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Posted: Wednesday November 4, 2009 1:00PM; Updated: Wednesday November 4, 2009 1:15PM
Stewart Mandel

Unveiling the Mandel Plan, the Boise-Oregon debate, more mail

Story Highlights

The Mandel Plan would appease the big wigs and give two more teams a title shot

Honoring head-to-head results is the best way to compare apples to oranges

More on what LSU fans want most, Mark Richt's job security and Brandon Spikes

Under the Mandel Plan, Ricky Stanzi and Iowa would play Texas in the Fiesta Bowl with a shot at the national title on the line.
Under the Mandel Plan, Ricky Stanzi and Iowa would play Texas in the Fiesta Bowl with a shot at the national title on the line.
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The dirty little secret of the much-reviled BCS -- the part its keepers always boast but its haters refuse to accept -- is that it's helped make the sport's regular season more compelling.

Case in point: Last Saturday morning in Eugene (which, incidentally, is now officially my favorite college town; be sure to eat at Beppe & Gianni's), I sat in my hotel room watching the first half of the Indiana-Iowa game. A group of Oregon fans in the room next to me were apparently watching, too (the walls were thin). And there was no mistaking for whom they were rooting. Cheers went up every time Ricky Stanzi threw an interception. Shouts of "FUMBLE!" rang from the room when Amari Spievey coughed up a punt return.

In the old days, no one outside the Midwest would have given two hoots about an Iowa-Indiana game. And while 80 percent of the people reading this will be infuriated by what I'm about to say, that'd also be the case in an eight- or 16-team playoff where the Big Ten champ would get in regardless.

This is why, for the past three years or so, I've relentlessly campaigned for the BCS to adopt a plus-one format. Doing so would appease nearly all the big-wigs' primary concerns -- the bowl system and existing calendar would stay intact, regular-season stakes would not be impacted -- while giving two more teams a crack at the title. Admittedly, some seasons are better suited for a plus-one than others (though far more than for the current system, under which two undisputed teams have emerged just three times in 11 years), but this particular season is shaping up perfectly.

Under the Mandel Plan, the No. 1 and 2 teams would host semifinal games in their regular bowl destinations. Just like today, two bowls would lose their host champions, only they'd be the No. 3 and 4 teams. A new bowl would be added to the lineup (most likely the Cotton) to maintain 10 BCS bids. And the championship game would take place a week after the last scheduled bowl. (Next year's game in Glendale, Ariz. is scheduled for Jan. 10; mine would be on the 12th.)

To create my hypothetical lineup, I used this year's existing schedule and the current BCS standings, dropping only Alabama -- playing the role of SEC runner-up -- from No. 3 to No. 5. The selection process worked mostly the same way, too: The bowls that lost champions got first choice of replacements, while the remaining at-large order went 1) Cotton, 2) Orange (whose champion was not in the top four), 3) Cotton. The two semifinal games appear in bold.

• Jan. 1 Rose: No. 8 Oregon (Pac-10 champ) vs. No. 11 Penn Sate (replacement)

Jan. 1 Sugar: No. 1 Florida (SEC champ) vs. No. 4 Cincinnati (Big East champ)

• Jan. 2 Cotton: No. 5 Alabama (first at-large) vs. No. 6 TCU (third at-large)

Jan. 4 Fiesta: No. 2 Texas (Big 12 champ) vs. No. 3 Iowa (Big Ten champ)

• Jan. 5 Orange: No. 10 Ga. Tech (ACC champ) vs. No. 12 USC (second at-large)

• Jan. 12 title game: Sugar Bowl winner vs. Fiesta Bowl winner

In addition to providing more clarity, the Mandel Plan would also allow greater access to the title game for non-BCS teams. Realistically, there will be fewer than four undefeated teams ahead of TCU and Boise State come season's end (we've never had more than three from the Big Six, and even that happened just once, in 2004), and voters would be far more inclined to move the Horned Frogs or Broncos into the top four than they currently would the top two. (TCU is already No. 4 in the coaches poll.)

I'm sure I will now be deluged with 800 e-mails picking my proposal apart, but keep one thing in mind before you hit send: There's at least a glimmer of hope the Mandel Plan could become reality (the SEC and ACC are already open to a plus-one), whereas any larger playoff proposal -- no matter how many political action committees form to support it -- still has a 0.0 percent chance of getting adopted any time soon.

And now, onto the mail...

This is in regards to who should be ranked higher, Boise State or Oregon. If your fellow writers don't consider ACTUAL head-to-head play as the ultimate measuring stick, when are we going to start ranking college football teams by the schools' hockey team records?
-- Mike Albright, Pittsburgh

Mr. Mandel: The Broncos have beaten one team with six wins or more: Oregon. Meanwhile, the Ducks are the only team in the country other than USC to have three victories over FBS teams with six wins or more (Utah, Cal and the Trojans). The quality of Oregon's victories now exceeds that of Boise State's to the point that it offsets the head-to-head result from two months ago.
-- Michael Kurtz, Roseburg, Ore.

From the moment Oregon started piling it on USC, I had a feeling this would become a primary topic of debate in Mailbag land, and sure enough, I logged on Monday to find a sea of e-mails like these awaiting me. But despite Oregon fans' many attempts to persuade me, I remain squarely on the head-to-head side. Michael makes a valid point up until he uses the phrase "offsets the head-to-head result." Seriously? We're supposed to now believe that the game we all watched on Sept. 3 never happened?

As a former AP voter, the single most frustrating part of the job was that in most cases, you're trying to compare apples to oranges. The teams play in different conferences, face differing degrees of nonconference strength and often play drastically different styles. The single most helpful factor is actually getting to see the two teams play each other.

Yes, Oregon has gotten infinitely better since losing to Boise. And yes, I've heard all the excuses: It was Chip Kelly's first game, the offense wasn't in rhythm yet, yada, yada, yada. Well guess what: It was the Broncos' first game, too. They didn't play particularly well, either, yet still won convincingly. Any assumption that the result would be different if the teams met again is purely speculative and based largely on a blind assumption that the Pac-10's best team must be better than the WAC's best team. But if I recall correctly, the same two teams met last season at Autzen, with the same result. Sorry, Ducks fans. You lost.

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