Beyond the BCS: A System That's a "Plus"

Jared RebackAnalyst IDecember 5, 2007 foundation for the BCS was built in 1992, when the Bowl Coalition agreement made it more possible for the national champion to be more clearly decided by a No. 1 vs. No. 2 bowl matchup. 

In 1995, it became the Bowl Alliance, which was largely the same system.  It had its successes, but also its failures.

Its main failing was the refusal of the Big Ten and Pac-10 to enter into any part of the agreement.  If one of the top two teams in the country belonged to either of those conferences, they would be stuck in the Rose Ball, and a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup would not be possible.

Finally, in 1997, the fatal blow was struck:  No. 1 Michigan beat No. 9 Washington State in the Rose Bowl 21-16.  In the Bowl Alliance-created matchup between No. 2 Nebraska and No. 3 Tennessee, the Huskers blew out the Vols 42-17, and the coaches' poll pushed Nebraska ahead of Michigan.

Not surprisingly, after this the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Rose Bowl were ready to sit down and discuss the system.  Hence, the BCS was created with the Rose Bowl in the fold.

Now in its tenth season, the BCS' National Championship game has been mired in some form of controversy in seven of those seasons.  In only two seasons has a Big Ten or Pac-10 team played in the title game.

The only two seasons that the BCS has indisputably fared better than the Bowl Alliance were the 2002 and 2005 seasons, which saw classic games between Miami and Ohio State, and USC and Texas, respectively.

With a playoff not even close to being on the horizon of those who make these sort of decisions, the next logical step would seem to be a Plus-One system.

This compromise system would maintain conference affiliations to the BCS bowls, followed by a final BCS standings and a title game the next week.  This would roll back the BCS to eight teams versus the current ten teams.

Not surprisingly, four of the six BCS conferences are very open to the Plus-One.  It isn't hard to guess which two aren't, however: the Big Ten and the Pac-10.

This strikes me as odd, considering that under this format, the Big Ten–Pac-10 Rose Bowl would be kept intact every season.

For this season, the Plus-One Bowl lineup would look something like this, assuming that Hawaii would maintain their automatic selection, and Georgia would be selected over Missouri and Kansas for the last at large spot:  

Rose:  Ohio State v. USC

Fiesta:  Oklahoma v. West Virginia

Sugar:  LSU v. Hawaii

Orange: Virginia Tech v. Georgia.

While this system for sure wouldn't guarantee a flawless No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the BCS Title game, it would certainly cut down on the number of worthy candidates.  You could argue that this season, seven of the eight teams in above would be playing for the right to play for the national title (only WVU would really be eliminated, though I doubt the voters would let Hawaii anywhere near the title game). 

In the worst of circumstances, there would be four worthy candidates left over.  That said, at least questions about how good teams are would be answered to some extent. 

Was Ohio State a merely product of a weak Big Ten?  We would surely find out after a game against USC.  We would certainly know if Hawaii belonged with the big boys after playing LSU.  Even Georgia, at fifth in the BCS standings this year, could hope for wins by West Virginia and either Hawaii or USC to try and sneak into the title game.

Jordan Murph/Icon SMIBetter yet, the four BCS games would all have national championship implications.  All of the games would matter, as opposed to the generally bland mid-tier BCS matchups we're left with every season. 

You could even argue that the Cotton Bowl and the Holiday Bowl would be very important, as Missouri, Kansas, and Arizona State would all be trying to score a quality victory to sneak their way back into the top two, as unlikely as that would be.

So, how do we go about getting the Big Ten and Pac-10 on board?  Sadly, it would seem that the most likely way would involve shady tactics employed by the voters.  After all, it took a Big Ten team being passed over in the polls after the bowl games to get the Rose Bowl into the BCS.  

Will it take voters punishing Big Ten and Pac-10 teams in the final standings to try to freeze them out of the title game?  Would it be Ohio State beating LSU this season followed by a number of voters pegging a Sugar Bowl winning Hawaii to be number one for being undefeated?

That answer remains to be seen, although it seems unlikely to find it through any sort of sportsmanlike way.  It seems we are stuck waiting for the two conferences to have a change of heart and agree that the Plus-One would benefit of their conferences and the Rose Bowl.

Fortunately for the fans, this idea that has some teeth and is seriously being considered by a majority of the BCS conferences. 

I propose we cast aside calls for a playoff—which has no chance of happening—and fight hard for the Plus-One to become a reality, so that at the very least half the fight will be fought on the field.