Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010
By Joe Collins
I am going to save college football today. I already had my breakfast burrito. I took out the garbage. Might as well save a major sport before it gets too late in the day, you know? Nothing else better to do.
Speaking of burritos, college football is like a late night steak n' cheese burrito: they're both primarily consumed on weekends (while inebriated), some people have rather unhealthy cravings for them and, despite the occasional upset stomach, you would still take it in time and time again because it tastes good. And the makings of it can be greasy. Very, very greasy.
Unfortunately, despite all the good that college football has to offer (traditional rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan, New Year's Day bowl games, coaches like Joe Paterno, etc) there is a film that you have to peel off the sport every now and then. You can look no further than the Reggie Bush fiasco, SMU football in the '80s and two 6-6 teams playing in the Interstate Quality Furnishings Commerce and Trade California New England Jambalaya Associates -dot-com bowl on December 17th as proof. The rich always seem to get richer, the postseason is fairly anticlimactic and nauseating scandals involving recruits and dollars are commonplace.
All the Pine Sol in the world can't clean up the college football grease in one day, so I deciding to clean one area at a time: I'm debuting my enhanced playoff system. I am going to eliminate some of the rather annoying parts of the college football season and I guarantee it could snowball into positive changes elsewhere in the sport. I give you: NCAA brackets --football version-- with 32 teams fighting for the final dance in the new year. Here's how it breaks down:
Each of the 11 major conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, C-USA, MAC, MWC, Pac-10, SEC, Sun Belt and WAC) gets at least one team into the tournament. The independents -- Army, Navy and Notre Dame -- are treated as at-larges unless they're in the top 4 of the AP rankings. At-larges get into the tournament based on strength of schedule, good wins vs. bad losses (or heck, good losses and bad wins for that matter), won-loss record and so on. I'll even be willing to let the BCS computer mingle with the committee on Selection Saturday. More on that in a bit.
Most, if not all, 6-6 teams wouldn't qualify. Seriously...a 6-6 team that loads up on cream puffs like Eastern Montana Polytechnic State --and then soils the mattress in a bowl game -- should never be awarded a berth in postseason play.
An independent committee (read: one that isn't tempted by Samsonite briefcases full of cash) decides the field in the same capacity that the NCAA baskteball tournament is decided. Only this time it's on "Selection Saturday", which is aired just after the Army-Navy game...traditionally, the last major regular season game on the NCAA calendar. There's that word again...tradition. People love that word. The same four bracketed "regions" can and should be used. For instance, if we were to go by the current AP poll, Alabama would get the 1 seed in the East, Ohio State the top spot in the Midwest, Boise State tops the West, TCU does the same in the South.
The tournament begins 'around' the 10th of December. "December Madness" if you will. I still have to work on a catchy, TV-friendly title. Dash to December, maybe? Ehh. Anyway, the first round battles are still played under "bowl game" monikers at the bowl's original location. For instance, 1 seed Alabama would play 8 seed Missouri in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl (seriously...that is an actual game this year). Or, 1 Boise State would take on 8 Oklahoma State in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Every bowl keeps their original sponsor so nobody loses any money. Let's face it, the first round is obviously not the most prestigious when it comes to bowl names. But think of how exciting first round NCAA basketball games are. You would think the same could work for football. Heck, if an 8-seed beats a 1-seed, you would have people 20 years from now saying, "Hey...you remember that Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl from 2010, when Toledo beat the Buckeyes?"
The second round and third rounds are played around the 17th and 24th of December, respectively. The later the round, the more prestigious the bowl. The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds could be must-see television. Who's up for a 2 vs. 4 matchup in the Sun Bowl featuring high-octane Oregon vs. LSU's sack-happy defense? I'd watch. I'd also watch 3 Stanford vs. 4 Michigan in the Liberty Bowl. Pssh...they could hype the Jim Harbaugh angle forever on that one. Since college football loves money, you put of those Elite Eight games on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I mean, since most families sit around and watch TV on this day anyway, it should be a no-brainer for broadcast executives. Think of the tradition that Thanksgiving has with football and TV. Christmas would be the next logical step. Right? NBA could get the morning, college football get the night. And since there's nothing else relevant on during this 24-hour Christmas EveDay period anyway (seriously, how many times have we seen "It's a Wonderful Life"?), you would be tempted to watch live football.
The two Final Four games would always take place on January 1st. And those games are the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Period. Apologies to the Fiesta and Sugar. The NCAA loves tradition. The Tournament of Roses parade never has to move. Pasadena takes a huge sigh of relief. And the games at this juncture are never dull. Alabama vs. Boise State for the right to play in the National Championship Game. Demon Nick Saban vs. the little-engine-that-could Broncos. You're telling me you wouldn't watch that?
The (fill-in-your-corporate sponsor here) National Championship Game presented by (fill in another corporate sponsor name here) gets played on January 8th in a stadium that is decided in the same manner as the Super Bowl -- one year it's in Glendale, another year it's in Dallas...you get the picture. The two most battle-tested playoff teams fight for everything in one game. And one team smiles into the sunset. The end.
Hmm...that wasn't too hard at all.
C'mon, NCAA'ers. It can be done. Tradition stays, the weaker parts fade away. Trust me. This can work. Break out the gloves and start scrubbing.
Or something like that.