Building a better mousetrap

I don’t know anyone who’s asserted that the present system for determining a (mythical) national champ is flawless.

As I picked some holes in many of the playoff proposals I’ve seen, it seems only fair to suggest some improvements to what we’ve got at present. Here are three things that I believe would make us college football fans happier:

1. Terminate the coaches’ poll. It’s ironic to me that the writers’ poll was eliminated a few years ago over a perceived conflict of interest (journalists shouldn’t be a part of the story they’re covering), yet the coaches, who have a much greater potential conflict than the writers ever had, keep chugging along. Check out this year’s final ballots from the coaches and see if there aren’t a few votes that you don’t find somewhat questionable. Tressel’s abstention hints at the problem. Add in Spurrier’s flippancy:

… South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, who coached the Gators to the ’96 national championship, moved Florida past Michigan in the coaches’ poll.

His reasoning?

“Heck, I’m a Gator,” he said. “I went there. So I had a lot of reason to vote for them right there. It just appeared they’re 12-1, the other team is 11-1, I guess that’s about it.”

and you’re left with the conclusion that there’s got to be a better way to skin this cat. Whether it’s this or some other group of wise men that is substituted, the current poll should go.

2. No more preseason polls. The “settle it on the field” crowd has a valid criticism here, in my opinion. It’s wrong to be setting a baseline before a single snap in a real game has been taken. You can make an argument, as Tuberville did, that it hurt Auburn’s chances to play for the MNC in 2004. I don’t see a problem with waiting until the first week of October to release the first polls so that actual performance is more properly factored in. (Although I guess that means Spurrier’s practice of wasting a top 25 vote on Duke will come to an end.)

3. More flexibility, please. It doesn’t take a genius to see what would reduce the controversy in years like this or 2004: come up with a way for the second and third teams, or second, third and fourth teams to play so that in the end we all feel that the teams in the final mix got their shot. With the fifth BCS game and the week between the bowls and the title game, the structure is in place to handle this. How hard would it be to come up with a formula that would let Florida and Michigan play each other in one of the BCS bowl games and then have the winner play Ohio State a week later in the title game? Or in ’04, to have arranged for USC, Oklahoma, Auburn and a fourth team (Utah, maybe?) to play in two of the BCS bowl games and have the winners face off a week later in the title game? Of course, in seasons like 2005, there wouldn’t be a need to tweak the system, as we got the #1 versus #2 matchup going in. This just doesn’t seem like an insurmountable problem, although it would call for some cooperation from the bowls – and possibly the networks – to make it work. It sure would seem to cut down on a lot of the drama.

I’ll leave it up to someone else to figure out a solution for the year when all of the major conference champs go undefeated, or the top 13 teams all have identical records.

I don’t suggest that these proposals make things perfect, but at least they’re a start on making things better. Feel free to add any comments you may have on your own BCS tweaks…

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