Happy New Year! 2008 seems to be off to a good start. An unworthy Ohio State football team was properly embarrassed by the LSU Tigers in the BCS Championship game. Notre Dame did not get embarrassed in a Bowl game. Charlie Weis is still recruiting his ample ass off, and those recruits are making him (and Notre Dame) look really good by playing lights out in the high school all-star games. It's all good.
So - are we all happy with the BCS system? This year featured the aforementioned unworthy Ohio State Buckeyes taking the opportunity to play for a National Championship away from other, better teams who would have given LSU a much tougher test. And after all that, what do we really know? Some years the BCS title game answers all the questions and gives the nation a clear, consensus champion. In other years, folks are left clamoring for a "Plus 1" game that would match the best two teams to emerge from the bowl games. This year, arguably, there emerged from the bowl games four teams that looked impressive enough to lay claim to being the best team in the land (LSU, USC, Georgia and West Virginia). When it was all over and OSU laid an egg (over easy) in the Big Easy, was it really clear that the 2-loss Tigers were superior to the 2-loss Trojans, the 2-loss Bulldogs, and the 2-loss Mountaineers?
So, some years the BCS "works", some years you really need a "Plus-1" and some years you really need a four team playoff. That's not a system, that's chaos. There has to be a better way. There is a better way.
I present to you the results of the first annual OC Domer Tournament of Champions. The Tournament of Champions is an eight team playoff featuring the top 8 teams chosen from a pool of the champions of each Division1-A conference plus the highest ranked Independent. While it is not a requirement, in most years the field will be comprised of the champions from each of the six BCS conferences, plus the two highest ranked teams from among the champions of the non-BCS conferences and the Div 1-A Independents.
The concept for the TOC is premised upon a simple but very important concept: If you are not the best team in your conference, you aren't the best team in the nation. A corollary to that central premise is that if you are the champion of your conference, you are the best team in your conference. Scoreboard. The TOC is not a beauty pageant. The TOC is not concerned with which team is, in some esoteric intangible sense, the "best" or the "most talented." The TOC is looking for the team that has played the best on the field and has earned the right to play for the National Championship. Didn't qualify for your conference title game? Sorry. Lost your conference title game? Sorry. We're looking for winners in crunch time.
So how did this year's inaugural TOC field shape up? Here are the qualifiers (the BCS standings referenced are as of December 2nd, which followed the conference title games and which will be used for seeding):
#1 Seed: Ohio State (Big Ten Champion, BCS #1)The champions of the six BCS conferences fill six slots. Hawaii and BYU were the highest ranked teams from the non-BCS/Independent pool, and it's hard to argue that an undefeated Hawaii (or Boise State) doesn't deserve a berth in the TOC. Others in the pool were Conference USA champ Central Florida, Independent Navy, MAC champ Central Michigan, and Sun Belt champ FAU. Notre Dame fans would hope that in many years the Irish would rank high enough to grab one of these non-BCS/Independent slots. Georgia, Mizzou, and Kansas can feel left out, but at the end of the day you need to be a champion to play in the Tournament of Champions. Play better.
#2 Seed: LSU (SEC Champion, BCS #2)
#3 Seed: Virginia Tech (ACC Champion, BCS #3)
#4 Seed: Oklahoma (Big 12 Champion, BCS #4)
#5 Seed: USC (Pac 10 Champion, BCS #7)
#6 Seed: West Virginia (Big East Champion, BCS #9)
#7 Seed: Hawaii (WAC Champion, BCS #10)
#8 Seed: BYU (Mountain West Champion, BCS #17)
Here are the first round games:You have to figure Ohio State handles BYU to advance. Not a gimme, but still. USC defeats Oklahoma. I base that on the fact that OU got run by WVa in the Fiesta Bowl, while USC dominated the Illini in the Rose Bowl. Also, USC is well ahead of OU in the final polls. LSU certainly send Hawaii home with some lovely parting gifts. And in a great football game, West Virginia defeats Va Tech.
#1 OSU v. #8 BYU
#4 Oklahoma v. #5 USC
#2 LSU v. #7 Hawaii
#3 Va Tech v. #6 West Virginia
Therefore, the semi-final match-ups are:Did anybody see the Rose Bowl or the BCS Title game? USC advances. In a much closer contest, LSU has the speed to defend WVa's spread offense, and they use their superior size to control the ball on offense. The Tigers advance to the OC Domer Championship game:
#1 OSU v. #5 USC
#2 LSU v. #6 West Virginia
#2 LSU v. #5 USCNow THAT is a championship match-up! Most final polls have LSU ahead of USC, but some of that is due to inertia in the polls where it is nearly impossible to jump over a team that hasn't lost. Jeff Sagarin's final 2007 rankings have LSU barely ahead of USC (92.43 to 92.38) in the all-important "predictor" column, but this is largely due to strength of schedule, where LSU gets a boost by defeating Ohio State and USC had to make do with Illinois in the Rose Bowl. What does Las Vegas think? The wise guys in Las Vegas rank Southern Cal barely ahead of LSU in their final regular season poll. If the game is played in the Coliseum (or the Rose Bowl), the Trojans would win. If the game is played in Baton Rouge (or the Super Dome), you probably have to like the Tigers. On a neutral field? USC under Pete Carroll has shown that they can travel anywhere in the country and beat anyone. LSU, like most SEC teams, does not travel away from Dixie very often, and has not shown that they can be dominant outside their comfort zone.
Therefore, the winner of the OC Domer 2007-08 Tournament of Champions is:
The Trojans!Congratulations to the University of Southern California Trojans and their fans everywhere (including prisoner #32 watching from a jail cell in Las Vegas).
Was that so hard? Can we all agree that this makes more sense than the "system" we have now?
What about the Bowl games? Pick the Top 7 Bowl Games on your list, and do something like this:
Round 1 games:
Cotton Bowl (Ohio State v. BYU)
Orange Bowl (Oklahoma v. USC)
Liberty Bowl (Va Tech v. West Virginia)
Holiday Bowl (LSU v. Hawaii)
Round 2 games:
Fiesta Bowl (Ohio State v. USC)
Sugar Bowl (West Virginia v. LSU)
Rose Bowl (USC v. LSU)
You could rotate which bowls host round 1, round 2, or the Championship game, and you can do as I did above and try to site the games where they make some geographical and/or traditional sense.
I know that SEC fans want to reserve 4 slots in any 8-team field for SEC teams, but aside from that unreasonable concern, I don't understand why this can't get done.