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December 4, 2006
The BCS Bowl Battle

Preparations for the annual Bowl Championship Series battle have already gotten under way, as tradition demands, after the final week of college football games. No, I'm not talking about teams strategizing for their opponents and bowl management promoting the matchups. I'm talking about the usual hue and cry that occurs when the BCS announces its matchups. This year promises more than its share, as Michigan finds itself aced out of the national championship and an opportunity to avenge its one loss of the year:

After a month of wild upsets in college football, after all the voters cast their ballots and the computers finished computing, the Bowl Championship Series produced a touch of nostalgia to go with the usual controversy.

The final BCS standings had Florida leaping over Michigan for the No. 2 spot on Sunday, sending the Gators to face top-ranked Ohio State in the title game on Jan. 8. ...

Florida entered the weekend with one loss and was No. 4 in the BCS standings, behind Ohio State, No. 2 USC and No. 3 Michigan. But the Trojans' upset loss to UCLA on Saturday scrambled the picture.

Florida Coach Urban Meyer had openly campaigned for his team, which finished the regular season by defeating Arkansas for the Southeastern Conference championship on Saturday night.

So what happened? Two polls shifted Florida above Michigan, despite a moderately effective win against Arkansas and a bye week for the Wolverines. Had USC beaten UCLA as expected, Michigan would have likely remained in third place -- but the coaches and sports writers decided to skew the polls in order to prevent a rematch of Michigan against Ohio State for the national championship.

Why? The one answer given, that no one wants to see a rematch, is simply ludicrous. Perhaps the coaches don't want to see one, but plenty of people thought the earlier game may have been the best of the year. Fans would love another game like the first, especially for all the marbles. However, a better argument would be that a Michigan win would not really solidify them as national champions, but rather tied for the honor. After all, Ohio State went unbeaten this year. If Michigan beat them, they'd only have one loss, along with a win against Michigan earlier. It would be difficult to argue that Michigan would deserve the national championship against Ohio State with a 1-1 record against them.

The only answer for this ongoing, annoying argument is a national tournament, and the NCAA could use the BCS format for it. Simply have the top 16 teams play each other, seeded by ranking where #1 plays #16, and so on. The end of the first round would give us the BCS bowl participants, and the other eight schools could then find other bowl assignments. The next round would eliminate four other teams and assign them to the lesser bowls, and the third week would give us the semifinals, vaulting the two most worthy teams to the national championship game.

In that format, teams with national-championship aspirations could end their schedules in the second week of November. By the first weekend of December, all of the bowl assignments would be set, in plenty of time for the student athletes to prepare for their finals. Promoters would have weeks to get set for the games; networks could sell plenty of advertising. Most importantly, the young men who work hard for months would not get aced out of a national championship game simply because a few coaches and sportswriters got bored with them.

NOTE: The Fighting Irish won a slot at the Sugar Bowl, a BCS game on New Years Day. Congratulations to all my friends at Notre Dame for a fine season!

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 4, 2006 6:42 AM

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