The BCS Done Right

Joe KirshenbaumContributor IJanuary 7, 2009

Ever since its inception, the Bowl Championship Series has caused controversy and received endless amounts of criticism and ridicule.

Over the last couple decades, the NCAA has been constantly making changes to increase the likelihood of an undisputed national championship. From the Bowl Coalition to the Bowl Alliance to the formation of the BCS itself in 1998 and it's seemingly annual tweakings, and yet, all the controversy and debate has continued over who is the best team in college football every year.

Now, I know this has been a topic of much nonstop discussion for years now, and what I'm suggesting is nothing at all original, but I still have to get my two cents out there.

In some ways, the controversy and debate has been part of the charm of college football. But we've had that long before the BCS, so either go back to the old system, or make more drastic changes. And since the NCAA is making too much money off the BCS to go back, the latter is the way to go.

First of all, let me state that I am strongly against any sort of tournament system. The bowl system in college football is one of the greatest traditions in all of sports, if not No. 1. Having a tournament would, at the very least, diminish the bowl games, if not completely eliminate them.

So that makes the choice obvious to me: a bowl-plus-one system. For those of you that don't know what that is, it's pretty self-explanatory. After all the bowl games have been played, then the participants in the National Championship Game are determined, with their bowl game performances taken into account. 

That way, the championship will have much less controversy, and the chances of a split title will be very slim. And the whole argument of dragging the season on is now irrelevant anyways, considering that the championship game is played a week after New Years Day, when they begin the BCS games.

The only question is: How to implement it?

First off, I would add another bowl to the BCS (my suggestion would be the Cotton Bowl, which was considered one of the "big four" before being replaced by the Fiesta Bowl) in order to continue to include the top 10 BCS teams.

If possible, I would try to have the bowl games stay true to their traditions in regards to which conferences plays in the respective bowl games (Pac-10 versus Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, Big XII champion in the Fiesta Bowl, the SEC champion in the Sugar Bowl, and the ACC and/or Big East champions in the Orange Bowl).  And if possible, I'd try to implement it as a four-team tournament.

The primary bowl game in mind would be the Rose Bowl, as it's billing of "The Granddaddy of Them All," is an accurate one, and they need to try to keep (or should I say "restore" after what the BCS has done to it) its legacy and tradition. No matter what, the Rose Bowl should always be Pac-10 vs. Big Ten.

And what about mid-majors? Now, while I believe that the mid-major conferences are nowhere near on the same level as the major conferences (although, the ACC and Big East don't match up to the other four either, but that's off-topic), and the "BCS Busters" in recent years such as Utah, Hawaii, and Boise State wouldn't have had the success they have had if they would have had to play major-conference schedules, everybody should have the opportunity to at least compete for a chance at the championship. 

So if a team can legitimize their season by defeating a top school, like Utah defeating Alabama this year or Boise St. defeating Oklahoma two years ago, then yeah, put them in the championship game. But that team would have to beat one of the top BCS teams—no by-default BCS team like Pittsburgh that Utah had beaten in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. 

So if a mid-major can go undefeated and manage to make it to a BCS bowl, go ahead and throw them against the top-ranked available team in order to prove themselves.

Another rule I would implement is that if you don't win your conference championship, you don't get to compete for a national championship. Period. No teams like Oklahoma in 2003-04, or Nebraska in 2001-02.

So with this in mind, how would it all work out?  Well, the best way is to look at this year and previous years.


Games with championship game implications:

Sugar Bowl: BCS No. 1 Oklahoma vs. BCS No. 2 Florida—Winner goes to National Championship game
Fiesta Bowl: Utah vs. BCS No. 3 Texas—If Utah wins, then the Utes go to the National Championship game
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Penn St.—Winner goes to National Champion game if Utah loses  Fiesta Bowl

Other bowl games: Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati; Cotton Bowl: Ohio St. vs. Alabama

Oklahoma and Florida are clearly the two most deserving teams, so they deserve their spots. If Utah, after going unbeaten in the regular season, were to defeat Texas and either Oklahoma or Florida in back to back weeks, they would deserve the National Championship.

