Friday, January 2, 2009

The ACCFR Bowl & National Championship Plan

Another year, another controversial BCS #1 vs. #2 winner take all title game. 10 years into the BCS, and we've had exactly three non-controversial title games - Florida State vs. Virginia Tech in 1999, Ohio State vs. Miami in 2002, Texas vs. USC in 2005. Not a great track record for what was supposed to be a cure-all.

That said, I don't mind the controversy. It's part of the fabric of college football, just as polls and bowls always have been. The problem with the BCS is not the lack of clear-cut title games; it's that it's effectively neutered the other major bowls that don't host the 1-vs.-2 game. And since 2006 and the addition of the "BCS Championship Game", none of the major bowls have any say in the national title discussion. They've become a dumping ground for disappointed teams and have resulted in uninspiring matchups far too often in the last several years.

Remember 15, 20, 25 years ago when we watched the Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl on one glorious day? New Year's Day was the capstone of the college football season, and there was a good chance that 3 or 4 of those games played a part in the national title discussion. On top of that, the conference tie-ins with specific bowls gave each member of each league a goal to shoot for...if you were an SEC team - Sugar Bowl. Big 8? Orange Bowl or bust. Southwest Conference? Cotton Bowl! Bowls are part of college football tradition, and part of that tradition is Oklahoma and Nebraska in all those classic Orange Bowls. Alabama and Georgia in those Sugar Bowls. Ohio State, Michigan and USC in a million Rose Bowls. Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

But now, thanks to the BCS, we've had bastardizations like Miami vs. Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, Big 10-runners up in the Rose Bowl, Ohio State vs. Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl, and the Cotton Bowl has been relegated to also-ran. Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls are now being pushed to Jan. 3 and beyond. The national title game isn't even a bowl now. I'm a traditionalist...I want some semblance of the old bowl system back, played on the same day (for the most part), not spread out over a week and all ending well after midnight. I'm anti-playoff; you can't have a playoff that incorporates the bowl tradition, and quite frankly a playoff is not going to happen as none of the puppet-masters want one. Still, I also want a national title game...a Super Bowl of college football. But the right way.

And I have a plan.

To begin...this plan has to be realistic; there's no conference realignments involved and it simply modifies current systems already in place. I'm sure you've seen the core of this plan discussed and/or posted elsewhere, but I've incorporated my own tweaks to it. Basically, it's Plus-One. Keep the "BCS" moniker if you want to. First, we add another bowl game to the BCS-lineup; I'd prefer the Cotton, but Capital One (if they change back to Citrus) or Chick-fil-A (if they change back to Peach) will do. For purposes of this discussion, we're saying Cotton Bowl. All six BCS conference champions are guaranteed a bowl slot; have a problem with the ACC or Big East automatically getting a bid? Tough...that's the reality of the situation. This plan is something that is not only possible, but also an improvement over the current BCS and previous systems. Anyhoo, here's the BCS bowl lineup if I had my way:

ROSE- Big Ten champ vs. Pac 10 champ
ORANGE- ACC champ vs. at-large
COTTON- Big East champ vs. at-large
FIESTA- Big XII champ vs. at-large
SUGAR- SEC champ vs. at-large

Three of the games are played on Jan. 1 while the other two are played on Jan. 2. This will rotate each year. The at-large spots are filled using the BCS rankings; no more #4 BCS team getting relegated to the Holiday Bowl while #15 Notre Dame gets into the Sugar Bowl. There are three rules for the at-large picks: no rematches, no bowls matching teams from the same conference, and a non-BCS conference champion rated #8 or better MUST get selected. That's it. If 4 of the at-large teams are all from the Big XII, so be it (although that would throw a kink into the no-rematch thing in the Fiesta, probably); if at large teams make up #3 through #7 and #8 is WAC winner Boise State, then #6 and #7 don't get in. And to hell with Notre Dame jumping ahead in line; if they want in, finish as one of the four best at-larges or join the Big East or Big Ten and win the conference. This plan is about making these major bowl games matter again, it's about putting the best teams in them, it's about re-establishing old traditions and starting a few new ones, and it's also about including the little guy if he's earned it.

