Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch parts of three college football championship games: Division 1-AA (or the Football Championship Subdivision, as the NCAA phrases it) and the Divisions II and III games. All three games were entertaining as the six participants wrapped up their 15-game schedules that stretched from the end of August or beginning of September.
Somehow, the NCAA has it all right for these "lesser" divisions, yet has it all wrong for their showcase league, the Football Bowl Subdivision (or Division 1-A, or the biggest reason why the NCAA grosses over $4 billion - yes, billion - a year).
For some reason, the bigwigs at the NCAA don't feel that a playoff is the best way to determine the rightful national champion in D-1 college football, even though that's how it determines the champions in every other sport in every other division that it runs.
They've made the argument that it will extend the season for too long (the National Championship game will be played on January 8, a full three weeks after the other divisions have wrapped up), that it will hurt the academics and studies of the students (I guess that Division 1-AA, II and III football players don't study) and that it makes players more susceptible to injuries (again, different standards for the different divisions - apparently, the other student-athletes don't get hurt).
As it is, the NCAA just stipulated this year that the schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision add a 12th regular season game to their schedules. This means that schools such as Florida, Ohio State's national title game opponent, will finish their season with 14 games played, because their conference has an additional championship game. That ends being just one fewer than schools like Appalachian State, Grand Valley State and Mount Union played this year.
(Random Note: Who is in charge of coming up with the names like the "Football Championship Subdivision" or the "Football Bowl Subdivision", Dick Vitale? Chris Berman? I can't wait for Tuesday's "Super Scintillating Spectacular" matchup between Northern Illinois and Texas Christian in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision's postseason schedule. Anyway, back to the column.)
Look, everyone knows that the BCS is a joke. Everyone also knows that a playoff is the only true way to crown a national champion - this way, we can avoid the whole USC-Auburn tilt from a few years back.
So if I was in charge of the NCAA, here's my solution to this whole Football Bowl Subdivision (I love how this rolls off my tongue) mess:
1. Eliminate the whole BCS system of "1 vs. 2": Poof. Gone. See ya. However, I will keep the computer rankings - more on that in a second.
2. Eliminate pre-season polls: Completely worthless. You can't judge a team by how it looks in spring practices, or on how good you think the returning talent it (see: Notre Dame, 2006). No polls come out until after the third week of the season.
3. Eliminate the "12th game": I don't know about you, but I'm just not that excited to watch OSU play Youngstown State, or Michigan to play Ball State, or Florida to play Western Carolina, or...well, you get the point.
4. An eight-team playoff: Oh, I said it. Playoffs. Or, as Jim Mora would say it, "Playoffs? Playoffs?" Here's where I'd take the computer rankings used in the BCS to determine the top-eight teams. Is it perfect? No. There will be debate from the ninth and tenth teams left out, but you can't avoid that. I'd rather have the complaining from teams left out of those bottom spots than the situation we're in now, where only two teams have a shot at the top spot.
And even for those teams who play in a conference championship game, the maximum of three games that they'd have in a playoff situation would leave them at...15. Same as Appalachian State. Same as Grand Valley State. Same as Mount Union.
That eight-team playoff would leave us first-round matchups such as OSU-Boise State, Florida-Wisconsin, Michigan-Louisville, and USC-LSU this year. And look at some potential second-round battles: No.1 OSU against either No. 4 or 5 USC or LSU, and No. 2 Florida against No. 3 Michigan, all leading up to a national title game??? Wow.
It sure as heck beats the endless debate over who (arbitrarily) deserves the top two spots and three weeks of games like San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.