Tuesday, July 31, 2007

10 ways to improve college football FAST:

These are in reverse order of importance, as the numbers indicate.

10: Let's have a Big Ten/Pac 10 Rose Bowl.
This really shouldn't be an issue, but it is. Since the BCS was formed, the Rose Bowl has twice hosted the National Championship. Now the national title is a fifth game, separate from the old Alliance Bowls. However, aside from the two national title games (2001 Miami vs Nebraska and 2005 Texas vs USC), there have been a few seasons when, puzzlingly, the match up has not been the Big Ten and Pac 10. For instance, in 2002, USC and Iowa met in the Orange Bowl while Oklahoma met Washington State in the Rose Bowl. We wouldn't have even needed to switch the matchups in this case. Also, in 2004, Michigan was expected to play Cal in the Grandaddy, but Cal was snubbed in favor of Texas in the final BCS poll. Fortunately, Vince Young was able to prove the computers right.

9: Have the Iron Bowl in Birmingham.
This game is too big to be played in each team's home stadium. The fans in the state of Alabama should see the game on neutral territory. And don't give us the "we need to make sure each team gets equal home and road games" nonsense, because fellow SEC members Florida and Georgia play in Jacksonville every year.

8: Stop Favoring Notre Dame.
We get it. The NCAA wants the Irish to be a power again. That's great. But stop sending them to Bowl Games they don't deserve to be in. Everyone knew that LSU would manhandle ND in the Sugar Bowl, because the two BCS schools the Irish played in the regular season had done just the same. Notre Dame in the BCS has been blown out by Oregon State and LSU, and lost somewhat respectably to Ohio State. Guys, seriously, just have them play in the Gator Bowl. It will be okay, the fans won't commit suicide. Promise.

7: Throw Southern Methodist a frickin' bone.
Seriously, the only program in the history of college football to receive the "Death Penalty" has had enough. The people who are there now had nothing to do with the scandals of the 1980's. Help them out; get some Mustang games on ESPN in prime time -- preferably the winnable ones -- and let's see if the Ponies can't find their way into a bowl game by 2012.

6: Have a Big Ten Championship Game.
The idea that a conference must have 12 teams in order to have a title game is fine, but there needs to be an exception here. Ohio State and Michigan were both undefeated when they played this year, and fortunately they got the chance to sort it out on the field. However, what if there were a season when the two unbeaten schools never met? This is the only BCS conference where this is an issue. The Pac 10 has nine conference games, so everyone plays everyone, the Big East only has eight schools, and the other three (ACC, Big XII, SEC) have title games already in place. Notre Dame isn't joining a conference any time soon, so let's just have 6 teams in one division and 5 in the other. It will be okay. Promise.

5: Continue to make the BCS more "small conference friendly".
The interesting thing about the BCS is that the "big boys" are 0-2 against teams from smaller conferences. Utah dominated Pittsburgh in 2004 and Boise State of course had the fantastic finish against Oklahoma. Both were in the Fiesta Bowl, and both made it clear that it's not only fair, but also extremely fun to have these David vs. Goliath games in January. It wouldn't even be a stretch to say that a "1 non-BCS program per year" plan could work.

4: Chill out with the celebration penalties.
I understand the crackdown here, and in a few ways I support it. I don't think we should allow players who have just scored touchdowns to rifle the ball into (or out of) the stands. However, there have been points where this has become completely absurd. Jay Cutler almost closed his college career out with wins over Florida and in-state rival Tennessee. Why almost? Well, after Cutler threw a TD pass to cut Florida's lead to 1 in the swamp, Vanderbilt was going to go for two and the win. However, a celebration penalty (and a phantom one at that) caused them to settle for a PAT. The Gators won in overtime. Let the kids play, and it will be okay. Promise.

3: Bring back the Florida Cup.
I still don't understand why this is even an issue. Florida still plays Florida state at the end of every season, and now Miami and FSU play in their ACC opener. So why doesn't Miami just continue to play Florida? It's clear that the Canes aren't afraid of scheduling tough non conference teams. They get Oklahoma this year. Plus those games were unbelievably fun to watch. In 2002, when Miami beat Florida 41-16, sportswriters began muttering about how that team from "The U" might be better than some NFL teams. Plus the 2003 game at the Orange Bowl was an absolute classic.

2: Inform Duke that they have exactly five years to field a respectable program.
Duke football is something else. They play in a horseshoe that would make Buckeye fans chuckle. Actually, it might even make Harvard fans laugh. They have one win in the past two seasons, and they probably bottomed out with a 13-0 loss at home to Richmond. If you play division 1-AA teams at home and fail to score a point, there's a problem. The ACC obviously won't drop Duke as the Big East did Temple, only because Duke helps enormously in basketball (men's and women's) and with academic standards.

1: Add the Cotton Bowl and one other game to the existing BCS, and play a 12 day, 7 game, 8 team playoff.
It's really quite simple. The first slate of games would be December 21st and January 1st, and would include all eight teams playing in the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and the Sun Bowl (or any other that gets promoted to BCS status). Then on January 5 and 6 the Rose Bowl (between the December 31st winners) and Orange Bowl (between the January 1st winners) are played, respectively. Finally, the BCS Championship game is held on January 11th. This idea can be tweaked, but I really don't see any glaring problems with it at this point. And yes, rule #5 is still in effect. A playoff is the only way to get to an undisputed champion. It will be okay. Promise.

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