Being "as staunch an advocate of retrograde bowling" as you are apt to find, I have long supported the notion of conference-specific postseason tie-ins rather than a designated national championship game; I believe teams ought to know going into the season which bowl games they will be attending if they win their conference crowns, irrespective of whether they are in the running for the national title. I prefer to let the pollsters sort out the significance of the various outcomes.
Rather than fretting over the effort to match No. 1 with No. 2 in a bowl game, I say let's play 'em all and let the voters sort 'em out!
My radical realignment proposal involves the establishment of one nine-member conference and 11 leagues of 10 members apiece. I made no bones about the fact that the lone nine-member association was intended to be the wastebasket of also-rans, wannabes, and second-rate programs.
Accordingly, I have devised a system whereby Conference U.S.A. (which would become my league full of bottom-feeders) would get one automatic bowl bid and the remaining conferences would get four automatic bowl bids apiece. All postseason berths aside from those 45 tie-ins would be allocated on an at-large basis.
In 2006, there were 32 bowl games, counting the B.C.S. championship game. Since the "double-hosting" model would be discontinued under my proposal, 31 bowl games would be left, meaning that 62 teams would make it into postseason play. Hence, 45 bowl bids would go out automatically and the remaining 17 (all of them to lower-tier games) would go out to teams selected at large.
I'm not going to concern myself with figuring out who ought to play in the New Orleans Bowl.
The 45 automatic bids would be handed out as follows:
Sugar Bowl: Big East champion v. M.A.C. champion
Orange Bowl: A.C.C. champion v. Southern Conference champion *
Cotton Bowl: S.E.C. champion v. S.W.C. champion *
Fiesta Bowl: Central Conference champion v. W.A.C. champion
Holiday Bowl: Big West champion v. Pac-10 runner-up
Gator Bowl: A.C.C. runner-up v. S.E.C. runner-up
Citrus Bowl: Big East runner-up v. Central Conference runner-up
Independence Bowl: M.A.C. runner-up v. S.W.C. runner-up
Peach Bowl: S.E.C. No. 3 v. Southern Conference runner-up
Motor City Bowl: Big Ten runner-up v. Central Conference No. 3
Music City Bowl: M.A.C. No. 3 v. Southern Conference No. 3
Sun Bowl: A.C.C. No. 3 v. S.W.C. No. 3
Las Vegas Bowl: Big West runner-up v. W.A.C. runner-up
Liberty Bowl: Conference U.S.A. champion v. Southern Conference No. 4
Outback Bowl: Big Ten No. 3 v. S.E.C. No. 4
Insight Bowl: Big East No. 4 v. Pac-10 No. 3
Alamo Bowl: Big Ten No. 4 v. Big West No. 3
Hawaii Bowl: Pac-10 No. 4 v. W.A.C. No. 3
Meineke Car Care Bowl: A.C.C. No. 4 v. Big East No. 3
MPC Computers Bowl: S.W.C. No. 4 v. W.A.C. No. 4
International Bowl: Central Conference No. 4 v. M.A.C. No. 4
New Mexico Bowl: Big West No. 4 v. at-large selection
* S.E.C. and S.W.C. champions will meet in Cotton Bowl in even-numbered years and in Orange Bowl in odd-numbered years. A.C.C. and Southern Conference champions will meet in Orange Bowl in even-numbered years and in Cotton Bowl in odd-numbered years.
The most traditional of all bowl tie-ins, obviously, is preserved, as the Granddaddy of 'Em All would feature the first-place finishers in the Big Ten and the Pac-10, as was the case every season from 1946 to 2000. Other conference champions will be matched up on an annual basis, as well, but the bids have been spread around in order to avoid the sort of league-on-league clumping that we see presently in Sunshine State bowl games between Big Ten and S.E.C. squads.
Because the Pelican State no longer lies in S.E.C. country, the Cotton and Orange Bowls have, on a rotating basis, replaced the Sugar Bowl as the league's anchor postseason destination. While this may, at first, appear heretical, it is worth remembering that Southeastern Conference champions appeared in the Cotton Bowl four times, and in the Orange Bowl eight times, between the 1951 season and the forging of the S.E.C.'s permanent Sugar Bowl tie-in in the year of the Bicentennial.
Besides, the aforementioned Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1976 season didn't work out so well for the 'Dawgs.
As this year's version of radical realignment has been guided by geography, almost to the exclusion of all competing considerations, it follows that proximity should play a predominant role in allocating the bowl bids . . . and so it is that the Big West, Pac-10, and W.A.C. have ties to postseason berths in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, while the A.C.C., S.E.C., and Southern Conference are linked to games in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Now that the "Mid-American" in the M.A.C. makes reference to the vertical arrangement of the league, the conference sends its member institutions to Canada, Louisiana, and Tennessee, whereas one Big Ten team will remain in Detroit for the holidays.
The true test of any system of bowl pairings, though, is how it will play out in actual practice, so it is to that question that I will turn next.
Coming soon . . . how the new conferences and their bowl tie-ins would work in reality.