By Rick Morris
I have written previously of my regard for a “plus-one” as a means of better settling college football’s championship controversies on the field. It is not advisable to advocate such a format in polite company, but I believe that it would preserve the sanctity of the regular season – which even BCS and bowl haters cannot deny is a hallmark of college football like in no other major sport.
Naturally, I was curious about how such a system would look going into this year’s slate of games now that we know the final BCS rankings. For starters, we know that #1 Auburn would be matched up in a national semifinal against #4 Stanford, with #2 Oregon and #3 TCU fighting it out in the other one. The winners would then meet, of course, in Glendale, AZ on January 10 to determine the national championship.
I tried to use common sense to figure out how the present landscape would be integrated into a plus-one format. I stipulated that the bowl hosting the subsequent national championship game would get one semifinal game. That would be the Fiesta Bowl this time. I then stipulated that the bowl game two years away from hosting the national championship game would get the other semifinal game. That would be the Orange Bowl this time. This method would ensure that each of the four BCS bowl games would either host one national semifinal game OR the national semifinal game/national championship combo every other year. My guess is that the NCAA will look to space out those games in this manner when/if they implement the plus-one.
From there, I took bowl tie-ins into consideration. I stipulated that the bowl game attached to the national championship game – again, that’s the Fiesta Bowl this time around – would host the national semifinal involving the top-ranked team UNLESS the other bowl game hosting a semifinal had a conference tie-in with either of the two teams. Since Auburn’s tie-in is with the Sugar Bowl as the SEC champions and Stanford is not a conference champion, these circumstances do not apply. Similarly, neither #2 Oregon (Rose Bowl tie-in as Pac-10 champs) and #3 TCU (no BCS bowl tie-in since the Mountain West does not have one) are attached in any way to the Fiesta Bowl, there would be no need for them to relocate that game from the Orange Bowl.
So here’s how we start the BCS setup under these circumstances:
Fiesta Bowl: #1 Auburn vs. #4 Stanford
Orange Bowl: #2 Oregon vs. #3 TCU
BCS Title Game: contested between Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl winners
That leaves the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl, the latter of which would host Wisconsin as Big Ten champions. Oklahoma (Big 12 champions), Virginia Tech (ACC champions) and UConn (!!!) (Big East champions) would need to fit the three remaining slots.
Using the present methodology, the Sugar Bowl would get first pick of those three, since they lost the #1 team in the country to one of the bowls with a national semifinal game. It’s pretty clear that Oklahoma would be the most attractive possibility of the three. The Rose Bowl would then get the next pick and they would almost certainly opt for Virginia Tech, leaving UConn as the second Sugar Bowl pick.
So the last two matchups would look like this:
Rose Bowl: #5 Wisconsin vs. #13 Virginia Tech
Sugar Bowl: #7 Oklahoma vs. unranked UConn
The Big East’s automatic bid would come under unprecedented scrutiny, since Ohio State and Arkansas would each be relegated to either the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl because of the weak-sister Huskies taking the automatic bid.
With an unusual two at-large berths awarded in the national semifinal games, there would only be room for BCS conference champions among the remaining spots. As such, it’s clear that there would have to be a rule in place limiting the national semifinal berths to no more than two at-large berths in order to keep the automatic BCS spots in place. It’s highly unlikely this would happen, but if there were three at-large teams in the top four of the BCS rankings, the third one would be passed over for the highest-remaining BCS conference champion.
Of course, that point would be moot if Jerry Jones got his way and if the Cotton Bowl (now held at JerryWorld) were readmitted to the ranks of the elite, where they reigned for decades. If the Cotton Bowl joined the rotation, the additional two at-large berths would remain and certainly, Ohio State and Arkansas would both end up in BCS bowls.
Regardless, I would prefer the plus-one system in any incarnation and my mind is not changed at all by seeing how this year’s results would cause the teams to be slotted.