If the Oregon Ducks (1) and Auburn Tigers (2) both run the table we likely have 4 teams finish the season undefeated, all vying for the BCS National Championship. Let's face it, TCU isn't going to lose to San Diego State or New Mexico and Boise State isn't going to lose to Idaho, Fresno State, Nevada, or Utah State.
The scenario would be déjà vu all over again as the same thing happened last year when Texas, Alabama, TCU and Boise State all went undefeated in regular season. Do we really want to see another bowl game between Boise State and TCU for the fourth time in eight years? Given there is no playoff system to resolve the obvious issue, is't not a good situation for NCAA football.
I completely understand that the strength of schedules of teams like Boise State and TCU aren't equivalent to those teams that play in major conferences. Their collective opponents just aren't as difficult and there isn't any way you can twist and turn the facts to suggest that they are. It's important to note however that it's not like every school/team in the nation has the opportunity to play in one of the major conferences. Everyone can't play (pick a perennial big-time program). These teams only play 12 regular season games per year and after playing their conference games, have only a handful of discretionary games to play.
The real problem here isn't that Boise State and TCU play in weaker conferences, it's that the teams from the major conferences often put cream puff games on their schedule when they aren't playing conference games. Those teams could use those dates to play teams like TCU and Boise State. If major conference teams got rid of their cream puff games, they would be able to use those dates to play good teams from lesser conferences.
Powerhouse conference teams playing good teams from lesser conferences would:
- Add strength to the schedules of the quality lesser conference teams closing the gap in strength in schedule.
- Take much of the current debate over whether the lesser conference teams should be considered for a national title shot out of the equation.
* There are those who will point out that major conference programs adding the best teams from non-major conferences to their schedules would just make their schedules harder. If you argue that point however, you are admitting that these are a quality opponents and can't claim that they should not be in the BCS National Championship discussion.
If TCU or Boise State played Oregon instead of one of Oregon's cream puff games, and beat them (or lost), the question over whether TCU or Boise State belong would be a moot point as any debate about this topic would be resolved on the field. And isn't that really the point?
I'm not picking on any one team, but just for example, let's just look at the top two teams in the current rankings. How does it do anyone any good in the world of NCAA Football for Oregon to have beaten New Mexico and Portland State by a combined score of 141-0? Exactly who gains from that happening? Does Oregon really get anything out of that? New Mexico and Portland State certainly didn't get anything out of it other than maybe some injuries. Did it help another school or the game of college football in another way? Seriously, I'm begging..... Someone please tell me a positive reason to have scheduled those games.
As for Auburn, the majority of their schedule is against a virtual who's who of college football, no doubt. But is there a point in Auburn playing Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe or Chattanooga? I didn't even know that Chattanooga had a team (and neither did you) until this weekend. As it turns out, they are a Division 1-AA team. What's the point of scheduling those games? What purpose does it serve to schedule games where the outcome is 100% certain before the kick-off?
The NCAA could solve this problem without having a playoff by simply scheduling non-conference games instead of letting the schools schedule the games themselves. Think about it, how great would it be if you were an AFC team in the NFL this year and were able to have scheduled this year's weak NFC West teams as your non-conference games? Think it would help?
NCAA Should Schedule Non-Conference Games
It's not that I'm not for a playoff system, I am, but the reality is that it will never happen. It's like debating the merits of a Major League Baseball salary cap. It's a popular debate, but the reality is that the MLBPA would never let that happen. Given that the NCAA isn't going to institute a playoff system, the NCAA should do the next best thing and schedule the non-conference games for teams based on the previous year's finish. What's the downside risk here? A school wouldn't know who it's playing in its third game three years from now? Big deal, it's not like the games would be scheduled just a few weeks ahead of time. Scheduling games a year in advance is more than enough time for the logistics of stadium availability, travel for teams and fans, TV etc. all to be worked out.
Sometimes I think the NCAA doesn't want to address this issue simply because all the debate over who the best undefeated team in major college football is creates a lot of talk about the game, and that's what they want. And when you have four of them to talk about, there is certainly a lot of debate. Let's face it, there are thousands of you reading this right now, and if TCU and Boise State weren't in the National Championship picture with lesser strength of schedule scenarios, none of you would have just read this.
Using this suggested method of scheduling, the NCAA can keep the BCS and not have a playoff system (that's what they want), but do a better job of getting to who the two teams that deserve to play in the National Championship Game are. This would take away any debate about who should / should not have gotten to play in the National Championship game.
In many respects this alternative is not only better than the current BCS system, but it's better than a College Playoff System. The tradition of the current bowl games could be kept keeping the money flowing in from corporate sponsors and also keeping "old school" fans happy while at the same time, avoiding any of the logistical hazards for amateur athletes associated with a playoff system.
In the end however, this solution would take away much of the debate about "who is better" in college football and the NCAA probably wouldn't want to do that. So for now, teams like TCU and Boise State will remain oxymoron's as they continue to be Consistent Winners and Perennial Losers.... - Mike Cardano
Mike is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball & Xtra Point Football.