Bowl Bids on the Line: Conference Clarity Nears
The golden age of New Year's Day bowl games is long gone, but there are still conference championships to be decided and a packed slate of bowl games to be played.
The Sugar Bowl has long been the home of the SEC champion, but lately the SEC titlist has dominated the BCS. This year, Alabama and Auburn will play for a berth in the conference final against the East champion. If the Crimson Tide wins, they'll play for their third straight national championship.
That's only been done once before. You might be surprised who did it.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have traditional ties to the Rose Bowl, called the Grandaddy of Them All because it originated the concept of post-season celebrations for college football teams. In fact, many traditionalists on the West Coast and in the Great Lakes region still consider it the highlight of the holiday season, ranking it above even the BCS championship game.
So Ohio State may be hoping for Alabama or Florida State to lose but if they do not, they will most likely play Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl and it won't disappoint much of their fan base at all. Oregon is again the team to beat in the Pac 12. The Ducks have the inside track to the Northern Division crown, and if they can hold serve in their final two games, will face either Arizona State, UCLA, or USC for its chance to play in Pasadena on Wed 1 Jan.
The Big 12 is the old Southwest Conference, which always had a tie-in to the Cotton Bowl. That allegiance is gone now in deference to the Fiesta Bowl. Right now, Oklahoma State and Baylor control their own destinies as the season winds down. Texas still has a mathematical shot, but they need too much to happen.
The Orange Bowl is stuck with the ACC, which only had one elite team this season in Florida State. The Seminoles have an inside track to the BCS championship game, giving the Orange Bowl a chance to invite another team. Last season, BCS buster Northern Illinois was the mandated guest, and the Huskies may be so again if three factors fall into place:
- Northern Illinois must finish in the BCS Top 16;
- Fresno State must finish below them, which will probably mean it must lose a remaining game; and
- Probable AAC champion Central Florida must be ranked below them.
Well, let's consider the situation.
Some unbeaten teams have no chance to play for a title. Some teams skate through on less demanding schedules, which allows for less wear and tear on players, among other things. Coaches who vote in the USA Today poll often fob that task off to a minion in their sports information department. Six different computer ranking systems use six different sets of criteria. Some include point spreads even though the NCAA says point spreads should not be a factor. Then again, the BCS is not part of the NCAA.
So, yes, the BCS is confusing; the bowl system is confusing.
Those playoffs start this week. What if the BCS did something like that, even if it was only with eight teams? Imagine Alabama getting ready to play a team like Louisville this week in the first round of the playoffs instead of their embarassing scrimmage against Chattanooga. Imagine Ohio State in a put-up-or-shut-up first rounder against Missouri. Imagine how much more interest it would generate as opposed to mismatches like Florida State against Idaho.
Think of the money it would generate.
If the other divisions can do it, why can't the FBS follow suit?
It is a question to which no one seems to have a logical answer.