Looking back at this season of college football, with the BCS championship game still to play, I have one point I would like to make: Not even an 8 team playoff could have solved the dilemma that this season posed. There were just too many deserving teams.
If we consider our recent bowl games as the first round of playoffs, let’s see who would be remaining for the next round: USC, Utah, Texas, Virginia Tech, and oh yeah, those two teams still playing: Florida and Oklahoma.
So in this hypothetical playoff scenario we’re working with, we’ve got 6 (or 5 after Thursday night) teams remaining. In BCS games, we eliminated Penn State, Ohio State (no surprise), Cincinnati, and Alabama. But we also got lucky here, because Boise State and Texas Tech, who were well deserving of hypothetical playoff berths, were eliminated by opponents we didn’t consider so deserving (TCU and Ole Miss).
That’s at least twelve teams all originally deserving shots at the title. Let’s face it, there is no way the NCAA will ever consider a four round playoff bracket. Any playoff fix that they do offer us will be a patchwork fix – teams will be left out that deserve to be there.
But let’s remember, the last two seasons have been especially unique. Usually, there is at least one team that clearly deserves to be in the national title game, with the rest of the NCAA arguing over the chance to play them. The last two years, both teams have arrived to the championship with plenty of naysayers, plenty of teams with a valid argument that they deserve to be there instead.
So as I watch Thursday night’s game, I’m just going to enjoy what oughta be a great college football game. One team will claim to be the national champion at the end, but as far as I’m concerned, this season didn’t really have a champion, and I’m okay with that.
On the practical side, I’m starting to warm up to the new trendy playoff plan, the “bowls plus one” idea. The idea is to move all of the traditional BCS bowls back to New Year’s Day or earlier, and only after they are completed, use the BCS standings to declare the two contenders in the championship game to take place January 8th. Many have complained that bowl games should not be incorporated into any playoff plan because it ruins the whole point of a bowl game – but I think this “plus one” idea is okay because it treats the bowls as more of a potential qualifier instead of an actual playoff round. Most importantly, the bowl games will weed out the pretenders from the contenders (this season’s examples: Texas Tech, Alabama, any team from the Big Ten). And we’ll get a real idea of how strong a conference is before we choose the championship match up. For instance, this entire season, the Pac 10 was thought of as one of the weaker BCS conferences, but they went 5-0 in bowl games, mostly against teams ranked higher than them.
It isn’t really a solution, but it’s better than what we got, and it does a pretty good job at saving the historical tradition of the New Year’s bowl games.