Meaningful changes in store for BCS; more season-ending mail
After LSU-Alabama rematch, true BCS change seems likely for the next cycle
The super long layoff is a key factor in unsatisfying BCS championship games
Plus: Les Miles' mistake, new-look Big 12, ACC's poor showing and more
Like most of you who live and breathe college football, I woke up Tuesday morning feeling sleep-deprived and a little bit depressed. As I wrote Monday night, Alabama's title-game performance was incredibly impressive, but the end-result made for an utterly unsatisfying season. Meanwhile, TV ratings were down for four of the five BCS bowls. Attendance was down across the board. And worst of all, after covering eight quarters and an overtime of Alabama-LSU field-goals, I was stuck in a crowded Superdome tunnel waiting to get on to the field when Trent Richardson finally scored a touchdown.
But my mood brightened a bit later Tuesday afternoon when I walked down the street to the BCS commissioners' meeting and heard with my own ears as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany -- the BCS' longtime status quo advocate, a man Austin Murphy once dubbed part of the "Axis of Obstruction" -- confirmed that yes, there's something wrong with the BCS, and yes, they really do plan to do something about it this time.
"It's been 14 years, and there's been some success and some controversy ... but as time has gone on, even though we've all acted in good faith to improve it, there's frustration with it," said the Big Ten commish. "It's been an unprecedented period of growth for college football, and I don't think the BCS is disconnected from that success, but at the same time, there are people that think it's weak and it's flawed and can be improved, so therefore we've got to look at it."
Bring on The Mandel Plan.
What changes do you realistically see being made to the BCS? A four-team playoff? Plus-one system? Automatic tie-ins eliminated?
-- Thomas Coyne, Detroit
I've gotten ahead of myself before, but it sure sounds like some sort of plus-one is imminent for the next contract, starting with the 2014 season. However, it could take on any variety of forms. While the idea of seeding the top four teams and using two of the BCS bowls as semifinals has long been the most discussed, the commissioners are reexamining the entire BCS structure. Therefore, we could see something as bold as a full-on separation of the championship events from the traditional bowls, with rotating cities hosting a Final Four the same way the NCAA does for basketball. Or the presidents could step in and push for something more conservative, like playing the bowl games as is, then pitting the post-bowl top two in a championship game. Or it could be something we haven't ever envisioned.
Beyond the championship format, however, there are a few near-certain changes. For one, the concept of AQ and non-AQ conferences is all but dead, and surprisingly, a couple of the non-AQ commissioners are the ones pushing for it. It remains to be seen whether that means a return to a truly free-market bowl system, or one that still offers certain guarantees based on teams' rankings. Secondly, the conferences, bowls and ESPN all want to go back to a tighter scheduling window around New Year's, hopefully putting an end to midweek bowls played on Jan. 5. And I would be stunned if Jerry Jones doesn't get his palatial stadium in the mix, either with the Cotton Bowl becoming a new or replacement BCS bowl, or as a semifinal or championship site if the system gets deregulated.
The main takeaway from being at the past several meetings and speaking with people around the sport is that this is not idle talk. For a variety of reasons, be it conference realignment, the declining interest in the non-championship bowls or -- though they won't say it -- this year's all-SEC title game, a lot of people who seemed perfectly content with the current system as recently as six months ago are suddenly receptive to change. There's also a very powerful commissioner, Larry Scott, who was not even at the table the last time a deal was made. He told us Tuesday he plans to listen to the founding commissioners but has "some creative ideas" of his own that he plans to push.
So I do believe we'll see meaningful change. And man do we need it.
I keep hearing everyone say they'd like to see how Oklahoma State would have done against an LSU-Alabama defense. But haven't we seen this before? If the previous five SEC titles showed us anything, its when these "elite" offenses from other conferences run into the defenses of their SEC counterpart, they are held well below their season average. Oklahoma State probably wouldn't have been shut out, but to say they'd score 30-plus is just asinine.
-- Steve, Wichita, Kan.
I don't disagree. While I'm sure the game would have produced more touchdowns, LSU or Alabama would have scored the majority of them. And that's because either team would have run the ball down the Cowboys' throat, much the way Stanford did in the Fiesta Bowl, and taken advantage of field position gained from intercepting a few of those 50 Brandon Weeden pass attempts Mike Gundy pledged we'd see.
But that's all a guess -- just like I guessed that Monday's game would be close and would include a few more touchdowns. Oklahoma State earned the chance to prove me right or wrong. Why should results from different schools in past seasons dictate this year's championship? Just because Big 12 or Pac-12 offenses haven't fared well against recent SEC powers means we should stop allowing them in the game? I would have loved to see Justin Blackmon go against Morris Claiborne or Dre Kirkpatrick. But had Alabama shut those guys down in a plus-one semifinal, then gone on to beat LSU in the championship game -- 3-2, 9-6, 21-0, you name the score -- I would feel 100 percent satisfied with the result.
I noticed that Alabama won the BCS. How was the game? I didn't watch, I just saw some blogs and comments that said it was essentially unwatchable. I watched Lethal Weapon 4 instead.
-- Eli Cabelly, Portland, Ore.
So you're saying you were so turned off at the prospect of watching an LSU-Alabama sequel that you opted for a movie sequel to a sequel of a sequel?
Hey Stewart, last night I was channel-surfing and I came across a Punt, Pass and Kick competition. It was boring as hell. Strange thing was, all of the kids were wearing Alabama or LSU uniforms for some reason. The LSU kids focused on the punting and some horrible passing. The 'Bama kids were really proficient at kicking. I fell asleep after 10 minutes.
-- Karl Simonian, Mission Viejo, Calif.
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