gone to the Cotton, but under the current climate would likely prefer the Fiesta. Cal is the logical choice -- both geographically and matchup-wise -- to go up against the Longhorns. The Orange, no longer obligated to the ACC, would desire Georgia. The Sugar has a good history with Virginia Tech. Left out under this scenario is Utah, which with no BCS protection would likely be relegated to the Liberty Bowl. All four games could be considered compelling matchups. However, the national-title picture would be extremely muddled what with USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all playing in different games.
So, which is the best system? Depends on your objective. Obviously, if it's a true, undisputed national champion you desire, a playoff is the best option. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. At least in terms of this year's teams, it appears the BCS' new system would be an improvement, while the plus-one model wouldn't help much at all. And if by chance you're a traditionalist who's willing to sacrifice No. 1-vs.-No. 2 in favor of seeing four good games, then the best system for you is probably no system at all.