This week brought on the New Year, and the start of college football’s meaningful bowl games. (Sorry folks, the winner of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl won’t live on in eternal lore.) With those meaningful bowl games, great games tend to follow. Monday was no exception, with two of the best BCS bowls that I’ve ever seen: Oregon beating Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State beating Stanford (in OT).
With the excitement of those games still fresh in my mind, and the snooze-fest that is sure to be the BCS National Championship game (really…LSU vs. Alabama, if we set the over/under at 20, would they make it? Last time they didn’t), it’s got me coming back to the same argument that we have in college football every year: Why the hell don’t we have a playoff?
For simplicity’s sake, let’s do an 8-team playoff, with the top 8 of the BCS making it. (Yes, I’m well aware that no one would ever do it this way, but still…work with me) We would have #1 LSU vs #8 Wisconsin, #2 Alabama vs #7 Arkansas, #3 OK State vs #6 Boise State and #4 Stanford vs #5 Oregon.
Wow…read that again. Is there a single matchup that you wouldn’t watch? LSU’s defense vs Wisconsin’s big, fast offense; an SEC rematch; a game to threaten the record of points scored with the Cowboys and Broncos; and then a Pac-12 game of the year rematch. Since I’m writing this article, I’ll predict wins by LSU, Oregon, Boise, and Alabama, meaning round 2 would be LSU vs. Oregon and ‘Bama vs. Boise. Again, amazing games. Maybe we would have still ended up with LSU vs. Alabama, but I know I wouldn’t be angry about it like I am now.
College football today could be more closely compared to figure skating than football to me. While the games are extremely entertaining, the fact that losing once if you’re in the SEC means you make the National Championship, while losing once if you’re Boise State (who, by the way, has only lost 3 times in 4 years) is completely unjust and unfair.
I think the 8-team playoff is a great way to solve problems (16 teams is fine too, especially if you include all conference champions). You’ll get great matchups and an actual National Champion determined on the field. However, since the bowls are such a huge part of college football, the realistic way to solve these problems is a plus 1.
Imagine if we went back to the bowl matchups the way they used to be right when the BCS started, but ignored 1 vs. 2 (for now). Then, after we played those great games (under this system, Oregon would have played Wisconsin still, OK St vs Stanford would have happened, LSU and Alabama could have still played in BCS bowls) we vote in the final BCS polls, putting together 1 and 2. It combines the playoff atmosphere with the beauty pageant of college football. It’s the best of both worlds.
Mostly, change comes down to incentives for the bowl system. Ultimately, they have none. The Rose and Fiesta Bowls on January 2 received great TV ratings and made a ton of money for both the bowls and the schools. The BCS National Championship Game will do the same (despite the horrible matchup).
Without necessity (the mother of invention), there won’t be any change. We’ll be subject to a couple of great matchups every few years, while missing out on potentially historic matchups every year. Really, there are only two ways to fix this: 1. Congressional action; or 2. Fan apathy demanding change. I don’t see the latter happening, nor the former.
So, great game Cowboys and Ducks…too bad it didn’t mean anything whatsoever.