Tuesday, December 08, 2009

College Football, As It Should Be

Another regular season of college football is in the books, and as the BCS bowl game matchups are announced and the national title game participants are slotted, there is one thing all college football fans can agree on (yes, even fans in Austin and Tuscaloosa, if they're really being honest): this system is fucked.  I know that isn't a revelation, but every year it gets worse and worse.  How can we possibly know if Texas and Alabama are actually better than TCU, Boise State, and Cincinnati?  Yes, Texas and Alabama play in tougher conferences, but so did Alabama last year, and Utah (from the Mountain West, the same conference as TCU) destroyed the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.  Say TCU or Boise State wins the Fiesta Bowl in a blow out, and Cincinnati dominates Florida.  Who can honestly make a plausible argument that either of those teams isn't as deserving of the national title as the winner of the Alabama-Texas game?  No one, that's who.

Therefore, I have come up with the most comprehensive, sensible, and kick ass solution to college football's BCS question (yes, it is even better than the last time I did this).  In order to achieve a system for determining college football's national championship that doesn't make your head want to explode and leave fan bases and alumni across the country bitter and disillusioned, three major current problems need to be addressed: conference alignment, scheduling, and (of course) the lack of a playoff.  To best show you how things are going to work, I'm going to start at the end; that is, I'm going to start from the ultimate goal (a playoff for the national title) and then work my way backwards to show you how we got there.

(*Note:  All records are based on my projections of each team's performance against the new schedule my system would project for them.  As I work my way back through the season, the record will reflect the games up to that point.  For example, Alabama would be 16-0 by the very end of the season, but only 12-0 at the end of conference play.)


#1 Alabama Crimson Tide (16-0)

So far, if things go according to how most prognosticators see them going, this should look pretty familiar.  As should the...

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (in Pasadena, California)

#1 Alabama Crimson Tide (15-0) over #2 Texas Longhorns (15-0)

By now, you're probably asking yourself why you're reading this, or at least why I went through the trouble of posting a "new" college football system that produces exactly what the old system produced.  While the result may be the same, the way Alabama and Texas got there is much more interesting.  Before they played for the national title in Pasadena, they had to make it through the...


The playoff field is filled by the eight conference champions seeded according to their BCS rank.  (Yes, there are only 8 conferences now, but we'll get to that later).  Each playoff game will take place at a BCS bowl site, which will be expanded to include the Cotton Bowl and the Capital One (formerly Citrus) Bowl.  The bowl sites will rotate each season on the order in which they select which game they want, as well as if they will host a first round game or a semifinal game.  This year's playoff system would look like this (along with my projections for how they would play out):

Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama (13-0) over #8 Central Michigan (11-3)
Cotton Bowl: #2 Texas (13-0) over #7 Cincinnati (12-1)
Orange Bowl: #3 TCU (14-0) over #6 Georgia Tech (12-1)
Capital One Bowl: #5 Ohio State (12-1) over #4 Boise State (12-1)

Rose Bowl: #1 Alabama (14-0) over #5 Ohio State (13-1)
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Texas (14-0) over #3 TCU (15-0)

While the conference champions are getting ready for the playoffs, the rest of the schools will participate in the...


This includes teams that under the current system would get invites to BCS bowls, including Florida (11-2), Oregon (11-1), and Virginia Tech (11-1).  By limiting playoff berths to only conference champions, my system maintains the importance of the regular season and guarantees that a non-conference winner will never even have the opportunity to play for a national title, let alone win one.  The bowl matchups would look like this (with particularly intriguing matchups italicized):

GMAC: Temple (7-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)
Alamo: Penn State (9-3) vs Oklahoma State (10-2)
Liberty: Southern Miss (10-4) vs. Auburn (8-4) Boston College (6-6) vs. Kentucky (6-6)
International: Connecticut (7-5) vs. Toledo (7-5)
Gator: Clemson (8-5) vs. West Virginia (9-3) 
Outback: Iowa (10-2) vs. Florida (11-2)
Chick-Fil-A: LSU (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-1)
Insight: Michigan State (8-4) vs. Texas Tech (9-3)
Texas: Texas A&M (7-5) vs. Navy (7-5)
Sun: Arizona (8-4) vs. Nebraska (7-5)
Armed Forces: Notre Dame (7-5) vs. BYU (8-6)
Holiday: Oregon (11-1) vs. Oklahoma (11-1)
Humanitarian: Houston (9-3) vs. Buffalo (10-2)
Champs Sports: Miami (FL) (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (7-6)
Eagle Bank: Ohio (6-6) vs. Florida State (6-6)
Independence: Kansas (8-4) vs. Ole Miss (9-3)
Music City: Georgia (8-4) vs. North Carolina (7-5)
Emerald: Fresno State (9-4) vs. California (8-4)
Meineke Car Care: Tulsa (6-7)* vs. Pittsburgh (8-5)
Little Caesars: Akron (7-5) vs. Purdue (7-5)
Hawaii: UTEP (8-4) vs. Western Michigan (6-6)
Poinsetta: Michigan (7-5) vs. Stanford (10-2)
Maaco: Idaho (6-6) vs. Washington (6-6)
New Orleans: Colorado State (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6)
St. Petersburg: South Florida (9-3) vs. San Diego State (6-6)
New Mexico: Bowling Green (6-7) vs. Nevada (6-6)
(*Although Tulsa and Bowling Green have losing records, they are still bowl-eligible due to their division championships.)

