Each Sunday night, millions of viewers watch as ESPN unveils the BCS rankings during its BCS Countdown show. One of the segments of the show projects bowl matchups if the season were to end that day or if those teams were to hold the same ranking at the end of the season.
This past weekend, Brad Edwards of ESPN projected these bowl matchups based on the rankings from Week 12:
- Rose Bowl presented by Vizio: Wisconsin vs. Oregon
- Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Houston
- Discover Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Cincinnati
- Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Stanford
- Allstate BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Oklahoma State
If you'll notice, only seven of those schools are in the current BCS Top 10, while Houston is ranked No. 11, Wisconsin is No. 17 and Cincinnati is not ranked in the BCS Top 25.
Those final three teams—Cincinnati, in particular—prompted me to take a closer look at the current BCS bowl structure, and it raised these questions.
Why aren't the Top 10 teams playing in the top five bowls?
As it stands, Arkansas (6), Virginia Tech (8) and Boise State (10) likely would not receive a bid to a major BCS bowl—provided Edwards' projection is accurate—even though they are all ranked in the Top 10.
While historical conference affiliations come into play, one of the prime reasons teams outside the Top 10 routinely play in BCS bowl games is a provision that guarantees a BCS bowl bid to the champion of a BCS conference.
Do the Top 10 teams in the BCS standings all deserve to play in a BCS bowl game?
Of course, those conferences agreed upon the BCS selection process and it has evolved to some degree since its inception. However, I would like to see that practice discontinued.
If a team is ranked in the Top 10, it should be guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS bowl games.
Why should any conference be guaranteed a BCS bowl bid?
Here's where Cincinnati caught my eye (and I promise I hold no grudge against the Bearcats). Edwards projects the Bearcats to take a spot in the Orange Bowl opposite Clemson.
Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) cracked the BCS Top 25 in Week 11 at No. 23. Not only are they not ranked in the BCS standings now, but the Bearcats also aren't ranked in either the AP or USA Today polls.
Their Orange Bowl bid would come by virtue of winning the Big East, which is one of the BCS automatic-qualifying conferences. Having said that, I realize the season is not over and, technically, the Bearcats haven't won the Big East yet.
While the Big East's AQ status is only good through 2013, this is a prime example of why AQ status should not be granted to any conference. A team should not be rewarded with the payout that comes from participating in a BCS bowl game merely because it belongs to an AQ conference.
Should the FBS remove its AQ standard when selecting teams for BCS bowl games?
If a conference champion can't even crack the Top 25, what does that say about the strength of the conference?
I'll say it again: If a team is ranked in the Top 10, it should be guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS bowl games.
What would the BCS bowl games look like now if only the Top 10 teams participated?
Some intriguing matchups would ensue.
Here's one scenario for dividing the teams among the BCS bowls. After taking the top two teams for the BCS National Championship Game, the remaining bowls would pit the next two ranked teams until all bowls were filled.
If the season ended today, here's how that might look:
BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Oklahoma State. The stout defense of the Bayou Bengals against the high-powered offense of Oklahoma State (and one subplot? LSU coach Les Miles coached at both schools).
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Oregon. Like the BCS title game, a similar matchup of defense vs. offense. This game would also feature the two one-loss teams who both had a shot, but came up short against No. 1 LSU.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Arkansas. A great offensive matchup between the preseason No. 1 Sooners and the one-loss Razorbacks, albeit without some key weapons on both sides (WR Ryan Broyles, OU; RB Knile Davis, Ark.).
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Stanford.* Clemson and explosive freshman WR Sammy Watkins against the projected top pick in April's NFL draft, Cardinal QB Andrew Luck.
Rose Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Boise State. A rematch of the 2010 season opener that Boise won in dramatic fashion in the final minute of the game.
* Rather than match Clemson against another opponent from the ACC, the Tigers were matched up against the next highest opponent not in their conference, which left Virginia Tech and Boise State as the final two teams for the Rose Bowl.
It's not a perfect method for determining the matchups in the remaining BCS bowl games, but it appears the BCS is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. If the FBS isn't moving toward a playoff system as BCS executive director Bill Hancock seems to think, then at least give fans the best matchups possible.
(Speaking of playoff proposals, Bleacher Report writer David Luther offers an interesting spin on a possible playoff structure.)
I'm a proponent of merit-based actions, but when it comes to providing the best possible bowl matchups, maybe college football has no room for merit.
What do you think: Should the BCS bowl games feature the Top 10 teams, or should the BCS keep AQ status to some degree?