The dirty little secret of the much-reviled BCS -- the part its keepers always boast but its haters refuse to accept -- is that it's helped make the sport's regular season more compelling.
Case in point: Last Saturday morning in Eugene (which, incidentally, is now officially my favorite college town; be sure to eat at Beppe & Gianni's), I sat in my hotel room watching the first half of the Indiana-Iowa game. A group of Oregon fans in the room next to me were apparently watching, too (the walls were thin). And there was no mistaking for whom they were rooting. Cheers went up every time
In the old days, no one outside the Midwest would have given two hoots about an Iowa-Indiana game. And while 80 percent of the people reading this will be infuriated by what I'm about to say, that'd also be the case in an eight- or 16-team playoff where the Big Ten champ would get in regardless.
This is why, for the past three years or so, I've relentlessly campaigned for the BCS to adopt a plus-one format. Doing so would appease nearly all the big-wigs' primary concerns -- the bowl system and existing calendar would stay intact, regular-season stakes would not be impacted -- while giving two more teams a crack at the title. Admittedly, some seasons are better suited for a plus-one than others (though far more than for the current system, under which two undisputed teams have emerged just three times in 11 years), but this particular season is shaping up perfectly.
Under the Mandel Plan, the No. 1 and 2 teams would host semifinal games in their regular bowl destinations. Just like today, two bowls would lose their host champions, only they'd be the No. 3 and 4 teams. A new bowl would be added to the lineup (most likely the Cotton) to maintain 10 BCS bids. And the championship game would take place a week after the last scheduled bowl. (Next year's game in Glendale, Ariz. is scheduled for Jan. 10; mine would be on the 12th.)
To create my hypothetical lineup, I used this year's existing schedule and the current BCS standings, dropping only Alabama -- playing the role of SEC runner-up -- from No. 3 to No. 5. The selection process worked mostly the same way, too: The bowls that lost champions got first choice of replacements, while the remaining at-large order went 1) Cotton, 2) Orange (whose champion was not in the top four), 3) Cotton. The two semifinal games appear in bold.
• Jan. 1 Rose: No. 8 Oregon (Pac-10 champ) vs. No. 11 Penn Sate (replacement)
• Jan. 2 Cotton: No. 5 Alabama (first at-large) vs. No. 6 TCU (third at-large)
• Jan. 5 Orange: No. 10 Ga. Tech (ACC champ) vs. No. 12 USC (second at-large)
• Jan. 12 title game: Sugar Bowl winner vs. Fiesta Bowl winner
In addition to providing more clarity, the Mandel Plan would also allow greater access to the title game for non-BCS teams. Realistically, there will be fewer than four undefeated teams ahead of TCU and Boise State come season's end (we've never had more than three from the Big Six, and even that happened just once, in 2004), and voters would be far more inclined to move the Horned Frogs or Broncos into the top four than they currently would the top two. (TCU is already No. 4 in the coaches poll.)
I'm sure I will now be deluged with 800 e-mails picking my proposal apart, but keep one thing in mind before you hit send: There's at least a glimmer of hope the Mandel Plan could become reality (the SEC and ACC are already open to a plus-one), whereas any larger playoff proposal -- no matter how many political action committees form to support it -- still has a 0.0 percent chance of getting adopted any time soon.
And now, onto the mail...
From the moment Oregon started piling it on USC, I had a feeling this would become a primary topic of debate in Mailbag land, and sure enough, I logged on Monday to find a sea of e-mails like these awaiting me. But despite Oregon fans' many attempts to persuade me, I remain squarely on the head-to-head side. Michael makes a valid point up until he uses the phrase "offsets the head-to-head result." Seriously? We're supposed to now believe that the game we all watched on Sept. 3 never happened?
As a former AP voter, the single most frustrating part of the job was that in most cases, you're trying to compare apples to oranges. The teams play in different conferences, face differing degrees of nonconference strength and often play drastically different styles. The single most helpful factor is actually getting to see the two teams
Yes, Oregon has gotten infinitely better since losing to Boise. And yes, I've heard all the excuses: It was
Reason No. 2,747 the NCAA has an image problem: Almost no one understands what it does. Think of the NCAA as the federal government. It sets up rules and regulations and goes about haphazardly enforcing them, but most day-to-day issues (like Spikes' incident) fall to the local authorities. The only reason the NCAA got involved with Bryant was due to concern he might have jeopardized his eligibility. During the course of the investigation, he broke one of its other rules. Personally, I think Bryant's punishment is absurdly severe, but because the NCAA's enforcement division is so powerless, it tends to go overboard in the few instances it actually gets to enforce one of its rules, often viewing the offense as an excuse to "send a message."
