College football may not have a playoff, but it does have a bracket. I first advanced my BCS title game bracket theory on Sept. 11 in the From Scrimmage blog to console a grammarian USC fan who couldn't understand why I had jumped Alabama over the Trojans following the Crimson Tide's opening-week win over Virginia Tech. On Monday, colleague Stewart Mandel (with an assist from the great Dave Curtis of The Sporting News) discussed the bracket again in his College Football Overtime column.
Today, we'll take a closer look at the bracket itself. On one side stands the SEC Elite Region. It's occupied by Alabama and Florida, the only two teams that appear capable of beating everyone else in the country. In other words, the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10 and non-BCS teams occupy the other side, which, for our purposes here, we'll call the Everyone Else Region. This could change, but only if Florida or Alabama happens to lose two games between now and the SEC title game. Judging by the remaining schedules for both teams, that seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, the Everyone Else region features a few of the stereotypes we've come to expect from that other bracket-obsessed sport. There's a mid-major like Memphis that, thanks to a horrible conference and a few good nonconference wins, has inserted itself into the national title conversation in the past few years (Boise State). There's a conference like the Big Ten that plays a boring style and always wonders why it doesn't get more respect (the Big Ten). There's a nationally renowned, perennially overrated program like Duke that falls flat when faced with a truly elite opponent (Notre Dame). There's a program like North Carolina that often suffers head-scratching losses early and then gets hot with postseason play around the corner (USC). Shoot, there's even a Bracket Buster game (TCU at BYU) coming up on Oct. 24. Where's Andy Glockner when you need him?
This may not seem fair to Texas, USC, or the other non-SEC title contenders, but this setup probably is preferable to the following nightmare scenario. What if Alabama loses a squeaker to LSU and doesn't get to face Florida in the SEC title game? It's entirely possible pollsters would endorse SEC-on-SEC action in Pasadena if the Crimson Tide annihilate the rest of their opponents -- especially if the next-best option is a Virginia Tech team the Tide already throttled.
So just make like it's March and embrace the bracket. This could be fun. When you watch Texas-Oklahoma on Saturday, don't look at it as a matchup between the Longhorns and a team fighting to save its season. Think of it as a second-round matchup between a No. 1 seed and a No. 8 seed that should have been a lot better during the regular season.
Who knows? Maybe this idea will catch on. A bracketed tournament to pick a national champion? What a concept.
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