As long as we're getting three weeks of bowl games preceding the one matchup of national consequence, here's my alternative-world fantasy:
Blow up all conference affiliations with the bowl games. Yes, even the ancient link between the Big Ten and Pacific-10 in the Rose Bowl. That doesn’t exist anymore. The Rose Bowl has invited TCU to play in Pasadena on Jan. 1, and TCU, last time I looked, belongs to neither the Big Ten nor the Pac-10. (Come to think of it, TCU soon will belong to the Big East, but that’s another story.)
Anyway, void every contract binding this league to that bowl, and start over with a clean slate.
Next, eliminate the bowl-selection committees. I don’t want to inflate the unemployment numbers by putting hard-working pencil pushers on the street, but, really, all the bowl representatives do is wear gaudy blazers in the press box and shake hands with other people wearing gaudy blazers.
With the selection process out of the hands of bowl committees, who would decide the pairings? The schools themselves, taking turns on a merit basis.
Auburn, for instance, at No. 1, would have the right to choose any opponent in the national-championship game. Surely it would choose No. 2 Oregon, or else risk a campus revolt and the eternal ridicule of fans from coast to coast.
Next up would be No. 3 TCU. The Horned Frogs jump at a chance to go to the Rose Bowl in my system, just as they’ve jumped at a chance to go in real life. Only instead of taking on No. 5 Wisconsin, TCU would do the right thing and ask No. 4 Stanford for a date on New Year’s Day.
So Wisconsin loses out on the Rose Bowl, but nobody in Madison, Wis., is too angry about it because the Badgers, with the next pick, opt to travel to the Phoenix area for the Fiesta Bowl, where they would have the choice of either No. 6 Ohio State in a rematch of a regular-season game the Badgers won, or No. 7 Oklahoma. No-brainer. Wisconsin takes on Oklahoma.
I doubt selling tickets for Wisconsin-Oklahoma would be a problem.
Selling tickets for the actual Fiesta Bowl matchup – Connecticut vs. Oklahoma – is a problem. For that matter, everything about this season’s Fiesta Bowl is a problem, beginning with a blowout nobody wants to see. The Sooners are 17-point favorites against an 8-4 team that scored a trip to Arizona only because the Big East champions are guaranteed a berth in a BCS game.
Moving on, I’ve got Ohio State picking next, with the presumption the Buckeyes would rather face Arkansas but in the Orange Bowl instead of the Sugar Bowl. That leaves No. 8 Michigan State with dibs on the Sugar Bowl, and the choice of either No. 9 Boise State or No. 10 LSU.
No sleep lost over that. The Spartans, wary of LSU’s home-field advantage in New Orleans, grab Boise State, with LSU left to pick an opponent and travel to whatever remaining bowl site it wants.
As for the rest of the bowl-game schedule, it would follow the same pattern: The highest-ranked team still on the board gets to decide an opponent and a site.
One presumption was consistent: Each team allowed to pick went on to select the best available – highest-ranked – opponent, unless that presented a regular-season rematch.
Not to brag or anything, but compared with the status-quo, my system kicks butt – 35 games, with all 35 figuring as toss-ups by the Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Instead of a Holiday Bowl rematch of Nebraska and Washington, I’ve got the Cornhuskers exchanging a second straight bowl visit to San Diego for a trip to the Alamo Bowl, where they’d play No. 20 South Carolina.
And UW? Because its choices are slim with a No. 66 ranking – the BCS standings end at 25, so I used national rankings determined by CBS Sports – I’ve got the Huskies headed to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco to take on Army.
The payout from the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl is not as lucrative as the Holiday Bowl, and San Francisco is not as balmy as San Diego, but, c’mon it’s still San Francisco. Most important, the game against Army is winnable, a fair test of two 6-6 teams.
Another advantage about my system: Intrigue. For too many schools, the bowl-season scenario offers too few options. Because of league commitments, the same three or four bowls are in the discussion every year.
Pull up the shades on the closed-room deal-making. Open some windows. Heck, allow the fans – even if it’s just the season-ticket holders – some input on where they’d most like to travel for a bowl game.
Along with intrigue, we’d get its first cousin, controversy. Can you imagine the uproar if, say, No. 13 Virginia Tech bypassed on No. 14 Oklahoma State for the chance to play No. 36 Notre Dame? The prelude to the bowl-game selections might be more entertaining than the games.
My hunch on when the affiliation between the major conferences and the bowls will be severed, the first step toward a college-football postseason rich with delicious subplots? I’d put the over/under at several million years, by which time discussions about a playoff tournament might be advanced all the way to a preliminary stage.