The vast expanses of empty seats in these college bowl games really demonstrate how the process is becoming watered down. There are now 35 bowl games, yet ESPN ran a story about how a 7-5 Western Kentucky team got robbed. With their two marquee wins coming against Florida International and Louisiana-Lafayette, can we please refrain from complaining about this mediocre team being left out? I understand that a bowl game would have meant the world to that program, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t have gotten UCLA’s bowl bid, but when did we decide that every team that earns a winning record (or in the case of 6-7 UCLA, a barely losing record) deserves a bowl game? I thought that was just the bare minimum. Some of these lower tier bowl games are the equivalent of matching up 15 and 16 seeded teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and trying to convince us that we should tune in (and I do).
As the NCAA continues to add more bowls to the schedule, the bowl season is slowly creeping deeper and deeper into January. Clemson, playing in the Orange Bowl on a Wednesday night, is having a hard time selling their allotment of 17,500 tickets. Their opponent West Virginia is having even more trouble. Both South Carolina and West Virginia public schools will be back in session by the time January 4th rolls around, making it hard for families to take the week off for a trip to Miami. I’m betting it would boost average attendance, if the NCAA brought some of the prestige back to earning a bowl bid and cut some of the superfluous bowls (GoDaddy.com Bowl anyone?). Additionally, that may allow planners a little more flexibility to slot the bowl games on days where more families can make the trip.
Clemson will play in their 34th bowl game this year, a pretty impressive record. For comparison, Notre Dame has played in 30 bowl games. Unfortunately, it’s being washed out by every halfway decent team making a bowl game for each of the last 10 or so years. Even South Carolina plays in bowl games these days (they’ll play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl for a chance at their fifth all-time bowl victory).
On top of the bevy of bland bowls, this is one of the few seasons when the BCS got it wrong. They gave it to an Alabama team that had a clearly inferior resume to that of the #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys. It has gotten everyone squawking and demanding a four or even eight team playoff system, but I think I’ve found a simpler solution.
First let’s stop adding bowl games and instead let the BBVA Compass Bowls of the world expire, getting us back to a more reasonable amount of bowl games and bowl teams. Then let’s exclude the National Championship from the bowl schedule. Moving the two highest ranked teams from the National Championship game to the traditional bowl schedule would knock out two more average teams and make the bowl season that much more enjoyable and important. By taking those two steps we’ve restored the prestige and interest to the bowl season.
Then, after every bowl game is played, and we’ve seen all those non-conference matchups, the BCS can come out with its most important rankings–the one that will determine the BCS National Championship game. Using this season as our example we wouldn’t have VT or Michigan in the BCS. Instead we’d see a little more clarity as Alabama and Oklahoma State would play in their BCS Bowls (potentially against each other) before a National Championship Game need be decided. This would turn the BCS bowls in a defacto playoff, add prestige to the bowl games rather than ruining them as a standard playoff bracket would do, and keep college football the best brand of football in the world.
Are you on board?
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