College football is very popular. Not nearly as popular as the NFL (what is these days?), but I think University Presidents are pretty happy with their bank accounts when it comes to the gridiron. No complaints from them. Thus, the root of the problem.
Just because something makes money doesn’t mean it isn’t in need of repair. Just because a stadium gets sold out to watch a mismatched massacre, doesn’t mean it’s a good product. And just because they call it a “Bowl Game” or even a “BCS” game doesn’t mean it really has significance.
Yes, college football is entertaining. It always has been, and most likely, always will be. But college football is not all that it can be. It is by far the most flawed of all the major college and pro sports. A well-run sport should crescendo or peak during the post-season. College football still relies on mid-season rivalries and traditional match-ups to stir interest. The post-season is a giant letdown.
The only solution to this obvious problem is a playoff system. It can be done, if the powers that be would simply remove their heads from their posteriors, put “old school” thinking aside, and figure out a way to improve the sport, while still lining their pockets. It can be done. Easily. But the college football playoff argument is the very definition of beating a dead horse. Has any sportswriter in American not given their personal solution to this problem?
With that in mind, I am going to narrow my focus and present five ways to improve college football without going to a playoff system. Please keep in mind that nothing besides a playoff will fix this archaic system. However, these suggestions may make the system a tad less asinine.
Eliminate Pre-Season Polls: Are we talking about this season? Last season? Thirty seasons ago? When it comes to the polls, I have no idea. In my estimation, a poll should reflect only the current season. It should not take history into account, whether it be recent or ancient. Anointing a team prior to the season is not only silly, it’s unfair. Last year, Michigan began the season highly ranked. They lost their first game to a D-II school. The next week, even though they dropped in the polls, they were still ranked. So, Michigan was 0-1 with a home loss to non D-1 school, and they were still ranked in the Top 25? That’s just stupid. The rankings create a certain caste system, where teams can only gradually move up or move down. If a non-BCS school doesn’t start the season ranked in the Top 15 or so, they can kiss their chances of a National Championship goodbye. If a team starts the season ranked #1, they can probably afford two losses, whereas a team that starts the season ranked #17 can probably only afford one loss. The first poll should not be released until sometime in early-mid October.
Eliminate the Coaches Poll: I wonder how much time Nick Saban of Alabama spends watching game film of Rutgers? I wonder if Butch Davis at North Carolina is taping the Washington State game this week? College football coaches are totally wrapped up in their own little world of their team, their conference, and their next opponent. I can say with all honesty, that I probably watch a whole lot more Pac 10, Big 10, and SEC football than Mike Leach of Texas Tech does during the season. You see, on Saturday’s, Mike Leach, and most other head coaches are kind of busy. They aren’t flipping channels. They are standing on the sidelines, riding buses, and then breaking down their own game film. I don’t think Rich Rodriguez is too concerned with the outcome of the BYU-Utah game. Yet, we insist that these men vote on how to rank teams across the country. Not only do they lack information, there is also an obvious conflict of interest. Why wouldn’t you rank teams in your conference higher? Why wouldn’t there be a bias? The media is far from perfect, but the AP poll is a much more objective way to generate a poll.
Drastically Reduce the Number of Bowl Games: There are 119 D-1 teams. There are now 34 Bowl Games. That’s a total of 68 teams participating in Bowls. That leaves 51 teams at home. If 68 teams get to do something, and 51 do not, which group should feel more special? Many publications will insist that a coach is on the hot seat and that he must “make a Bowl Game” to save his job. Heck, if I was an Athletic Director, I might stipulate that not making a Bowl Game is grounds for immediate dismissal. If you don’t make a Bowl Game nowadays, you are a terrible, terrible football team.
Let’s take an average college football program (Oklahoma State) and figure out what it will take for them to be eligible for a Bowl Game this year. In order for OSU to qualify for a Bowl, they need to win 6 of their 12 games. By beating 6 of these teams: Washington State, Houston, Missouri State, Troy, Baylor, and Iowa St., Colorado, and Texas A+M, OSU will go Bowling. Aside from Colorado, none of those teams will most likely be ranked in the top 70 teams in the country this year. So basically, OSU can lose all of their games against decent competition, and still get a payday. What a great accomplishment!
Make Every Conference Play a Championship Game: If all of the BCS conferences have to play under the same system, then why in the world do certain teams have a tougher/longer road? The Pac 10, Big 10, and Big East do not play a conference championship game, while the remaining BCS conferences all do. In college football, less is more. Meaning the fewer games you play, the better chance you have of not losing, which equals a greater chance to compete for the National Title. We’ll call this the “Ohio State Way.” The Buckeyes cruise through the weak Big 10 every season and find themselves in the big game, usually, “just because.” Forcing these three conferences to adopt a Title Game would at least level the playing field a bit.
Shorten the Time Between the End of the Season and the Bowls: I think Ohio St. had two and a half years in between their final game of the season last year and the BCS Title Game. It had been so long since we last saw them play, that I’m not sure anyone even remembered, or cared. College Football makes us wait over a month to see the Championship Game—and by that time the NFL playoffs have started, and the college game gets cast aside.
January 1st should be the latest a college football game is ever played. I understand that the networks want to spread the games out, and they want to avoid putting too many games on during the holidays. But college football might need to take a small hit in the wallet on this one and insist that games never be played beyond the 1st. You can still play all of your ridiculous minor bowl games leading up to the BCS games—just play them earlier, and make many of them double-headers for television. You could then have a quadruple-header of BCS games on New Year’s Day—with the title game in primetime. The Bowl system is silly, but if it’s going to be in place, then they might as well capitalize on the tradition of New Year’s Day being a big day for the sport.
SEC: Florida over Alabama in the Title Game: Georgia is formidable, but I wonder if they are over-hyped. Tim Tebow returns and I think Florida beats the Bulldogs this year and wins the East. The West is more wide-open, and I’ll roll the dice on Alabama squeezing by.
Keep an Eye On: Tennessee: Phillip Fulmer is squarely on the hot seat, and I have a feeling he’ll find a way to save his job this year.
Big 12: Oklahoma over Missouri in the Title Game: I’m simply not a believer that Mizzou is ready to beat a program like OU in a game with major significance.
Keep any Eye On: Texas Tech. This may be another team getting a bit over-hyped in the pre-season, but the first part of their schedule is ridiculously easy, which of course means they will steadily climb in the polls. They could have the biggest game in the program’s history late in the year in Norman.
ACC: Clemson over North Carolina in the Title Game: Pretty weak conference overall. Clemson would be a middling team in the Big 12, SEC, or even Pac 10. I’ll go with Butch Davis to have a surprisingly good season at UNC.
Keep an Eye On: No one. Like I said, the ACC is weak.
Pac 10: USC will run away with this conference in a landslide.
Keep an Eye On: Oregon was great last year until Dennis Dixon went down. Now, they think they have a QB that can run their spread offense again.
Big 10: Ohio St. by default.
Keep an Eye On: Wisconsin is the only other team in the conference that should garner any serious respect.
Big East: West Virginia.
Keep an Eye On: South Florida may have gotten too much, too fast last year before they crashed and burned. But there is still a bunch of talent there, and a very solid returning QB.
National Championship Game: USC over Oklahoma. Not sure if these are the two best teams in the country or not, but I like their respective roads to the BCS Title Game. OU needs to prove themselves on a national stage before I can be confident picking them to win a game of this magnitude.
What about the remaining 50+ D-1 Teams? Well, the BCS doesn’t give them the time of day, so why should I?