Judging by the BCS standings, we're about to watch a week of conference title games that mean absolutely nothing. That's certainly an anomaly; in most years, what happens the first weekend in December will affect the national title picture. That doesn't mean the people in charge of college football should ignore ideas that would make the sport more interesting and generate some serious coin in the process. In fact, one recent idea looks even better as we head into what ESPN -- were it using some ridiculous theme for the week -- would call Anticlimax Saturday.
Remember in August when Mark Cuban revealed his plan for what essentially amounts to a set of two Bracket Buster games for college football? How great would a BCS Buster game be this year?
Cuban's plan involved a proposed change in NCAA legislation that would allow any conference without a championship game to send one team to play an extra game at season's end. Independents also would be allowed to participate. Cuban's hope is that the BCS would wait to set its matchups until after those games were played. This year's circumstances offer some very interesting, very watchable scenarios.
Foremost, Oklahoma State is stuck behind Alabama in the BCS standings. What if Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma to win the Big 12 title and then faced Mountain West champion TCU in a BCS Buster game? With a win against the Cowboys, the Horned Frogs might jump into the BCS top 14 and become eligible for an at-large bid to a BCS bowl. With a dominant win against the Horned Frogs atop a victory against the Sooners, Oklahoma State might gain enough momentum to pass Alabama in the BCS standings.
"Imagine if you were Oklahoma State and you had the opportunity to play one more game for a spot in the national championship," Cuban wrote in an e-mail. "That's what this would provide them (if played this year) -- another quality game against a Top 25 opponent the last week of the season. A win should move them ahead of Alabama, right? I think they'd prefer that over the Fiesta."
Indeed they would.
And if the Mountain West didn't want to do any favors for TCU -- which is headed to the Big 12 -- the league could instead send Boise State to Stillwater to face the Cowboys. Think that wouldn't score in the ratings and in the minds of voters? It also wouldn't hurt Oklahoma State, which would have already won the Big 12 title. If the Cowboys lost in the BCS Buster, they would still go to the Fiesta Bowl. They're headed there anyway if they beat Oklahoma and Alabama remains No. 2 in the BCS standings.
At the very least, the Mountain West could send Boise State to such an event so quarterback Kellen Moore could get a sendoff in an interesting game. If the Broncos don't sneak into a BCS bowl, they likely will smash some overmatched opponent in a lower tier bowl that few will watch. Why not give one of the best programs of the past four years a bigger stage and a chance to make one final pitch for an at-large BCS bid?
"If you're Boise, you're looking at finishing the season as a 50 point favorite against New Mexico and then a money losing trip to the Poinsettia Bowl?" Cuban wrote. "And you're a top 10 team! You're crazy if you can't see how these games would be an extraordinary option. Not to mention the additional revenue."
That revenue would be significant. ESPN is paying millions for made-for-TV interconference matchups to start the season. Some network would do the same for fun marquee matchups at season's end.
Obviously, none of this can happen this year. But what has transpired this year proves even more that there has to be a better way to end the season. If the leaders of the sport still refuse to entertain the notion of a playoff, this would make an intriguing addition to the current system.
The major stumbling block for Cuban and Brett Morris, the point man for the project, will be convincing schools to pass a new NCAA rule that would allow for the games. With sponsorship by outgoing Sun Belt Conference commissioner Wright Waters and consultation from John Infante, the Colorado State compliance wonk who authors the excellent Bylaw Blog, Morris crafted NCAA proposal 2011-87, which would allow for invitational games between teams from leagues that don't have conference title games. When asked in August, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he wasn't sure the Fighting Irish would be interested in the concept. For this to work -- and by "work," I mean "make lots of money" -- Notre Dame probably would have to be on board.
If Cuban and Morris can cull the votes, the concept should satisfy fans desperate for more interesting end-of-season games and the stick-in-the-mud conference leaders who keep standing in the way of a proper playoff. After all, this idea works completely within the framework of the BCS system. It simply provides a more interesting alternative.
That, Cuban believes, would be the chief benefit for you, the consumer.
"[It's] the thrill of a completely unpredictable ending to the season," Cuban wrote. "The drama of who would be invited, what teams should accept, what the matchups would be and the effects of the outcomes. (Would it push Oklahoma State into [the national championship] game?) And then the ability to go to a home game with a postseason atmosphere and a ton riding on it would be tremendous."