To my surprise, this year's "morning after" inbox on the Monday following the announcements of the bowl pairings did not overflow with the usual anti-BCS venom. But people are obviously frustrated with many of the matchups, and I am too. So much so, in fact, that I'm here to propose a radical overhaul to the BCS selection process.
You'd be surprised by how little sway the bowls have when it comes to BCS decisions. Their execs are in the room for meetings. They make suggestions. They're in constant contact with their respective conference partners. But for the most part the conferences dictate almost all BCS policy, and the bowls themselves hold little leverage. What are they going to do, drop out and pass up the opportunity to host the national championship game?
But something needs to be done to give the BCS games more flexibility with their matchups. This year, the Sugar Bowl was the only one of the four with any freedom in its selections. The Rose Bowl was obligated to take TCU. The Orange Bowl was obligated to take either Stanford (since it finished in the top four) or Big East champ Connecticut. The Fiesta Bowl had to take whichever one was left. Meanwhile the Gator Bowl, which offers one-fourth the payout of a BCS game, had its choice of at least two SEC teams (Mississippi State and Tennessee) and three Big Ten teams (Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern), chose the Bulldogs and Wolverines and will likely sell out for the second straight year. Think the Oklahoma-UConn Fiesta Bowl will sell out? Think that bowl would voluntarily choose that matchup?
My proposal: Eliminate automatic bids altogether. Are they really necessary at this point? The Big Ten and SEC are going to get their two berths most years regardless. The Pac-10 will always have the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl would continue its Big 12 affiliation (or if not, the Orange Bowl would gladly step in) and perhaps even start an informal alliance with the Mountain West and BYU. The only leagues in danger some years would be the ACC and Big East, but remember that in four of the five seasons prior to this one the Big East's champ was ranked in the top 10. Those teams all would have been selected regardless of AQ status.
I'd also suggest lifting the limit on teams per conference. And structuring the revenue distribution so no one goes broke, just as Notre Dame and the five non-AQ leagues are assured a share every year now regardless of whether they qualify a team. The same would hold true if the Big East didn't send a team one year -- it wouldn't get a full share, but it wouldn't be left for broke, either.
Under this system, and assuming roughly the same selection order, we could have had the following more logical, enticing pairings this year:
About the only negative is that Michigan State still gets shafted. The Orange would probably go for the closer team with the more ravenous fan base. But that's also kind of the point: The bowls would go back to being able to create the matchups they prefer rather than being pigeonholed by BCS constraints.
I love playing this game! Mind you, it's hard to replicate exactly because the Southwest Conference still existed in '94 and the Cotton Bowl was still on par with the other four big games.
But I have to say, with this year's teams, it would not have been very satisfying. For one, the matchups aren't that much better than they are now. And with Auburn currently No. 1 in the AP poll and bound to the Sugar Bowl and Oregon at No. 1 in the coaches' poll and bound to the Rose Bowl, we'd be looking at a possible split national championship.
Using AP rankings:
It came down to the fact that the MAC had four teams that finished 8-4 or better but only three guaranteed spots. With no such restrictions in place, the New Orleans Bowl wound up the only game this year with a true at-large spot and chose 8-4 Ohio over 8-4 Temple, primarily because the Bobcats beat the Owls during the season.
If this had been last year, someone would have had to select Temple before 6-6 Clemson or Georgia Tech could get a bid. The ACC had nine eligible teams for eight spots. The ACC has a contingency deal to fill the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl's vacant Pac-10 spot, which it did with 7-5 BC, but last year the 6-6 rule would have taken precedent. Realistically, the ACC teams and Temple would have all gotten bids, while 6-6 Middle Tennessee -- a surplus Sun Belt team that got in because of that league's contingency deal with the Little Caesars Bowl -- would have been left out.