And if Utah had blown their chance, the Rose Bowl winner would be the obvious choice for next in line.



Four-team tournament

Rose Bowl: BCS No. 1 Ohio State vs. USC
Sugar Bowl: BCS No. 2 LSU vs. Hawai'i
National Championship game: Rose Bowl winner vs. Sugar Bowl winner

Other bowl games

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia; Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Illinois; Cotton Bowl: Kansas vs. Georgia

Ohio State was the obvious No. 1 team at the end of the regular season, and if USC had been able to beat the Buckeyes, that would have been enough to propel them to be top contenders for the national title. 

LSU was the next-best team according to the BCS rankings, and like Utah this year, Hawai'i (which, unlike Utah, was exposed as being the undeserving BCS team that they were) would have had to have beaten LSU and the winner of the Rose Bowl in consecutive weeks.



Four team playoff

Rose Bowl: BCS No. 1 Ohio St. vs. USC
Sugar Bowl: BCS No. 2 Florida vs. Boise St.
National Championship game: Rose Bowl winner vs. Sugar Bowl winner

Other bowl games: Orange Bowl: Louisville vs. Wake Forest; Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame; Cotton Bowl: Michigan vs. LSU

This one is simple. Have Ohio State and Boise State—the two only undefeated teams in the nation—along with Florida and USC—the top ranked conference champions (along with the Buckeyes)—in a de-facto four-team playoff to determine the National Champion.


Four-team playoff

Rose Bowl: BCS No. 1 USC vs. Penn State
Fiesta Bowl: BCS No. 2 Texas vs. Notre Dame
National Championship game: Rose Bowl Winner vs. Fiesta Bowl winner

Other bowl games: Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs. Florida State; Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Miami; Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon

Another simple one. USC, Texas, and Penn State were the top three conference champions, and Notre Dame was also ranked higher than any other conference champion, so the Irish would be in the mix as well.



Games with National Championship game implications

Rose Bowl: BCS No. 1 USC vs. Michigan—If USC wins, the Trojans go to the National Championship game. If Utah loses the Fiesta Bowl and Michigan wins, the Wolverines go to the National Championship game.
Sugar Bowl: BCS No. 2 Oklahoma vs. BCS No. 3 Auburn—The winner goes to the National Championship Game
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Utah—If USC loses the Rose Bowl and Utah wins, Utah goes to the National Championship Game

Other bowl games: Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh; Cotton Bowl: Georgia vs. California

This year would have been a little more complicated, but in the end, would have crowned an undisputed champion with no controversy, as Auburn would've gotten their fair shot at the championship.

Also, Utah didn't really have a claim at a chance of the championship with multiple undefeated teams coming out of power conference, but if two of the three were to lose their bowl games (the only way of that happening would be USC losing to Michigan) and they were to beat Texas, then they would. 

If USC were to lose to Michigan, and Utah blew their chance, Michigan defeating USC would've been enough to catapult them over Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.



Four team playoff

Rose Bowl: USC vs. Michigan
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Florida St.
National Championship game: Rose Bowl winner vs. Sugar Bowl Winner

Other bowl games: Orange Bowl: Miami (Fla.) vs. Miami (Ohio); Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State vs. Tennessee; Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Ohio State

This is the year that caused more controversy and more changes to the BCS than any other year, with USC's false claim of the championship following their snub by the Sugar Bowl. With this format, everything would have worked out perfectly, as the top four teams in the standings were USC, Michigan, LSU, and Oklahoma. 

However, considering that Oklahoma had failed to win their conference they would have been replaced by ACC champion Florida State in the four-team tournament.


Four team playoff

Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Washington State
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Miami (Fla.)
National Championship game: Rose Bowl winner vs. Sugar Bowl winner

Other bowl games: Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Kansas State; Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame; Cotton Bowl: Iowa vs. USC

This was a year in which the bowl placements, aside from the national championship game, were so warped that they changed the whole format in deciding who goes to what bowl.

