The College Football Notebook

November 29, 2010 7:00 AM

Where The Bowl System Really Lacks

NevadaBoise.jpgAll of the attention on college football's postseason flaws have been focused at the top and how the national championship is determined, and to a lesser extent, access to BCS bowl games. But Boise State's upset loss at Nevada on Friday night exposes a problem that deserves at least as much attention, and that's the secondary bowl system. Boise's loss not only removes them from the national title equation, but it likely removes them from consideration for a major bowl slot. If you're wondering where the Broncos go from there, the answer is this--the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl gets the first choice of WAC teams once the BCS is done. If you're wondering where Nevada goes, the Humanitarian Bowl goes second. Is there a reason we can't find room for these teams further up, against better teams?

On January 1, prior to the Rose Bowl which kicks off in the late afternoon, you have three other minor bowls going. The Outback, Capital One and Gator all feature the Big Ten vs. the SEC? These two conferences have a great rivalry and as the fan of a Big Ten team (Wisconsin) I love it. I also happen to love the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in baseball, but it doesn't mean I need it thrust in my face at every opportunity. That's what college football is doing here. What was once college football's greatest day has been reduced to the Big Ten-SEC Challenge. Why don't we turn that early time slot on New Year's into a showcase for the best non-BCS teams?

The problems with Boise & Nevada are only the latest example of the problems with this structure. The Pac-10 has a big gap between the BCS and it's next best spot in the Holiday Bowl, something that heightens the pressure on Stanford to get a marquee bid. I know what I'm about to suggest will draw a screams of horror from BCS-haters, but what we really need is a "second-tier" BCS. For all the criticisms of the system, the fact is that midmajors do have unprecedented access to the top games and the cohesive selection order the bowls use in picking their teams has put an end to the days of bowl reps locking up commitments two weeks in advance.

Let's do this--bring the Capital One, Gator and Cotton into a second-tier BCS. The first bowl can still be the showcase for the Big Ten & SEC. Let the Gator host the ACC , and the Cotton host the Big 12 & Pac-10. Since Stanford is going to the BCS and there's a big dropoff to Pac-10 #3, the Cotton can opt out and take a qualified team from another conference (be it the Mountain West, WAC, Big East, Notre Dame, etc). The Gator has a perpetually open at-large slot. Then the matchups can look something like this...

Capital One: Michigan State-LSU
Cotton: Oklahoma State-Boise State
Gator: Va Tech/FSU loser-Alabama

The power conferences still get their place in the sun. The bowls get good TV matchups and some flexibility. And fans get a good sense of how teams from different conferences match up with each other. If we extend this down one more tier (with, for example, the Chick-fil-A, Alamo and Sun Bowls) you can work Nevada into the picture.

This sort of debate should unite both bowl and playoff supporters. In the case of the latter, even if we have a bracket, the secondary bowls aren't going away and the issue I'm discussing here doesn't change. In the case of the bowls, it's based on the logic that if this system is going to stay in place, it needs to become much more equitable for the teams and fans. They really do play football in places other than the Big Ten & SEC, so let's see the nation on display.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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