College Football: My "Plus One" Model

For my money, college football is the best spectator sport on earth. For 14 weeks, my wife knows that she is going to get nothing out of me on Saturdays. Either I am going to a game, or I am planning to watch games on TV for stretches of up to 13 hours. Most weeks, especially when I wasn't at a UK game, I would bring a second TV into my living room so my son and I could watch an "A" and "B" game, sometimes adding "C" and "D" and toggling between all four. It is insane. Unless you follow college football for a living, however much college football you watched this year, I watched more.

I have never been a BCS hater. In fact, I enjoy the bowl system and do worry about what a playoff would do to the excitement of the regular season. I love the symmetry between college football and college basketball. While March Madness is the best three weeks in sports, college football has the most meaningful regular season. What that means for me is this: I'll watch almost any D1 college football game, regardless of rooting interest. I rarely watch a college basketball game that doesn't involve a team I like, until March rolls around, when I then watch as much as possible. I wouldn't change much about either sport.

Before you comment on the story, though, understand that I am sympathetic to the contrary arguments about the lack of a playoff. The BCS doesn't always get it right, and there is something unsatisfying about the best sport not ending its season with a winner-take-all tournament like most others.

After the jump, take a look at the one tweak I'd make in order to perfect the system.

I'm in favor of a plus one model that looks a little different than any other I've heard proposed. The mechanics of it are fairly simple, and would leave almost every other aspect of the bowl and the BCS unchanged. The crux of the plan is to make two of the current BCS Bowls into national semi-finals played between the top four BCS teams in the country, then play the National Championship game the following week. There are some additional tweaks in here and there. Point #3 below is a little wonky, but I tried to think through everything that might happen, however unlikely.

The BCS keeps the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar and adds a fifth bowl. These bowls are to be played on January 1 or 2. At the end of the regular season, the BCS rankings will spit out the four best teams. From there, the teams will be placed as follows:

1.The No. 1 team, assuming it is a BCS conference champion, shall play in the bowl designated by its championship. Fiesta= Big 12, Sugar=SEC, Orange=ACC, Rose=Pac-10 and/or Big 10. The fifth bowl becomes the Big East's champion's designated bowl. If the #1 team is not a BCS conference champion, it is placed as set forth below.

2. The No. 2 team, assuming that it is a BCS conference champion, shall play in the bowl designated by its championship. If not, it is placed as set forth below.

3. The No. 3 team, assuming it is a BCS conference champion, will be placed in the bowl designated by its championship unless both #1 and #2 are BCS conference champions. Assuming both #1 and 2 are BCS conference champions, the No. 3 team will play against the #2 team at the bowl that team is slotted for. If either #1 or 2 is not a BCS conference champion, it will play at #3's conference designated spot. If neither #1 or #2 is a BCS conference champion the Number #3 team shall play the #4. In the unlikely event none of the top 3 teams are BCS conference champions, the top 2 teams will select, in order, which bowl they wish to attend. The #3 team will then be matched against the #2 team.

4. The #4 team will play highest ranked BCS conference champion at that team's designated bowl unless none are BCS conference champions, in which case it will play the #1 team.

5. Notwithstanding 1-4 above, in the event that both the PAC-10 and Big-10 champions are ranked in the top 4, the teams will play in the Rose Bowl unless the National Championship game will be played in Los Angeles. Assuming the National Championship game is slated for Los Angeles, the lower ranked team will be treated as a not having been a conference champion and will be slated accordingly. If these two teams play in the Rose Bowl, the higher ranked of the two remaining teams shall play in the bowl designated by its conference championship against the final remaining team. If the higher ranked team is not a BCS conference champion, but the lower ranked team is, the teams shall play in the bowl designated by the lower ranked team's championship. In the event neither team is a conference champion, the bowl of the team with the higher ranking will host the game.

6. The other BCS games will be populated by champions from the other BCS conferences and wildcard teams in accordance with the current BCS system.

7. All other bowls remained unchanged.

8. The winners of the two games between the nation's top four teams play in a National Championship game approximately one week after the Jan 1 & 2 games. The game will rotate between BCS venues, as it does now.

Let's look at what the BCS picture would look like in 2011. For the sake of argument, we'll make the Cotton Bowl the fifth Bowl. Big city, big dome, second oldest non-BCS bowl. With the Big East about the spread coast to coast, it's as good a location as any:

Sugar Bowl

LSU Tigers v. Stanford Cardinal

Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma St. Cowboys v. Alabama Crimson Tide

Rose Bowl

Oregon Ducks v. Wisconsin Badgers

Orange Bowl

Clemson Tigers v. Michigan Wolverines

Cotton Bowl

West Virginia Mountaineers v. Virginia Tech Hokies

This system works for a lot of reasons. One, it shouldn't draw any complaints from the fat cats who run either the BCS or the current bowls. Those institutions are preserved almost as is. The system caters to academics in the sense that, unlike a full blown playoff, it won't mess with final exams. It give some deference to the teams that win their conference without overemphasizing it. Finally, it contains a little nod to the tradition of the Rose Bowl, which seems important to a lot of people. Most importantly, it would be exciting as hell.

Is it perfect? No. Some people will still want a full blown playoff. I'm against that, and for a lot of reasons, I don't think it will happen in my lifetime. Would there still be arguments? Hell yes. There would be a huge one this year, in fact. Oregon would (rightfully) howl at the idea of Stanford playing in the final four ahead of them. Arguing over who is #4 is much less regrettable than arguing over who is #2.

A similar article appeared on my old web site in 2008.

Follow me on Twitter @AlexScutchfield

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