Prior to the bowl season, each conference will hold its...


The six BCS conferences will pit the winners of the two divisions within each conference against each other.  They would play out as follow:

ACC: Georgia Tech (11-1) over Clemson (8-4)
Big 12: Texas (12-0) over Nebraska (7-5)
Big East: Cincinnati (11-1) over Pittsburgh (8-4)
Big Ten: Ohio State (11-1) over Wisconsin (8-4)
PAC-10: Boise State (11-1) over Arizona (8-4)
SEC: Alabama (12-0) over Florida (11-1)

The other two conferences--Conference USA and the WAC--will play a four-team tournament to decide their champions, with the field being comprised of the four division winners within each conference.

Semifinals: Central Michigan (9-3) over Bowling Green (6-6); Southern Miss (9-3) over Temple (7-5)
Championship: Central Michigan (10-3) over Southern Miss (10-3)

Semifinals: TCU (12-0) over Tulsa (6-6); BYU (7-5) over Fresno State (9-3)

Championship: TCU (13-0) over BYU (8-5)

As you can see, some of the conferences look radically different, especially Conference USA and the WAC (you may also notice that the MAC, the Mountain West, and the Sun Belt no longer exist).  What follows is a look at the new conference alignments, how I see each team finishing, and a brief explanation on why the changes implemented (if any were) were made.



Clemson (8-4, 6-2)
Florida State (6-6, 4-4)
Wake Forest (6-6, 4-4)
NC State (5-7, 3-5)
East Carolina (4-8, 2-6)
Maryland (2-10, 0-8)
Georgia Tech (11-1, 8-0)
Virginia Tech (11-1, 7-1)
Miami (FL) (8-4, 5-3)
North Carolina (7-5, 5-3)
Virginia (5-7, 3-5)
Duke (1-11, 1-7)

The ACC was nearly perfect as is, except for the inclusion of Boston College.  The Eagles were sent back where they belong (the Big East) and replaced by Conference USA powerhouse East Carolina, which over the years has beaten Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

BIG 12

Nebraska (7-5, 6-2)
Missouri (5-7, 4-4)
Kansas (8-4, 4-4)
Kansas State (5-7, 3-5)
Colorado (5-7, 2-6)
Iowa State (1-11, 0-8)
Texas (12-0, 8-0)
Oklahoma (11-1, 7-1)
Oklahoma State (10-2, 6-2)
Texas Tech (9-3, 5-3)
Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5)
Baylor (5-7, 1-7)

No changes were necessary.  It's funny that the two strongest conferences in the country (the Big 12 and the SEC) are the only two that needed no adjustment.

Pittsburgh (8-4, 6-2)
Navy (7-5, 5-3)
Boston College (6-6, 4-4)
Connecticut (7-5, 4-4)
Rutgers (5-7, 3-5)
Syracuse (0-12, 0-8)
Cincinnati (11-1, 8-0)
West Virginia (9-3, 7-1)
South Florida (9-3, 6-2)
Central Florida (4-8, 2-6)
Louisville (4-8, 2-6)
Marshall (3-9, 1-7)

This was a bit of a project to get to 12 teams, as the actual Big East only has 8 members.  Boston College was returned from the ACC, and Navy was brought in from the wilderness of the Independents.  Marshall was added to feud with West Virginia, while Central Florida was added to do the same with South Florida.

Wisconsin (8-4, 5-3)
Michigan State (8-4, 5-3)
Notre Dame (7-5, 4-4)
Purdue (7-5, 4-4)
Northwestern (5-7, 3-5)
Minnesota (6-6, 2-6)
Ohio State (11-1, 8-0)
Iowa (10-2, 7-1)
Penn State (9-3, 6-2)
Michigan (7-5, 3-5)
Illinois (3-9, 1-7)
Indiana (2-10, 0-8)

The Big Ten was easy, as everyone and their mother knows that Notre Dame belongs here.  The toughest decision was deciding which division to put Michigan in; I went with the South to guarantee a game against Ohio State every season, and because none of the other  North teams really made much sense in a "South" division.

Boise State (11-1, 8-0)
Oregon (11-1, 7-1)
Stanford (10-2, 6-2)
Washington (6-6, 3-5)
Oregon State (5-7, 2-6)
Washington State (0-12, 0-8)
Arizona (8-4, 6-2)
USC (8-4, 5-3)
Utah (5-7, 4-4)
California (8-4, 4-4)
UCLA (5-7, 2-6)
Arizona State (5-7, 1-7)

Boise State and Utah step up with the Big Boys here, and, if their respective track records over the past 5 or so years are any indication, both schools are definitely ready for the jump.  Putting Stanford and Cal in separate divisions was tough, but I couldn't come up with any other way to make the divisions make sense.

