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The What If Football Tourney
If there were a god, or any justice in this world, today would be selection Sunday for the NCAA football tournament. But since we have clear evidence to the contrary in the form of the BCS, I will now do what the college football world doesnít have the balls to do. Here now, my tournament field for the football big dance.
First the selection criteria: as is the case in most other sports on the college scene, roughly 20% of the total number of schools at this level get their teams in my dance, or 24 teams. I gave auto-bids to the champions of all 11 conferences, and at large bids to the 13 others I deemed most worthy. Teams were then seeded 1-6 in each of four regions, and placed in the bracket with attention being paid both to geography and to making sure no teams played a conference rival before the regional final.
And without further ado, the field of 24.
1- The Ohio State University
6- Central Florida
2- West Virginia
4- South Florida
6- Florida Atlantic
4- Boston College
5- Arizona St..
6- Central Michigan
3- Virginia Tech
2- Southern Cal
So there you go. First round games can be played December 8, with the big boys getting involved the 15th. Regional finals will be on the 22nd, the semifinal on the 29th and the National title game January 5.
The selection process itself was somewhat difficult this year. Heading into the final three games of the regular season (the Big 12 championship, Pitt @ West Virginia and Washington @ Hawaii) we had five teams with legit claims on a one seed: Missouri, W.Va., tOSU, Hawaii, and LSU. The Mountaineers and Mizzou Tigers played their way out of a one seed with losses and the Warriors nearly followed suit. Picking at large bids was tough as well, with only Georgia, Illinois, and the Big 12 loser really impressing me. Kansas and UConn went from having the resume that most years might put them squarely on the bubble to getting three seeds. At one point I was looking at Florida, Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee all getting in. I was very confident in the Vols, not confident at all in the Razorbacks (take away the win over LSU and their best victory was over Troy), and put Auburn in the field over the defending national champs based on the Tigersí 20-17 win in Gainsville September 29. The last team in the field was Clemson (who I moved from the west to the central to avoid a potential LSU-Auburn game in round 2). They played well in a loss to tourney team BC, but it was mostly the flaws in other teams under consideration (TUCís) that put the Tigers in. Michiganís loss to Appalachian St. actually didnít hurt them all that much, but their losses to TUCís Oregon and Wisconsin did. The Badgers non-conference schedule was so horrible (the Citadel, UNLV, N. Illinois, and Washington St.) that I didnít consider them for long. Oregon was a difficult choice because they did beat USC and Arizona St., but their four losses came to very mediocre teams (UCLA, Cal, Arizona, and Oregon St.). In the end, the Ducks were the last team on the outside looking in.
CNNSI is doing something similar with a 16-team format -- Ultimate Playoff
My thought: at this level, these players aren't attending glorified high schools -- they're attending universities, and that means that they have to be able to go to class and study for finals sometime between the team meetings and the two-a-days. (You might be able to convince me that a degree from a lower-division school -- say, Northern Michigan University -- requires the same amount of study and coursework as a degree from a Eastern Michigan or a Michigan State University [for example], but you'll have trouble convincing me it's the same as a degree from a University of Michigan.) Part of the beauty of the bowl format is that it gives student-athletes the time to heal from their injuries, catch up on their studies, and be at their best come game time -- a game that can be played in front of friends, family, and alumni over the holidays. You'll note that no bowl game is held before final exams.
Much of what happens in college football -- the endorsements, the job prohibitions, the schedules -- has little benefit for the players as it is. I can't see adding to that burden with (potentially) five extra games -- opportunities for career-shortening injuries, missed classes, etc. -- without some obvious benefit to the players as anything but a bad idea that should remain an exercise in fantasy.