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The Playoff Conundrum (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday December 6, 2006 11:27AM; Updated: Wednesday December 6, 2006 11:29AM
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Stewart, one thing I have not heard anyone mention is the disadvantage the Big Ten put itself at when it decided to finish its season two weeks before the other big conferences. Voters forget about idle teams, and it benefits those who keep on playing and winning.
--Scott, Richmond, Va.

Who called that one? The Brad Banks Syndrome gains some major credence.

I agree 100 percent. The Big Ten is very stuck in its ways when it comes to tradition, and tradition dictates that Michigan and Ohio State meet in late November (it's been that way every year since '34). I don't think anyone associated with either school is eager to see that change. But if I'm the Big Ten, in light of what happened this year, I'd think awfully hard about moving that game to the first Saturday in December. That's what the Pac-10 has done with the USC-UCLA game, and the way it's transpired, that game has served as a BCS play-in the past three years. If you're confident in assuming that either the Buckeyes or Wolverines are going to be in the national-title hunt most years, it would behoove the conference to play it on the final Saturday and give those teams a chance to make a last impression.

Just for giggles, and to see if there would be any more interesting matchups than there are currently, what would the bowl games look like using last year's set-up (i.e. no separate championship)?
--Mike, Columbus, Ohio

Well, two teams would get left out, and one of those would be Boise State (because last year they had to be top six to guarantee an at-large). Michigan would be guaranteed one of the two at-large berths by virtue of finishing third, leaving the Sugar Bowl to choose between LSU and Notre Dame for the other -- which is probably the one conceivable scenario where the Irish would be the ones left out. After the Rose took Michigan to replace Ohio State, the Sugar would have the next two picks. So only one of the matchups would be different:

Fiesta: Ohio State vs. Florida

Rose: USC vs. Michigan

Sugar: LSU vs. Oklahoma

Orange: Wake Forest vs. Louisville

As long as we're throwing out hypotheticals, I'd like to point out a couple others I haven't seen mentioned. First of all, it should be noted that pre-BCS, Ohio State, Florida and Michigan would almost certainly have played in different bowls. The Buckeyes would have gone to the Rose, the Gators to the Sugar and the Wolverines most likely to the Fiesta or a current non-BCS bowl. Also, you may recall that the BCS formula has gone through several different incarnations over the years, and at various times has included the AP poll instead of the Harris poll, different computers, a strength-of-schedule component and a "quality win" bonus. This site applied all five versions to the 2006 season and found that Florida still would have finished No. 2 in at least four of them.

Hey .. does anyone by any chance have a questions that doesn't involve Florida or Michigan?

Now that the regular season is done, which individual play do you think has had the most impact on the season as a whole?
--James Doker, Gainesville, Fla.

Judging by James' hometown, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess he wants me to say Jarvis Moss' last-second field goal block against South Carolina to preserve Florida's title chances. It's a good call, but I'm going to go with a different field goal that technically never happened. I'm referring to Jeremy Ito's first game-winning field goal attempt for Rutgers against Louisville, which he missed, but Cardinals cornerback William Gay had jumped offsides. If Gay stays put, the game goes into overtime, and if Louisville wins, they'd be undefeated and going to the title game to face Ohio State.

What do you think of Brian Kelly as the new head coach at the University of Cincinnati? It seems like a smart hire under the present circumstances. Do you think his past success will translate to UC?
--Tom Semones, Cincinnati

I was stunned that UC was able to land him. Kelly is a bona fide star-in-the-making who, after winning two Division II titles at Grand Valley State, went to Central Michigan and immediately turned that program around, winning the MAC championship this season. With all due respect to the Bearcats, I thought he would wind up at a higher-profile program. In fact, he was awfully close to becoming the next coach at Iowa State. So the positive for Cincinnati is that Kelly is pretty much the ideal guy to build on what Mark Dantonio started there and possibly turn the Bearcats into a Big East contender. The downside is I wouldn't expect him to stay there any longer than Dantonio did.

Penn State lost to three BCS teams and you don't have them ranked in your final top 25? How can that be?
--Jim, Bellefonte, Pa.

I didn't realize we were supposed to rank the teams in order of their losses. I apologize. I'll call the AP and get it corrected.

The Mailbag is entering its three-week winter hibernation and will return Dec. 27. So when submitting questions, be sure to ask yourself, "Will I still care about this on Dec. 27?"

That's also a valid question to ask yourself when deciding whether to watch the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 26.

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