Two weeks of college football are in the books, but nobody is any wiser about the contenders for the National Championship.
Although most of the preseason hype about the top programs remains largely intact, teams like Florida, in victory over Miami, and Tennessee, in defeat to UCLA, have already had questions raised about their credentials.
Part of that is down to the early season scheduling that sees a large proportion of teams taking on non-conference opponents—in some cases even taking on Division I-AA schools—and a wide diversity in the strength of opponents on the schedule.
But that's not the only problem that pundits and fans alike have in identifying their team's strengths and weaknesses.
The fact is that the BCS ranks its teams based predominantly on the opinions of watchers of college football (coaches and writers), and the remaining element is taken from computer rankings.
None of these factors are able to take in performance on the field against the most likely other contenders—simply because these games never happen.
Granted, this year we see Ohio State and USC taking on one another in Week Three, but how many other matchups between likely Top 25 colleges will we see before the weekend of the conference title games? Very few.
Part of this disparity is down to allowing colleges to arrange their own schedules, but to take the subjective element out of the equation and crown a National Champion based purely on performance on the field requires something else.
The NCAA needs to completely dismantle the current conference system.
The only way that it is possible to genuinely determine the National Champions on the field of play is for all the main contenders to play one another—not in a playoff, but as a Round Robin exercise.
An initial selection would have to be made to identify the 20 teams most likely to challenge for the National Championship, but when this is done in Year One, it would never need to be done again.
Split the teams into two conferences, East and West, to reduce traveling time, and each team plays each other team within its conference.
For three weekends of the season (to be specified by the NCAA—perhaps one at the start, one at the end, and one at Thanksgiving), each college can play a non-conference opponent or take the week off, but any match would not count towards their overall standings. This allows for either a break or for traditional matchups and rivalries to continue.
The winner of the East and West Conferences play for the National Championship. Those that finish second to fifth would be eligible for what are currently the remaining BCS Bowl Games.
The remaining hundred Division I-A teams are then split evenly among 10 regional conferences, and the winner of each conference gets to playoff against one of the 10 least successful teams in the East and West conference for a place in that conference the next year.
What does this do for college football?
1. It guarantees that the National Champion will be decided on the field of play and not by the subjective opinion of voters.
2. It guarantees 10 games almost every week between teams that are potential National Champion teams. That's 90 games between Top 20 teams every year.
3. It allows retention of the existing bowl games.
4. It requires colleges to plan across two years instead of one by instigating relegation between the East and West Conferences and the rest of Division I-A. Those in the top conference will have to fight to retain their place all season, while those colleges who aspire to the Championship will need to earn their place in the East or West Conference by winning their existing conference games.
More than anything else, for me it adds a much greater sense of achievement on merit to the whole system. The determinants of who plays in the National Championship game would not be polls and subjective opinion about the relative merits of performances against colleges that may have no chance of competing, and the comparison of performances against completely different opposition.
Instead, imagine Ohio State having a conference schedule that included nine games against Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Michigan, Clemson, Kansas, Miami, Boston College, and Virginia, whilst USC had to win a division comprising Texas, UCLA, Oklahoma, Missouri, BYU, Arizona State, Hawaii, Boise State, and LSU in order to make the National Championship Game.
That, to me, would be worth paying to watch—but to achieve it, the NCAA need to take much more control over how college football is organized.
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