Well it's a bye week Saturday morning, and there aren't any odds out there to speculate on, just yet. The preview will be for later in the week, for which there will be a certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth. However, it is a Saturday that doesn't need to be dead air.
Hokie Nation is in the midst of a dual pronged effort of saving the current season, and figuring out who gets to drive the bus (or as Jay might prefer - F1 Supercar) after the season wraps up - Whether that be on Week 14, or somewhere around the Christmas to New Year's Post-season Exhibition mess. Then I came across the following article from Yahoo sports writer Pat Forde about the first passes at the playoff selection process.
So that influenced me to go back to something that I have been thinking about with for almost a decade. The Post-season Exhibition Mess is a more loaded statement than the Bowl Season, but I think that it's fundamentally more accurate. The Division 1 NCAA (FBS - the abbreviation for the ridiculously named Football Bowl Subdivision) post season has to be the most frustrating, silly, and wasteful part of college football. Somehow the bowls count, but they don't count not really. Often the teams are being coached by interim staffs or coaches known to be on the way out the door. The games can range from exciting to excruciatingly boring. Sometimes it looks like there is a purposeful mismatch of talent levels, and the bowl seems completely manufactured.
Either way, the exhibition bowl season should be left to that level of play. Contests like the Meineke Car Care Bowl, The Military Bowl (as opposed to the Armed Forces Bowl?), and the GoDaddy Bowls are nice rewards for schools that have accomplished something in their season. I do have a serious argument with them about choosing teams with .500 records, but because the lower tier bowls are invitational thus making selection a matter of the Bowl Committee's preferences. Of course that's the crux of this particular piece.
Why is it that a Division 1 FBS Championship is determined by popularity polls, selection committees, and computer programs? I have my theory, and will give it to you at the conclusion of this, but suffice it to say, the current situation isn't any better than the old BCS mess, which was not one ounce better than the old AP only popularity contest. The reason why is quite simple. This is football not figure skating. There are no judges in football. There are no style points. No one gets miffed about your routine, your costume (although Maryland and Oregon might be due some serious negative points for awful garish uniforms) choice, or your music selection. The winner of a football contest is determined by the play on the field, that day. If you win you move on, and if you win the last contest in the playoff chain, you are the Champs. That's it. There is no argument about who was really first, or who was cheated out of a chance because of poll favoritism. The best team on that given day wins.
The FCS league works the plow on a pretty complete set of playoffs. Even though there is polling for teams as a point of journalistic interest, the Division III FCS Championship Game played right in Salem, Virginia (certain editors old stomping grounds) and that team is the real, honest no second guessing Division III Champion.
So exactly how do we get from here, to a rational playoff system? We admit the current NCAA configuration for Division 1 is a messy nonsense; build a divisional structure that provides a competitive base for a divisional championship, and we add a single extra potential game to the tournament schedule.
The first step is to slightly reconfigure Division 1 FBS football into two major FBS Divisions. Division 1 is made up of 7 power conferences of 2 divisions each (I'd prefer 8, but I don't see the teams capable of supporting it.). These teams and conferences would pretty much parallel the current structure between the following:
AAC - Hey it's the old Big East, Mountain West, and a few odds or ends here and there.
ACC - We have a complete division structure here.
B1G - Two divisions all good to go
BIG XII - Two divisions here too
C-USA - They need another team in one division and folks might put them in mid major status
PAC 12 - The PAC 12 needs to beef up considerably and come up with either conferences or schedule that determines a true champion.
SEC - nuff said
A single team wild card could be chosen as the best among the competitors by record and some formula for the tie breaker. Division 2 FBS could be arranged similarly with the Mid-Majors having their own Championship series.
The Sweet 16 (if you will) playoff level already exists, it's week 14 and 15 of the Regular season that is reserved for Conference Championships and classic matchups like (Army - Navy). It would be better to put the Conference Championship games on the week 15 schedule, though since that is usually the 1st weekend in December unless the weekend starts the month, then it would be the 2nd. The Conference Championship winners would all get a Bye week, and be seeded into an 8 team Bowl Sponsored Weekend and week before Christmas game schedule. This is the extra game for these 8 teams, only. It also provides 4 Major Bowl sponsors with prime viewership scheduling. Once the four winners of the round of 8 are determined, the current scheduling for the FBS Championship takes place.
The Regular Exhibition Bowls are not disturbed. Those games can proceed through the holidays as they always do. There would be a scramble for the sponsorship of the round of 8, and then the final two Bowls before the Championship Bowl, but those are easy to work out.
I know there are going to be lots of complaints, and lots of people saying there is too much involved, the money, extra games, etc. But the truth is that there is really only one extra game for the winning schools, and maybe some people will just have to choose where they'd like to be for the holidays. As far as the schools and the seat/dollar racket of the invitational bowls, that should all be completely disallowed. Most revenue comes from TV rights anyway. It's nice to have rumps in seats, but no school should be punished because its alumni and student body couldn't make the trip.
Oh, and my opinion as to why this hasn't been done in Division 1? Media Power and Ego, it's that simple. Face it, big money sports entertainment is media driven. NCAA Division 1A football is the one place where the sports media had almost complete control over who got what honors or ratings. It was an insider poll and information trading. The original BCS tried to take that away, but the truth is that the insider polling game still dominated; this time with coaches and computers tossed into the mix. The sports media still had the power because it still controlled the flow of information, highlights, and accolades. The current mess is only marginally better because it still has the sports media in the catbird seat, and it still involves the judgement of humans on boards and committees.
It's time for a change. Football Champions should be totally determined by play on the field for that season. Anything else is bound to be deeply flawed.