Last week I looked at the arguments against the BCS and attempted to tear each one up like a Facebook message from someone I don't know. That was not meant to conclude that the BCS is awesome. But it's too original of a brainchild to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and it doesn't make much sense to say "Boise State got screwed, this is why we need a playoff!" when it's much simpler to find a way for next year's Boise State equivalent to qualify. With that said, here are some suggestions:
Redistribute Bowl Payouts More Fairly. The University of Washington was the only one of the 120 bowl system schools not to win a single game. As it turns out, they didn't really need to win anything to receive bowl kickbacks. The Pacific-10 Conference gets a $17.5 million payout just because of the Rose Bowl, and that windfall is divided evenly among all teams. Washington will get $1.75 million as a reward for losing every game. Iowa State, who went 2-10 and didn't win a single Big XII Conference game, will get double that ($3.5 million), since two Big XII teams are in the BCS. Meanwhile, undefeated Boise State will play in a very fun Poinsettia Bowl game against 10-2 TCU, and 12-1 Ball State gets the GMAC Bowl in January, but each team will only get $750,000 for their troubles.
No More Preseason Polls. The USA Today rankings comprise one-third of the BCS. In their preseason poll, Alabama, Utah, Boise State, and Cincinnati were all unranked. Three of those are BCS-bound, with the fourth being undefeated and in the top 10 of the BCS standings. Three-loss Georgia was ranked first. LSU, who finished 7-5, was 6th. Auburn, Arizona State, Illinois, and Tennessee, who all finished 5-7, were ranked. Hell, Michigan was ranked. (Good thing the AP poll isn't used; in its preseason poll, Washington actually got a single vote.) What I'm trying to say is these guys don't know shit, and neither does anyone else in August.
Polls probably don't need collecting until Week 5, when most teams at least have four games — one third of the season — under their belt. Otherwise, after one week of games, you'll have ranked 0-1 teams. After two games you might still have Auburn in the top 10, just because they dismantled two weak teams. And after three games you might say, "Well, Ohio State has two unimpressive wins over pissbucket schools, and got clobbered by USC. We'll put them all the way down to 14th, ahead of several undefeated teams who probably got a lucky start to the season."
Eliminate Two-BCS-Team-Per-Conference Rule. Texas Tech (#7) and Boise State (#9) are not in BCS bowls, the reason being the BCS is obliged to take only one non-BCS school in the top 12, and that was Utah. Tech has their nose pressed up against the glass because two other Big XII teams are already in. Both are ranked ahead of Ohio State, which became the best de facto at-large team. Ohio State did little to earn that game, scoring a total of nine points against the Rose Bowl contestants (USC and Penn State) and allowing 48 total points.
Make Seven The New Six. 6-6 is good enough for a bowl? That means Northern Illinois, Colorado State, and Florida Atlantic played well enough to be in the postseason, even though none of them were reasonably close to their own mid-major championships. CSU was fifth in the Mountain West, FAU was tied for third in the Sun Belt, and NIU was fourth in their own division of the Mid-American.
Out of 120 teams, 72 teams went at least 6-6. Cutting off the bottom rung merely tightens up the competition and increases popularity of the the games that do matter. This year, 13 teams finished 6-6, and nine of them are in bowls. That leaves 59 teams. It wouldn't be horrible to, say, have just 25 bowl games and — so as not to leave out any cities — scale back some of the lesser bowls to every other year. Then increase the payouts.
AQ Conference Winners Must Win 10 Games … Maybe. If Cincinnati wasn't the Big East winner, they would be a marginally borderline candidate for a BCS bowl. They were pounded by Oklahoma and lost almost as badly to 7-5 Connecticut. Other than that, they finished 11-2, 6-1 in their conference, and won three straight against then-ranked opponents. But pretend, if they didn't pull a win out of their ass in the fourth quarter, they lost to Hawaii back on December 6. They still would've gone to the Orange Bowl. There's no "holy shit, that was a bad loss" contingency. In the BCS' eyes, every game is supposed to matter, but the Cincy-Hawaii was ultimately meaningless.
Yes, the Cincy-Hawaii game is kind of an outlier. UC was not expecting a BCS game, so they scheduled a thirteenth regular season game to the islands as their "big finale." But the Big East has no conference tournament, so suppose they secured a Big East crown before the final week, then lost at home to lowly Syracuse. You couldn't lose a game like that and be able to show one's face in a BCS bowl if there are more deserving teams.
Then there's Virginia Tech. While the ACC might have been the deepest conference this year, its champion is not BCS worthy. Everyone lost at least three games in the ACC, and Tech added another tally to the "L" column after getting edged out by C-USA champion East Carolina. 8-4 is not a regular season record that belongs in the Orange Bowl. The BCS eligibility rules state:
If there are fewer than 10 automatic qualifiers, then the bowls will select at-large participants to fill the remaining berths. An at-large team is any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible and meets the following requirements:
A. Has won at least nine regular-season games, and
B. Is among the top 14 teams in the final BCS Standings.
Subtracting the conference title game, VT met neither criterion. If you can't win 10, then have fun at the Cotton Bowl. And if you schedule 13 games, like Cincy did, you better win 11.
(Fun fact: two conferences are without a 10-win team: the ACC and the Sun Belt.)
The Division I Bowl. At the beginning of the season many schools will schedule teams from the "Division I Championship Subdivision" (it used to be named Division I-AA but in reality everyone still calls it that) and wail on them. We never get a true indicator of how the top tier FCS teams stack up with the big boys, because a team in August is usually quite different than a team in December. (See: Bowling Green vs. Pittsburgh.)
So why not have the FCS champion (or the best team in the subdivision who wants it) to play a random mid-tier bowl team in January? on a neutral site? The bowl system should be about intriguing match-ups, and this would certainly be one of them. This idea could also solve where Virginia Tech would play if they can't qualify as a BCS automatic qualifier.