For want of a real national champion

Posted: Monday, December 19, 2011 by Travis Cody in

I've explained in the past how much I disapprove of the current BCS process for determining what they call a college football national champion.  To reiterate, I think it's stupid and decidedly unfair.  There are 35 bowl games and according to the BCS, only one of them has any real meaning because the winner of that game is declared the champion of college football.


This year, of the 68 teams invited to play in bowl games and the 2 selected to play in the only meaningful game...

  • 13 finished 6-6 overall with one at 6-7
  • 15 finished at 7-5 overall
  • 14 finished with losing conference records
Would you believe that there are several bowl games in which both teams are 6-6?  Believe it.  There are even a couple of games featuring two teams that are 6-6 overall with losing records in their conferences!  Why do teams like that get to go to post season games?

Because there are 35 of them!  Stupid.

There is even one game that features a 6-6 team with a losing record in its conference against a team that finished 6-7 because it lost its conference championship game.

Stupid, I say!

Why am I going on about this if it makes me so irritated?  Because I do enjoy college football and I think it's long past time that the powers that be start rewarding the athletes and schools with a legitimate playoff system to determine a legitimate national champion.  Every other level in football has a playoff system, from pee wee to the NFL.

So I made a reasonable system based on a set of criteria I determined to be important and to which I had easy access.  I'm not a computer so my criteria had to be stats I could find for every team and keep track of relatively easily.

So what's my criteria?  I'm glad you asked.  I assigned points as follows:
  • Wins = 20pts each
    • This is obvious.  Winning your games matters.
  • Road win bonus = 5pts each
    • Winning away from your own comfort and fans is important.
  • Opponent winning record bonus = 10pts 
    • You have to play the schedule and you don't have any control over how good your opponents might be in any given year.  But you should also get credit if your schedule ends up being tough.  So 10pts to teams whose cumulative opponents result in winning records.
  • Category bonus for top 20 finishes in passing yards, rushing yards, points for, and points against  = 5pts each
    • These particular categories summarize a team's proficiency on both offense and defense and does consider winning margin.  That sometimes seems unsportsmanlike, but if a team's schedule is not as tough, it does call attention to how much better a team might be than its schedule might otherwise imply.
  • Conference winner bonus = 15pts
    • Because winning your conference matters.
What's my result after adding up all the points?  Well, the 11 conference winners get automatic invitations to my 16 team tournament.  They are listed in the order they finished in my rankings after the points were added up.
  • LSU (13-0, 8-0) from the SEC, 330pts
  • Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1)  from the Big 12, 280pts
  • Oregon (11-2, 8-1) from the Pac-12, 275pts
  • Wisconsin (11-2, 6-2) from the Big Ten, 270pts
  • Southern Miss (11-2, 6-2) from Conference USA, 265pts
  • TCU (10-2, 7-0) from the Mountain West, 10pts
  • Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0) from the Sun Belt, 245pts
  • Northern Illinois (10-3, 7-1) from the MAC, 240pts
  • Clemson (10-3, 6-2) from the ACC, 235pts
  • Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2) from the Big East, 220pts
  • Louisiana Tech (8-4, 6-1) from the WAC, 200pts
Teams that receive at large invitations come from the top five point totals amongst non-conference winners, listed in the order they finished in my rankings after the points were added up.  
  • Houston (12-1, 8-0) from Conference USA, 280pts - lost to Southern Miss in the conference championship game
  • Boise State (11-1, 6-1) from the Mountain West, 275pts - lost to eventual conference champion TCU
  • Alabama (11-1, 7-1) from the SEC, 270pts - lost to eventual conference champion LSU
  • Virginia Tech (11-2, 7-1) from the ACC, 265pts - lost to eventual conference champion Clemson, once during the season and again in the conference championship game
  • Stanford (11-1, 8-1) from the Pac-12, 250pts - lost to eventual conference champion Oregon
Seeding my 16 team bracket is easy.  Sort them by total points.  Ties go to conference winners.  Now while it does matter to win your conference, I do allow for non-conference winners to take higher seeds if they finished with more points than a conference winner.  Let's face it...some conferences really are stacked with better quality athletes, and sometimes a really good team doesn't win its conference.

So after all the math, here's my bracket.
  • #1 LSU vs #16 Louisiana Tech
  • #8 Southern Miss vs #9 Virginia Tech
  • #5 Boise State vs #12 Arkansas State
  • #4 Oregon vs #13 Northern Illinois
  • #2 Oklahoma State vs #15 Cincinnati
  • #7 Alabama vs #10 TCU
  • #6 Wisconsin vs #11 Stanford
  • #3 Houston vs #14 Clemson
The opening round, quarter finals, and semi finals of my tournament would all be played on the three Saturdays in December prior to Christmas weekend, with the championship game played on New Year's Day.  Higher seeds get home games.  Money from ticket, concession, and sponsorship sales would go to the schools that way, split evenly.  The championship game is played at a neutral site that can rotate between major bowl sites...Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl.  That gets the game moving around the country and preserves some of the pageantry and tradition of the old system.

Maybe my proposal isn't perfect.  

But can you say a system is better that sends Alabama to the BCS title game against LSU?  Alabama didn't win its division and therefore didn't even play for its conference championship.  Whereas Oklahoma State, which finished 2nd in my system for a #2 seed, won its conference but gets shut out of the BCS title game.


So what if those games were actually played in my tournament format?  Who knows what could happen?  I don't.

But I do think that the winner on New Year's day would be a real National Champion.  And I'd watch my tournament.  I won't watch any bowl games this season, and I will not watch the BCS title game.

In fact, I won't watch bowl games ever again.  College football needs a playoff.  


  1. Jean says:

    I'll just catch the parades. I never understood they don't do playoffs like they do with basketball...

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    Hahahaha! You have it down to science, Trav! OSU is not doing well this year so I'm not that much into it :)
    Have a great week!

  1. In this case, though, I do rather believe that LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in the country. Alabama came within a couple of missed fieldgoals of beating LSU. I do think having 6 and 6 teams in bowl games is pretty ridiculous.

  1. We have had this discussion before, but your system is as good as any I have heard prior.

    You should send the idea into one of the ESPN college gameday guys...

    can't hurt

  1. Cherie says:

    It sounds better than anything else I've heard. I agree with Bond. Send it to ESPN or Dan Patrick or somebody. I don't know anyone who likes the current system except for the BCS. :)

  1. Rick says:

    Wait a minute- don't you have a novel you're supposed to be working on?

  1. Your system is 100 times better than any that gives Alabama a re-match after losing to the No. 1 team at home in the regular season.