Also, in this year, there were two teams (Ohio State and Miami) that were head-and-shoulders above the rest, so the current format would be enough to determine a national champion.

So, in years like this (or three years later, with USC and Texas), should they forgo the "plus-one" and just have the top two teams play for the national title? Well, that would mean less money for the networks, the NCAA, the schools involved, and their respective conferences.

Also, if you're going to do that, should the powers that be declare an undisputed No. 1 team (like Ohio State the last two seasons) the national champions at the end of the regular season?

Besides, it would've been highly unlikely that Georgia or Washington State would have beaten both the Buckeyes and the Hurricanes anyways, and if they did, they would have deserved the championship. Same goes for Penn State and Notre Dame in 2005-'06.

But I digress. This is another simple one, as it would have been the top four conference champions competing in a four-team playoff.



Four team playoff

Fiesta Bowl: Miami vs. Colorado
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Illinois
National Championship Game: Fiesta Bowl winner vs. Rose Bowl winner

Other bowl games: Orange Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford; Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Illinois; Cotton Bowl: Nebraska vs. Florida

This year had the most warped BCS rankings, but I will still continue to do this based on the rankings from that year. Nebraska was in the national championship game, but since they failed to win the Big XII that year, Colorado, the team that did win it, gets their spot in contending for the championship. 

And again, the teams in this playoff are easy to decide, as Maryland and LSU were far behind the other conference champions in that year.



Games with National Championship Implications

Orange Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Florida State—Winner goes to National Championship game
Sugar Bowl: Miami (Fla.) vs. Florida—If the Hurricanes win, they go to National Championship game. If Washington loses the Rose Bowl and Florida wins, the Gators go to National Championship game
Rose Bowl: Washington vs. Purdue—If Miami loses the Sugar Bowl and the Huskies win, then they go to National Championship game.

Other bowl games: Cotton Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oregon State; Fiesta Bowl: Nebraska vs. Notre Dame

This is the year that this format would've worked to perfection. Oklahoma was the obvious choice at number one, but the decision of choosing Florida State over Miami was a controversial one.

With this format, they would have a chance to play the winner of the Orange Bowl for the championship.


Four team playoff
Orange Bowl: No. 1 Florida St. vs. No. 4 Alabama
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Virginia Tech vs. No. 3 Nebraska
National Championship game: Orange Bowl winner vs. Fiesta Bowl winner

Other bowl games: Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Stanford; Sugar Bowl: Tennessee vs. Marshall; Cotton Bowl: Kansas State vs. Michigan

This was the easiest and most basic one to do. The top four schools in the BCS rankings all won their respective conferences, and none of them were the Pac-10 or Big Ten champions, therefore not complicating matters by including the Rose Bowl, and even allowing you to seed them and put them in the appropriate bowl games.



Four team playoff:
Sugar Bowl: Tennessee vs. Florida State
Rose Bowl: UCLA vs. Wisconsin
National Championship game: Sugar Bowl winner vs. Rose Bowl winner

Other bowl games: Fiesta Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Florida; Orange Bowl: Syracuse vs. Arizona; Cotton Bowl: Kansas State vs. Ohio State

This year would have been a complicated year under this format, as Tennessee and Florida State were obviously the two best teams that year. However, after that, it becomes a toss-up.

UCLA was the third-highest ranked conference champion and Texas A&M fourth, but Wisconsin was close enough that beating a higher-ranked team than Texas A&M would've been enough to catapult them ahead.


Sure, under this format, there would still be plenty of debate or controversy, but in the end, nobody will dispute who deserved a national title.  Sure, fans will gripe about being left out on this format, too, but in the end, a team that would get left out would have a slim chance at the championship anyways.

And isn't that what we want? To end all disputes over the title, while keeping things as close to they are as now, and keeping the traditions of college football alive?