While there are literally hundreds of pages in the NCAA compliance manual outlining what a player can eat, from whom he can or cannot accept a ride, in how many high-school all-star games he can participate -- all falling under the "eligibility" umbrella -- not a single page addresses eye-gouging, sucker-punches, DUIs, marijuana possession or any other sort of personal misconduct. That falls to the schools, with the conferences occasionally getting involved in particularly unsportsmanlike acts. The precedent for in-game transgressions (like in the Big Ten earlier this season) tends to be one game.
By suspending Spikes for a half,
On a related note, after reading all sorts of venomous Spikes e-mails, I found it interesting that the one guy who would seem to have the biggest gripe with Spikes, Georgia running back
Indeed, I can authoritatively say no fan base is more obsessed with a team to which it has no conference or geographic connection than LSU's with USC. You would think it might have dissipated after the Tigers earned their second BCS championship two years ago, but no dice. Prior to last weekend, I was getting tons of incredulous e-mails from LSU fans as to why the Trojans were ranked higher than the Tigers. I even got one this week preemptively griping about USC's possible BCS inclusion over LSU's.
So I'm all for a USC-LSU bowl game if for no other reason than to shut up some of these people. If and when that happens, I would certainly hope that L.A. resident/Tigers diehard/2009 Mailbag Crush
But landing USC as their opponent will be nearly impossible. Besides the fact the slumping Trojans will probably need to win out, the Sugar Bowl has last pick of at-large teams this year. I can't imagine both the Orange and Fiesta bowls passing on 10-2 USC in favor of the Big East champion or TCU/Boise State, both of which will be guaranteed a berth. Sadly, this entirely one-sided rivalry may have to go unresolved for yet another year.
Let's be honest. The only difference between college poll voting and figure skating judging is that football teams at least provide some data (scores) to work with. Though it would be interesting to watch both
Well I can't entirely disregard strength-of-schedule since every objective rating system disagrees with you (Sagarin ranks Florida's schedule 27th, Penn State's 83rd; CollegeBCS.com, which mimics the RPI formula, ranks Florida's No. 7, Penn State's No. 40). But regardless, Clark's larger problem is that he laid an egg in the Nittany Lions' biggest and most-watched game to date, going 12-of-32 with three interceptions against Iowa. Say what you want about Clausen, but he's only thrown two picks all season and actually performed well in Notre Dame's two losses.
Personally, my Heisman stance hasn't changed in recent weeks. If I had to cast a ballot right now, it would go to a defensive player, most likely
I've noticed an interesting trend when it comes to the Richt "hot seat" discussion. Whereas a teams' own fans are usually the first to turn on a struggling coach, in this case, nearly all such
Right now, most fans are understandably directing their angst at Richt's coordinators,
The Berry-Mays argument is a no-brainer. Berry is having another fantastic season. True to his word, Tennessee defensive coordinator
You know who is? Texas'
As for the Sean Taylor comparison, that's almost impossible to quantify. Like with Berry and Mays, safeties play different roles in different defenses. And while Taylor was a supremely gifted athlete, I'm not sure you could definitively say he became the standard bearer for that position. What about
It's possible. I certainly thought that, three years into his tenure, Erickson would be fielding a far more productive offense. That's always been his specialty. The frustrating thing about this ASU team is that it has the kind of high-caliber defense that keeps it in almost every game, but an erratic and mistake-prone offense has limited the Devils to four wins. Last week's Cal game was emblematic of their season. Heading into the final three minutes, they'd held the Bears to 334 yards. But ASU, as has been its custom, committed four turnovers and 11 penalties, couldn't run the ball (82 yards) and, clinging to a 21-20 lead with 5:46 left, couldn't gain a first down, giving the ball back to the Bears, who promptly drove down the field for the game-winning field goal.
Erickson has tried to stick by Sullivan, but working backup
Props to you, Jeff. What better way to convince the jury than to make the issue personal. Are you by chance a lawyer?
But unfortunately for your analogy, neither Andy nor the Broncos have been "mucking around" this season. In fact, I'd go so far as to say Andy's gem-to-clunker column ratio has been right up there with Kellen Moore's 24-to-2 TDs-to-interceptions. (I'll let someone else try to quantify mine; just as long as it's better than
In the press box before the Oregon game last week,
Now -- just imagine how much more fantastic and lovable this "flawed" sport would be under the Mandel Plan.