The BCS doesn't leave many folks satisfied, and everyone has an opinion on how to fix the system. Most of these plans involve a playoff system.
But is it possible to enhance the BCS without going to a full-blown playoff? It might be a good idea to brainstorm alternative solutions since the majority of FBS coaches and players prefer the current bowl system. Maybe there's a way to keep the current setup while creating more appealing matchups in all of the big bowls.
Bloggers Brian Bennett (Big East) and Adam Rittenberg (Big Ten) take a stab at upgrading the BCS.
Adam Rittenberg: OK, Bennett, we've got ourselves a challenge today. And in the words of the great Barney Stinson, challenge accepted! My conference has three teams that deserve BCS invites after going 11-1 and sharing the league title. But only two will be heading to BCS games because of the two-team limit on teams per conference. Your league has only one ranked team (No. 24 West Virginia) and could be sending a four-loss squad (Connecticut) to a BCS game.
How can we fix this? Should the structure of how BCS berths are distributed be altered?
Brian Bennett: This should be legen -- wait for it -- dary. But hold on a second: You mean you don't think a UConn team that got beat by double digits at Michigan and Temple shouldn't make a BCS game? What a highfalutin Big Ten guy you've become.
Seriously, though, the best solution remains a playoff, or at worst a plus-one. But since that's off the table, here's a bold idea: eliminate automatic bids for conference champions. It's not just because of the Big East; the ACC has sent a four-loss champion to the BCS three times. Why should we reward someone for winning a mediocre league in years when, say, the third-best SEC or Big Ten team is clearly better?
This plan needs some additional tweaks, but it's a start. What do you think?
AR: My Big Ten arrogance certainly runneth over, good sir. I think you're absolutely right about eliminating automatic bids for BCS bowls. They don't serve some of the bowls -- looking at you, Orange and Fiesta -- and they certainly don't serve most college football fans. While we likely would see more SEC, Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big 12 teams in BCS bowls, there could be some seasons when the Big East or ACC deserves multiple berths but won't get them because of smaller fan bases or lower-profile teams. Those teams still deserve to be rewarded.
While everyone wants to rip on the Big East this year, the Big Ten also has hurt the system with its Rose Bowl relationship, as a 9-3 Illinois team went to Pasadena after the 2007 season, only to be eviscerated by USC. That shouldn't happen, either.
So let's say we get rid of the auto bids. What about the revenue sharing? This is all about the money, after all. How could the system ensure leagues without BCS representatives don't get shortchanged?
BB: The "Big Six" conferences would all have to agree to split the pie fairly, which we know is not exactly their first priority. There would also have to be good bowls for the conference champions to fall back on; you wouldn't want a Big East champion, say, getting its reward in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
In truth, I don't think any conference commissioner is going to vote against his league's interest and give up the automatic bid for his champion. But perhaps they could establish some cutoff points, such as a champion must finish in the top 15 of the BCS standings or have no more than three losses.
I also think there has to be a system in place to really reward strength of schedule. Michigan State is a good team, but its nonconference wins over Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Northern Colorado and a 7-5 Notre Dame team (in overtime, on a trick play) don't exactly have me storming the barricades to support the Spartan's BCS worthiness. Am I wrong?
AR: Thinking like a basketball guy, BB. I like it. Strength of schedule should matter a lot more in college football than it does right now. On the other hand, so much college football scheduling is done way in advance, so some games look a lot worse when they finally roll around. Regarding Michigan State, while you make a good point about its nonconference schedule, the Spartans have a stronger SOS than both Wisconsin and Ohio State, no matter what E. Gordon Gee says about it.
The revenue sharing is going to be a major issue with any sort of change to BCS access. The Big East and ACC aren't going to give up their automatic spots if it means losing millions of dollars every year. If the access changes, those leagues still need a sizable cut of the pie.
That said, I would go with a cutoff line of 12 or 13 in BCS standings or a limit of no more than three losses. I hate to see a 9-3 team in a BCS bowl, but what if South Carolina knocks off Auburn on Saturday? The Gamecocks would be worthy with wins against both Bama and Auburn. Still, it's rare that we'd be dealing with too many three-loss teams, even with league championship games.
What about the conference tie-ins with the BCS bowls? We're already seeing some loosening with the Rose Bowl agreeing to take a team from a non-AQ league once every four years. Could we get better matchups if leagues weren't locked into certain games?
BB: I agree that all 9-3 teams aren't built the same. Sorry to play the Notre Dame card, but if the Irish were to go 9-3 with some of the rugged schedules they play, then perhaps they would be BCS worthy.
The Orange Bowl would agree to your idea of ending conference tie-ins right now. That game has been stuck with subpar ACC teams for years and has had all kinds of trouble selling tickets to games no one wants to see. The problem, of course, is the Rose Bowl. They might have been dragged kicking and screaming into this one-time non-AQ agreement, but we both know they're not giving up the Big Ten-Pac 10 tradition anytime soon, even if it results in train wrecks like that Illinois team every so often. The Sugar Bowl is probably going to fight tooth and nail to keep an SEC tie-in as well.
Still, if you have the Orange and Fiesta games able to pick some interesting free agents and not locked into conference champions, perhaps we could get some better matchups in those games. Now all we have to do is get all the BCS commissioners to agree to play fairly and somehow appease the non-AQ schools. Um, I'll put you in charge of that, Adam.
AR: Um, thanks, I guess. Increased flexibility for both the Fiesta and Orange could help the willingness to select non-AQ teams because those bowls could select brand-name teams with large fan bases who could fill seats, buy hotel rooms and boost TV ratings. The Orange Bowl in particular might be a lot more willing to select a team like TCU if it could oppose Florida or Ohio State or Texas.
The Rose Bowl access change must remain, even if it's only once every four years. That game always has juice because of the tradition, and pairing a good non-AQ against a Big Ten or a Pac-10 team doesn't hurt too much. The Rose Bowl can't be treated dramatically differently than the other BCS games.
Right now, only one non-AQ school is guaranteed of an automatic berth if it finishes in the top 12 of the BCS standings. Maybe we can increase it to two if we're making a clear cutoff line for champions from AQ leagues. Under our proposed system, if Boise State and TCU both finished in the top 5 and no Big East team finished in the top 12 or 13, the Broncos and Horned Frogs should be guaranteed automatic berths. As long as the money somehow worked out, we'd see much better matchups across the board.
Well, I think our work here is done. The BCS still wouldn't make a lot of folks happy, but it would work better than it does now.