This past Thanksgiving weekend, I watched the best college football game I've seen all year (and perhaps in the last 5 years): unranked Arkansas' 3-overtime upset victory over #1 ranked LSU by a score of 50-48.
The result of the game's outcome is that, barring some major shake-up in the last week of the season, LSU is now probably eliminated from BCS Title contention, and Ohio State - whose loss to Illinois 2 weeks ago had seemingly eliminated the Buckeyes from contention and whose regular season ended last week with a victory over arch-rival Michigan - is now back within striking distance of going to the title game. The greatest thing about Division 1-A college football (other than the tradition and pageantry) is that EVERY
week counts, and that has been especially true in this unpredictable 2007 season.
But the game could be better. And, in my opinion, the ONLY
way the game could be better is by embracing its traditions. So, in that spirit, if I were "King of College Football" and had plenary power to improve the game by the force of my own fiat, this is what I would do:Declare for all eternity and in perpetuity that there will NEVER EVER - under ANY circumstances - be a playoff in Division 1-A college football. A playoff would cheapen the regular season and the excitement of every game counting in the National Title chase. A playoff would NOT eliminate the controversy because "deserving" teams would still be excluded from a playoff. And besides, major college football has NEVER had a playoff - it is not part of the game's tradition (the preservation of which, to me, is the highest priority) - and yet the game is still the greatest sporting spectacle on earth. Don't bother trying to convince me otherwise regarding a playoff: I've already given it a great deal of thought, and I'm not changing my mind. A playoff would be bad news for Division 1-A college football.Get rid of the BCS System. The biggest issue I have with the BCS System and its "Title Game" is that it cheapens the other Bowl games, while giving only a veneer of "finality" to the choosing of a National Champion. Before the BCS System was put into place, ALL of the major Bowl games counted for something and were worth watching because a loss by a top-ranked team in one game, meant the field was wide-open for a team playing in another game. Currently, the other Bowl games serve as nothing more than an undercard for the "main event" of the BCS Title Game. And the whole purpose of creating the BCS was to eliminate or at least cut down on the controversy surrounding choosing a National Champion. That really hasn't happened and, in fact, because of its veneer of crowning a champion with finality, the BCS Championship has arguably increased the level of controversy.Bring back the traditional Bowl alignments (regardless of the respective rankings of the teams playing one another). As my above bulletpoint indicates, I'm a fan of the old Bowl system. I want to see that brought back. I want to see a revitalization of the old interconference matchups that the Bowls provided, as well as games that mean something in the race for the National Championship. If it were up to me, there would be 5 major bowls (there used to be 4) that would break down as follows: (1) Rose Bowl (matching up Big 10 champ vs. Pac-10 champ); (2) Orange Bowl (matching up ACC champ vs. Big East champ); (3) Sugar Bowl (matching up SEC Champ vs. at-large bid); (4) Cotton Bowl (matching up Big 12 champ vs. at-large bid); (5) Fiesta Bowl (matching up 2 at-large bids).No Bowl game will be played after New Years Day. Just like in the old days, by the end of the day on New Years Day, the picture should be settled. No more Bowl games stretching 2 or 3 days past New Years, and certainly not played a week later as the BCS Title Game is currently. One of the best things about New Years Day in years past was watching all of the major Bowl games all day long.
Eliminate conference championship games and force teams to play EVERY team in their own conference. Enough said. You should have to play ALL of the teams in your own conference. Period. If your conference has 11 or 12 teams - oh well. That just means you won't be able to pad your wins with a non-conference schedule that includes Louisiana-Monroe or Youngstown State.
Eliminate TV network contracts with individual conferences and/or universities (see, e.g., CBS and the SEC, NBC and Notre Dame).The sort of network homerism we see in favor of the SEC and Our Lady's University is downright unbecoming. CBS, the network that televises the SEC has even gone so far as to regularly bash the quality of play in other conferences in order to build up the SEC in the minds of viewers as some sort of "super-conference". And no more Big 10 Network, which isn't even viewable by the majority of people in the Midwest - fortunately, I have DIRECTV and could view all the games, but several Ohio State games were not seen by the vast majority of Buckeye fans in this area because they were televised on a cable channel that most cable providers do not carry.After the 3rd overtime, just call it a tie. Sometimes, both teams play so well and are so evenly matched that it really is a shame for one of the teams to go home a loser.
Well that's my 2 cents. That's how I'd improve Division 1-A college football, mostly by going back to those things that made the game great to begin with.UPDATE (27 November 2007)
Let me make it clear (if the rest of this post has not already done so) that I find crowning a definitive "National Champion" much lower on the scale of priorities than I do maintaining the traditions of college football. I believe it is the tradition and focus on winning the game at hand that contributes to the overall quality and integrity of the game. The focus on "crowning a National Champion" diminishes the focus on beating your rivals and the importance of winning your conference - which are the things that has made the game great.
An example: the University of Georgia is the highest ranked team in the SEC and has a legitimate shot at going to the BCS Title Game (should both Missouri and West Virginia lose again). However, Georgia has no shot at winning the SEC title because the Bulldogs are not in the SEC Championship Game. Maybe I should add another bullet point:As long as the current BCS System remains in place, no team that loses its conference championship should be eligible to play in the BCS Title Game. If my Bowl system that I have outlined above were reintroduced, however, such a team would still be eligible to receive an at-large bid to a major Bowl game, and even voted the "National Champion" if the pollsters so chose to do so.
Labels: Football, Higher Education