After the Five Bowls are played, we run the BCS poll again; #1 and #2 then get to play the following weekend in the BCS Championship Game, held in a major city not connected to the Five Bowls. Hold it in Charlotte one year; then St. Louis; then Tampa; then San Diego, etc, ala the Super Bowl and Final Four. If this happens to result in a rematch and/or matches up teams from the same conference, that's fine...the results of the bowl system played out that way.

Of course there will be controversy, but you thin the controversy claims through the Five Bowls. Let's take a look at how this year's bowl lineup would look with the ACCFR system (but first, let's look at the final regular season BCS standings as it relates to my bowl scenario):

1- Oklahoma (Big XII champ)
2- Florida (SEC champ)
3- Texas (at-large)
4- Alabama (at-large)
5- USC (Pac 10 champ)
6- Utah (at-large)
7- Texas Tech (at-large)
8- Penn State (Big Ten champ)
12- Cincinnati (Big East champ)
19- Virginia Tech (ACC champ)

The at-large teams are placed into the bowls on a rotational basis, in much the same way BCS bowls choose opponents for the tie-in teams now; the only catch is that there's no choice. Bowl 1 in the rotation must choose the highest ranked at-large opponent unless it violates the rematch rule, and so on. The current BCS rotation is skewed now because they treat their title game like a bowl, and it doesn't jive with my idea because the Cotton's not involved. For the sake of moving along with this analysis, let's say that this year the picking order would be Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Cotton.

ORANGE- Virginia Tech (ACC champ) vs. Texas (highest ranked at-large)
SUGAR- Florida (SEC champ) vs. Utah (third highest at-large; second highest Alabama would violate the rematch rule)
FIESTA- Oklahoma (Big XII champ) vs. Alabama (second highest at-large)
COTTON- Cincinnati (Big East champ) vs. Texas Tech (fourth highest at-large)
ROSE- USC (Pac 10 champ) vs. Penn State (Big 10 champ)

Under the ACCFR system, the Orange Bowl would be a better game and would have meaning in that Texas needed to win to stay alive in the title game hunt, while the Hokies have added incentive to play giant killer. The Sugar Bowl would be a fantastic matchup, with both teams needing to win to make a claim to the title game. The Fiesta Bowl - wow; again, both teams need to win to stay alive. The Cotton Bowl would showcase Texas Tech's claim to the title game, while the Bearcats would not only play to win but also can play spoiler. The Rose Bowl would have the exact same matchup as the real Rose Bowl yesterday, but USC and maybe Penn State would've been playing for more under the ACCFR system.

This system is by no means perfect or foolproof, and if you're a staunch playoff proponent, all you see is controversy post-bowls. Oh well. No one can provide a "playoff" system that is realistic, that includes the bowls without neutering all tradition and meaning, and that doesn't require multiple fan bases to travel 3 straight weeks or more over Christmas and New Year's. The bowls are here to stay; the big ones make too much money to be tossed aside, and there's too much support for keeping them no matter what. The ACCFR plan is the best way to keep the big bowl system intact, while creating a playoff-type atmosphere in those games. And you still get a 1-vs-2 game afterward.

Pass this along. Let's move this from the drawing board to the Evil BCS board of directors.


furrer4heisman said...

That's certainly a better idea than most that have been presented. The only change I would make would be a two-week break between the bowls and the BCSCG. You have to give the average fan enough time to plan a trip for such a big game.

On such short notice, only the highest of high dollar fans would be able to go see their team in the national title game.

Marcus said...

The gap between the bowls and BCSCG would be a minimum of 7 days and as much as 13-14 days. It all depends on which days of the week Jan 1 and 2 fall. If it happened this year, Jan 1 and 2 were a Thurs/Fri. The title game would then be Friday night, Jan. 9. That's actually the shortest possible gap. If Jan 1 & 2 were on a Friday/Saturday, you wouldn't have the title game until Friday Jan. 15.

Marcus said...

Also, the BCSCG needs to be a Friday night because NFL playoffs would be going on at that time on Sat/Sun, and it will enhance ratings and aid with travel plans if the game is on a Friday worrying about staying up late and then having to go to work the next day and/or no worrying about having to use several vacation days to attend (for most folks).