Florida (11-1, 7-1)
Georgia (8-4, 4-4)
Kentucky (6-6, 3-5)
South Carolina (6-6, 3-5)
Tennessee (5-7, 2-6)
Vanderbilt (4-8, 0-8)
Alabama (12-0, 8-0)
LSU (10-2, 6-2)
Ole Miss (9-3, 5-3)
Arkansas (9-3, 5-3)
Auburn (8-4, 4-4)
Mississippi State (5-7, 1-7)

As mentioned above, no changes were needed here.

Central Michigan (9-3, 8-0)
Toledo (7-5, 6-2)
Western Michigan (6-6, 5-3)
Northern Illinois (4-8, 4-4)
Ball State (1-11, 1-7)
Eastern Michigan (1-11, 1-7)
Southern Miss (9-3, 8-0)
Troy (5-7, 5-3)
Florida Atlantic (5-7, 4-4)
Louisiana-Lafayette (5-7, 4-4)
Louisiana-Monroe (4-8, 3-5)
Florida International (3-9, 2-6)
Temple (7-5, 7-1)
Buffalo (10-2, 7-1)
Ohio (6-6, 5-3)
Akron (7-5, 5-3)
Kent State (4-8, 3-5)
Army (0-12, 0-8)
Bowling Green (6-6, 6-2)
Middle Tennessee State (4-8, 4-4)
UAB (4-8, 4-4)
Memphis (2-10, 2-6)
Miami (OH) (2-10, 2-6)
Western Kentucky (0-12, 0-8)

Okay, this is where things get crazy.  As I started kicking around this idea, I was stumped on how to ensure that the Sun Belt got 12 teams.  Finally it dawned on me that it made sense to combine the five non-BCS conferences into two super conferences, which gave me a wonderfully even 8 conference champions.  The new C-USA would entirely devour the MAC, most of the Sun Belt (Arkansas State and North Texas excepted), and retain a few of its original members.

Fresno State (9-3, 7-1)
Nevada (6-6, 5-3)
UNLV (5-7, 4-4)
San Diego State (6-6, 4-4)
Hawaii (4-8, 3-5)
San Jose State (4-8, 2-6)
BYU (7-5, 7-1)
Idaho (6-6, 6-2)
Air Force (5-7, 5-3)
Utah State (4-8, 4-4)
Colorado State (7-5, 4-4)
Wyoming (2-10, 2-6)
TCU (12-0, 8-0)
Houston (9-3, 7-1)
UTEP (8-4, 6-2)
SMU (5-7, 4-4)
New Mexico (1-11, 1-7)
New Mexico State (0-12, 0-8)
Tulsa (6-6, 5-3)
Louisiana Tech (5-7, 4-4)
North Texas (3-9, 3-5)
Arkansas State (3-9, 2-6)
Rice (2-10, 2-6)
Tulane (1-11, 1-7)

While the C-USA absorbed the entire MAC, the WAC would absorb the entire MWC, as well as bits and pieces from the Sun Belt and the old Conference USA.  TCU and maybe BYU are the only two WAC/C-USA schools good enough to make the Boise State/Utah leap; unfortunately, the conferences where they would best fit (the Big 12 and the PAC-10) don't need anymore teams.  Perhaps if Baylor and Washington State continued losing at their current clip, the conferences could make a swap, but as it stands now, they are stuck being the biggest fish in tiny seas.


Now you may notice that every team (prior to conference championships and bowl games, of course) plays the same amount of games.  You may also notice that they all play exactly 4 non-conference games.  What you couldn't know is that none of those non-conference games are against non FBS opponents.  In my system, prior to the season each team is slotted (most likely by last season's BCS standings, but for my purposes I used a combination of the latest BCS poll, each team's current record, and Football Outsiders' FEI Ratings), and then scheduled to play teams similarly slotted.  For example, every team Alabama would face next season would have also won their division.  Unlike the NFL(which serves as the inspiration for this slotting system), however, Alabama (if they were to win the national title) would get first choice of which division winner they play.  The choice would then move down the BCS rankings, with Texas getting second choice, TCU or Ohio State third choice, and so on.

As for the schools that did not win divisions, their schedule is pretty much chosen for them by their division winner.  If Alabama were to choose to play Tulsa in week one, for example, then the entire SEC West would play the WAC Southeast in week one, with teams occupying the same position (#2 vs. #2, #3 vs. #3, etc.) facing each other.  After week one, the first choice for week 2 would go to the highest ranked division winner that didn't get to choose in week one.  This continues until every division winner has had a chance to choose its opponent.

Beyond the slotting, every team has to play 2 home games and 2 away games in their non-conference schedules.  Gone are the days of Florida never leaving their home state for a non-conference game, as well as the shady deals brokered by football powerhouses  to "buy" home games from smaller opponents and play scheduled road games in their own stadiums.

As for conference games, the top three slotted teams in each division play each other, as do the bottom three teams in each division.  The remaining five games are played against the teams within school's own division.   


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