BCS Controversy: Alabama's Defeat of LSU Should Usher in Change
The 2011 season had its share of ups (RG3, a resurgent USC and Case Keenum's comeback performance) and downs (scandal, disappointing seasons for a number of marquee programs and the BCS mess reached its pinnacle in 2011).
While the indelible marks of some of those downs may never be erased, you can spin that last one into a positive. The BCS was absolutely blown up Monday night when Alabama beat LSU decisively in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, 21-0, negating arguments that the Tide "didn't belong," or somehow didn't deserve a second shot at the Tigers.
To those raining on Alabama's parade: Stop it. You're telling me this wasn't the best team in the country this year? Did you forget that in November Alabama outplayed LSU and by a few twists didn't come away with a victory? The Tide defense looked NFL-caliber on Monday night and their victory was without flaw.
The "they're 1-1 now" argument is invalid. This happens all the time in college basketball. Teams that beat each other in conference play will often upend the other in the conference tournament. Is there ever talk that the team that wins the conference tournament should not be awarded the championship because they lost to the team they defeated when it mattered most in the regular season? No.
The problem with the current format for the BCS is that it's based on choice. It felt for a big chunk of last season that the BCS's argument of "the regular season IS the playoff" was being turned in on itself as the media spent of lot of time asking "what if" questions.
It was as if games were being negated because their outcome did not fit into the more important "what if" scenarios. "What if Oklahoma State's offense played Alabama's defense?" "What if LSU played OK State; could they keep pace with their offense even given their outstanding defense?"
Voters and the media were forced to decide what might happen based on what had already happened...and then we arrived at Monday night. Monday night's game proved that they play the games for a reason, that you can't say Alabama doesn't deserve a shot at the National Championship because in the biggest game of the year they absolutely smacked LSU. By that same token, you can't definitively say that Oklahoma State doesn't deserve a shot, or that Oregon doesn't or that Boise State doesn't.
The clear solution is a playoff and it has been for a long time. For years it has been baffling to me that every other division of football, from Pee Wee to the NFL, decides their champion with a playoff...except the division run by the most prestigious universities in the country. Finally the jokers at the BCS are (almost reluctantly), considering change, with a plus-one format being the most popular.
If I were a major conference commish, this is what I'd do: propose a smaller playoff (eight or 16 teams), make the four major BCS bowls the national quarterfinals, play the two national semifinals at a neutral location and rotate the National Championship as they do in the current format.
If you expand the playoff to 16 teams, you could play the Round of 16 at the home site of the higher seeds (which would most assuredly sell out. Think about a Round of 16 game in Autzen in December. It would give new meaning to the word "pandemonium.").
Now the problem of seeding comes into play. If it's an eight-team playoff, you could either expand the number of AQ conferences to eight or keep the current six and then add two at-large bids. If it's a 16-team playoff, award a seed to each conference champion (thus retaining the importance of the regular season) and add five at-large bids.
The only issue I have with this is that right now the automatic-qualifying conferences don't change. My feeling is that conferences should earn their AQ status each year. Most assuredly, the big boys would hold onto their spots (SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten) and it would give smaller conferences a crack at a playoff run, creating more entertaining matchups as styles would mix and match.
Exhibit A: Houston's "Air Raid" offense against Penn State's stout defense this past bowl season. Keenum and company proved too much for the Nittany Lions defense, but under a playoff format that win would have national title implications.
When it comes to seeding, seed the conference champions in the playoffs based on how they competed against the other conferences in early season non-conference play. For example, say if a Boise State beats an SEC school (like they did this year at a "neutral" site in Atlanta) Boise reaps the reward by moving up in the rankings and so does the conference by earning a win over the SEC.
This would encourage teams to schedule more enticing non-conference matchups, thus guaranteeing games like LSU-Oregon, FSU-Oklahoma and Boise State-Insert "better" big conference team, here to stick around.
So let's say that (and this is purely conjecture) the SEC performs better in nonconference, their conference champion would be seeded No. 1 in the playoff. And by "better" I mean they beat more teams from conferences that finished with better collective non-conference records, weighting wins over higher finishing conferences than over lower finishing conferences.
Therefore, a conference couldn't whack six MAC teams and cruise to a No. 1 seed in the playoff, they'd need to challenge themselves against conferences they feel are stronger.
You can still keep the other bowls but make them more regional. Don't send FIU to Detroit for the Little Caesar's Bowl, keep them within driving distance for fans in Miami. The teams would benefit and the bowls would benefit.
So there you have it, what the big wigs at the BCS couldn't figure out in 13 years, I figured out in roughly 13 paragraphs. While the long drought without college football will be a hard one to weather, at least they're thinking about making the changes that fans and coaches feel are necessary. Take heart and have hope college football fans: Relief is on the way.
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