This year's result was entirely Boise's choice -- and given its limited options, by far the best. Once the Broncos fell out of BCS contention, they were relegated to one of the WAC's bowls. Originally it looked like they'd be heading to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to face 7-5 Boston College. But both Boise and Nevada lobbied hard for the San Francisco bowl to take the Wolf Pack instead, and the WAC and ESPN brokered a deal that allowed the Broncos to fill the Pac-10's spot opposite 10-2 Utah in Vegas.
I know a lot of people are still fixated on AQ vs. non-AQ, but as far as I'm concerned, Boise proved far more by beating No. 4 TCU in a bowl game last year than it would have by playing Georgia Tech or Iowa. Facing a top 20, 10-2 Utah team that's heading to the Pac-10 is clearly more enticing than playing a 7-5 ACC team.
Here, here brother. And I'm already nostalgic for the Rose Bowl presented by Citi era.
It's an excellent question, and one I can easily research thanks to the extensive archives kept by CollegeBCS.com's Jerry Palm -- the same man who uncovered the BCS' errant computer rankings this week. You're our hero, Jerry. Note that his strength-of-schedule records do not include FCS foes. For the other two criteria, I'm only counting ranked teams/bowl teams that title participants beat, not just played; I'm using final BCS standings to qualify teams as "ranked;" and I'm counting all bowl-eligible teams under "bowl" to account for the fact that there used to be fewer bowls.
Did Oregon have the easiest path to the BCS title game? It does look that way. The Ducks' opponents' .439 winning percentage is by far the lowest of the 26 title game participants. Only three other teams played just one ranked team and/or five bowl-eligible teams, most recently 2007 Ohio State. Having said that, I think you'd have to go with 1999 Virginia Tech, which had similar numbers to Oregon's but played in Palm's eighth-ranked conference that year (the Big East), whereas this year's Pac-10 rates second.
Meanwhile, Auburn's path wasn't the toughest, but it came awfully close. I'd put it no lower than third and arguably second. Its chief competitors were the 1998 and 2000 Florida State teams. Bobby Bowden's nonconference schedules back then would make current teams cry. That '98 team faced 11-2 Texas A&M, 9-2 Florida, 8-3 Miami and 8-4 USC. That team did lose a game (to 7-4 NC State), but it also played only five home games compared with eight for Auburn.
For the record, the team that played the tougher schedule has gone 5-7 in title games so far.
As long as he keeps winning Big 12 titles more seasons than he doesn't (current rate: seven title seasons, five non-title seasons), he can be JoePa if he wants.
Oh, you Gopher fans. At least now I understand the root of your overinflated expectations: none other than dysfunctional Minnesota AD Joel Maturi. Read
The good news: Kill is more than a great name, he's a great coach. When someone's won big everywhere he's been, that's usually a good sign. He won big (38-14) at Division II Saginaw Valley State, he won big (producing a No. 1 ranked team) at I-AA Southern Illinois (five straight playoff appearances) and he won big, at least for a year, at Northern Illinois (10-3 this season). He's sort of a Brian Kelly/Chris Petersen type, having recruited at the small-school level where you have to find hidden gems that fit your system and coach them up. That's particularly important at a school like Minnesota that isn't going to win a lot of recruiting battles with Ohio State. Maturi managed to get out of his own way and make a solid hire.
My gosh, that must have been one heck of a party you guys threw Saturday night.
They didn't really have a choice. Nebraska, I'm told, begged off a possible Alamo Bowl rematch with last year's Holiday Bowl opponent, Arizona, so that bowl took Oklahoma State instead. It probably thought it had the Insight Bowl in the bag, but that game chose Missouri, partially because it passed over the Tigers last year and drew heat for it, partially to appease the Big 12 (which probably wouldn't be keen on two Big Ten schools playing in a Big 12 bowl). So that left the Holiday Bowl with either 10-2 Nebraska or a 7-5 team. And Washington was its only remaining Pac-10 choice.
But hey, it's good news for the Huskies. More often that not, non-BCS bowls come down to who wants to be there more, and in that department, it's about as lopsided in one direction as the teams' September meeting was in the other.
Yep. That pretty much sums it up.