Briefly, this is a +1 solution. I'm going to call it BCS+. In essence we would return to a more traditional bowl alignment, then use the BCS system to select the contestants for the national title game after their completion. I am prompted to post this because of Lou Holtz's comments in favor of this type of system on Mike and Mike this week. However, there are a few wrinkles that make it better, enough that I think it worthwhile to put this online. Before setting out the solution, we have to consider what we are actually looking for. The college football arena is complex, with many moving parts that need to be satisfied.
First, we need to preserve the bowls as meaningful competitions. They are a tradition, they are money-makers they are important to alumni and various factions. We need a system that not only preserves them, but increases their importance. Currently, each bowl game is an also-ran to the national championship. Under a tournament, the name would survive, but by seeding entries as 1-8 or 1-4 matchups, little else would. Under BCS+ each of the big 5 bowls would serve as a showcase for teams that still had a chance at the title game. We want to see a traditional Rose Bowl every year. Some years, it would be a de facto semi-final. Other years, one of the teams would be earning a spot with their opponent playing the role of spoiler. Some other year, both would be playing with an outside shot at reaching the title game. No matter what, there is a traditional Rose Bowl, and almost always, there are title implications. I've singled out the Rose Bowl because it has the most tradition, but I find it just as meaningful in this system for the SEC champ to host the Sugar Bowl every year.
Helping the Little Guys
There is a lot of interest, especially among the casual fan, in giving a shot to the Utah's and the Boise States. (Not to mention potential anti-trust suits.) We don't want an undefeated Boise State left out in the dark, but we don't want to hand a spot in the title game to a team with a soft schedule. What we want is to see that undefeated team play their way in against a big conference champion. Now I'll concede a tournament satisfies this objective just as well, but this system does significantly increase their chances. There would have to be at least 5 undefeated teams at the end for someone to be denied a shot. Might that happen on occasion, yes but a look at previous seasons shows it would be rare. Currently, a Boise State can be looked over for a one-loss big conference team. In this system, where an undefeated Boise State would be matchup up against one of the top 4 teams automatically in a major bowl game, they would receive the boost both in human polls and computer rankings to lift them to the title game if they won.
This is secretly the most important factor in my opinion. The best selling point is the controversy it creates. You want sports analysts yelling at another about who deserves to be in. You want various scenarios that need to be dissected on ESPN endlessly. You want a situation where a late season upset results in a ripple effect changing multiple bowl games and scenarios. This is important, this is where a tournament fails, and this is where the BCS+ excels above all others.
The major conferences are an important part of the puzzle so the system must accommodate them in some way. BCS+ gives them everything they have now, an automatic bid for its conference champion. In addition, by offering an additional chance for undefeateds to lose, one-loss conference champions are right in the mix.
Every Game Counts
We don't want to lose the situation where a September loss means something. The best part about college football to some is that a loss can really cost you and a second lost knocks you out of the title chase. Under a tournament, one loss means you are still in for the highly-ranked preseason teams. Unlike every other sport, every game truly matters in college football. We want Oklahoma's season to be on the line against Texas, not just their playoff seed. Under BCS+, a USC team that two games during the season, won a parity-filled PAC 10 than upset an undefeated Big Ten champ in the Rose Bowl, would likely be deservedly shut out of the NC game.
Now, may people claim this argument is a false one, but regardless, this system changes nothing from the current one in terms of student-athletes missing classes. Two teams would play a week beyond New Years Day, exactly as they do now.
This also gives something to the tournament proponents. It is not a true tournament but it is closer than what we have now. As discussed above, it also maintains the integrity of the bowls, gives more of a chance to the small schools and more often than any other solution, provides a great national championship matchup. To be fair, I don't think the current system is that bad. It gets it right most of the time, but the screwups, such as undefeated Auburn getting shutout of NC game, can be brutal. I do not support an actual tournament, the scenario where a two-loss Michigan gets hot near the end and beats an undefeated team in the title game is a nightmare.
Under BCS+, 10 teams are chosen to participate in 5 major bowls(6 conference champions, the highest BCS rated non major conference team, and 3 wildcard selections). To accommodate this, one additional major bowl will have to be added to the current 4. I will use the Cotton Bowl as an example, but if another bowl stepped up it would work the same. Each major game,(except the rose) is paired with a conference that serves as its typical host. The rules for which hosts and guests are assigned are what drives the controversy, the buzz and most importantly, keeps undefeated teams from getting left out of the picture. Without delving into the details, the rules create the best possible matchup of tope teams that will lead the least ambiguity in selecting champions. After the bowls, the two participants are selected for the title game, now one week in the future. As an additional bonus, multiple fanbases retain title hopes through December. After being treated to 5 bowl games with possible title implications, the polls are done once again and the BCS is recalculated.
What BCS+ Isn't
It is not a system for ranking teams. There are already a multitude of ways to do this, both subjective polls and computer systems. This system requires the existence of a ranking system, such as the BCS.
What BCS+ Is
A system of logic that tells us when and how to implement rankings. The current system says little other than to have the two highest ranked teams face each other. This is a system that creates the best scenarios for the bowl games to accomplish multiple purposes(select the two best teams for the NC game, maintain tradition and satisfy multiple parties). I'm not going to divulge the logic chain that makes it up. Instead I will go back through previous years and explain what would have happened. In all cases examined, it produces the same or better result than the current system.
Alabama would host the Sugar Bowl, with 5 undefeated NRB teams, #3 Cincinnati gets pulled in as Guest.
Texas, as number 2 in this scenario, hosts the Fiesta Bowl against Undefeated TCU.
The Rose Bowl features a non title-affecting but traditional matchup of Oregon and Ohio State.
Georgia Tech would host the Sugar Bowl against Boise State.
This is the worst case scenario where possibly an undefeated could be left out but if Boise State beat Georgia Tech convincingly enough....
Result: most likely the real one, Alabama and Texas although without the guilt of snubbing two unbeatens.
1-loss USC against 1-loss Penn State in the Rose Bowl
#1 Oklahoma hosts the Fiesta Bowl, pulling in undefeated Utah
#2 Florida hosts the Sugar Bowl, pulling in #3 Texas
Virginia Tech vs (likely) Alabama in Orange
Cincinnati vs (likely) Ohio St in Cotton
Result: Utah now has a chance, win and they are likely in, otherwise, 3 bowl winners have a shot at being chosen. Florida and Oklahoma are win and in, if Texas beats Florida, the Rose Bowl winner could pass them with a solid win.
#1 Ohio State would plat USC in the Rose Bowl, USC playing the role of spoiler
#2 LSU would play undefeated Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl
#3 Virginia Tech would play Big 12 champion Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl
Kansas inherits the Fiesta Bowl and likely plays Georgia
West Virginia hosts the Cotton Bowl
Result: After LSU defeats Hawaii, they go to the National Championship against Ohio State if they win. If USC knocks off OSU, the VT-Oklahoma winner takes their spot
BCS+ produces 2 de facto semifinals
#1 Ohio State plays #5 USC in the Rose
#2 Florida plays undefeated Boise St in the Sugar
#4 LSU and #3 Michigan are likely left out of the NC but neither won their conference so they cant complain. Michigan goes to the Cotton against Louisville while LSU plays Oklahoma in the Fietsa.
Wake Forrest hosts the Orange Bowl against Notre Dame
will continue to add these, going back to the beginning of the decade..