Time for a Plus-One in College Football?

by John Furgele

The BCS Championship Game was late in the fourth quarter with Alabama sitting on a 24-21 lead.  Even so, the game was void of any real drama.  Did anyone think that freshman backup QB Garrett Gilbert was going to take Texas down the field to a potential game tying field goal or perhaps the winning touchdown?

The BCS Championship Game’s lack of drama summed up how college football runs.  The path to the game is exciting and tension filled, but in the end, it is anti-climactic.  The last great title game was Texas overcoming USC in Pasadena in 2006 and that was still the Rose Bowl, before the addition of the official BCS Championship Game.

College football does NOT need a playoff and shouldn’t even think about one for the future.  College football is unique because they don’t have one and even though it sounds hypocritical, the football players don’t need to spend more time playing football.  These athletes begin practicing in early August and if their team is good, play into January.  That’s five months right there.  They will now take a few weeks off, then will begin lifting weights and doing the required offseason regimen.  In April, it’s two weeks of spring practice, so those who argue that football takes time away from the players are very accurate. 

But, the current BCS system has taken away all the drama that college football used to have.  Florida coach Urban Meyer said it best after the Gators pasted Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl when he said that “the BCS game has taken a lot away from the other very good bowl games like the Sugar Bowl.”

Meyer is right on here.  In the old days, all the major bowl games meant something.  Teams that played in the Rose, Sugar, Cotton/Fiesta and Orange Bowl knew that if they played well and things went their way that they might have a shot at being voted the national champion.  In 1978 (1977 season), Notre Dame came into their Cotton Bowl matchup with number one Texas ranked fifth.  They  clobbered the Longhorns, got some help and the next day were voted champions. 

The same thing happened in 1984 (1983 season).  The Miami Hurricanes came into their Orange Bowl game against number one Nebraska ranked fifth, but after winning 31-30 and getting some help, they became national champions.

Today, you don’t get that.  Everything rides on the BCS title game.  The Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta are still good games between good teams, but they have become overshadowed by the one game.  I’m sure the executives of these bowl games don’t like it.  I’m sure they would like their bowl game to have some type of say, or impact on who gets voted the national champion of college football. 

A plus one system would make all the major bowl games relevant again.  The winners of the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowl would have a chance to be selected to play in the BCS Championship Game the next week.  I have to believe that this would make the bowl organizers happier, but I could be wrong.  Might the Rose Bowl organizers be offended that their champion gets selected to play the following week and then loses?  Does winning a bowl game and then losing the next week diminish winning the bowl game?

Of course, you get this in all the other sports.  In football, you win the AFC Championship, but if you lose in the Super Bowl, does that take away from your AFC Championship Game victory? 

It probably does, but after the Super Bowl is played, teams can look back and say that yes, they had a pretty damn good season and just because they lost in the Super Bowl doesn’t mean they’re losers. 

Forget about a playoff system.  The colleges are not going to throw away the millions they receive from the bowl games that are currently in place and yes, there is some good in seeing a downtrodden SMU go to the Hawaii Bowl and win it to cap off a rewarding 8-5 season. 

A plus one would put some sizzle back into New Year’s Day and January 2.  This year would have been great for that.  Play two BCS bowl games on January 1, and play the next two the next day.  Then, on January 7 or 8, play the BCS Championship Game.  It would create sizzle and because college football is more beauty contest than cold and hard, some controversy as well. 

Based on this year’s bowl matchups, the four winners were Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Iowa and Boise State.  And, based on the results, it would be Boise State versus Alabama for the BCS title.  Florida is probably better than Boise State, but Florida had their shot at a national title, but was drubbed by Alabama in the SEC title game.  But, Florida knocked Cincinnati out in the Sugar Bowl, while Boise State knocked out Texas Christian and earned their spot. 

Ohio State and Iowa would be out because each school had two losses and in Iowa’s case, they were the Big Ten runner-up.  The only negative of the plus-one system was mentioned above.  Does having a game the week after the bowl games make the bowl game win a bit hollow? 

The answer is probably yes and that will be the biggest hurdle to implementing the plus one.  The Rose Bowl will probably hold out.  They will argue that their game is the ultimate and most prestigious game and that “we cannot allow our champion to tarnish its great Rose Bowl victory by playing the following week,” even it is for a national title. 

Still, it would be nice because college football is a fantastic sport.  It is more compelling than the NFL, but it lacks the great finishing kick that the NFL has.  A playoff is not necessary, but a plus one would help the sport’s finishing kick without rupturing the current bowl system. 

I won’t hold my breath, but I’m hoping.

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