My annual exercise in radical realignment is nearly complete, as I have reshuffled the college football conferences and reordered the postseason tie-ins accordingly. Ere we are able to pass final judgment upon my proposal, however, it remains for us to apply the harsh facts of reality to the sunny preconceptions of theory and see just how well or poorly my ideas would work in practice.
Let us, therefore, look at the 2006 season. Obviously, direct one-to-one comparisons are difficult to draw, in light of the fact that the conferences were aligned differently in reality from the way they would be in my proposed new world order, but, had the leagues been structured in keeping with my proposal and had the various teams had much the same seasons they in fact had, the automatic bowl bids would have been allocated as follows:
- Wake Forest
- Virginia Tech
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Boston College
- Central Michigan
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State
- Notre Dame
- Louisiana State
- Southern California
- Oregon State
- San Jose State
- South Florida
- West Virginia
- Florida State
- Southern Mississippi
- Texas Christian
- Texas A&M
- Boise State
- Brigham Young
Assuming those orders of conference finish in 2006---and the various teams' respective records suggest that this is a pretty close approximation of how matters would have shaken out, at least for illustrative purposes---here is how the postseason pairings would have looked:
Sugar Bowl: Louisiana State v. Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Wake Forest v. West Virginia
Cotton Bowl: Florida v. Texas Christian
Fiesta Bowl: Boise State v. Louisville
Holiday Bowl: California v. Oklahoma
Gator Bowl: Auburn v. Virginia Tech
Citrus Bowl: Penn State v. Wisconsin
Independence Bowl: Arkansas v. Texas
Peach Bowl: Georgia v. Tennessee
Motor City Bowl: Notre Dame v. Rutgers
Music City Bowl: Florida State v. Nebraska
Sun Bowl: Navy v. Texas A&M
Las Vegas Bowl: Oklahoma State v. Brigham Young
Liberty Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette v. Southern Mississippi
Outback Bowl: Boston College v. South Florida
Insight Bowl: Ohio v. Oregon State
Alamo Bowl: Central Michigan v. Tulsa
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii v. San Jose State
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Cincinnati v. Clemson
MPC Computers Bowl: Houston v. Nevada
International Bowl: Kentucky v. Missouri
New Mexico Bowl: Georgia Tech v. Kansas State *
* Georgia Tech is an at-large selection chosen because the Yellow Jackets were the highest-ranked team in the final regular-season BlogPoll not to receive an automatic bid.
With the exception of the Insight Bowl between the Beavers and the Bobcats, I don't see a clear-cut mismatch in the bunch. While all would have been underdogs, the Bearcats, the Cowboys, the Horned Frogs, and the Spartans all had the capacity to upend the Tigers, the Cougars, the Gators, and the Warriors, respectively, and the rest of those pairings all look likely to produce competitive games, even if no one except Sunday Morning Quarterback and me would have tuned in to see the Golden Eagles take on the Ragin' Cajuns.
Pasadena would have hosted the same game that took place there in the actual event. New Orleans likely would have been home to a less lopsided contest than those in which the Bayou Bengals and the Buckeyes took part in reality. While it would have been hard to have improved on the game the Broncos played in Glendale, two previous postseason meetings between B.S.U. and Louisville (in the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl and the 2004 Liberty Bowl) have produced exciting shootouts.
The Longhorns and the Razorbacks could have renewed their rivalry in Shreveport. The Tigers and the Wildcats would have been evenly matched in Toronto. A tussle in Nashville between the Cornhuskers and the Seminoles certainly would have been entertaining and the Scarlet Knights earned the right to be invited to Detroit to clash with the overrated Fighting Irish.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis would have enjoyed seeing her alma mater taking on Notre Dame.
The Hokies and the Plainsmen, the Badgers and the Nittany Lions, the Golden Bears and the Sooners, the Aggies and the Midshipmen, and the Bulls and the Eagles all could have given one another games . . . and I would have loved to have seen the Georgia team that took the field in the Peach Bowl get a shot at the Tennessee team that was not the same in the postseason as it had been earlier in the year.
Most notably, had Boise State, Florida, and Louisiana State all won their bowl games (which, given what we saw in the postseason that was, would have been likely), the Broncos' case for the national championship would have been improved substantially. For one thing, Louisville was a better team than Oklahoma, so B.S.U.'s victory in Glendale would have counted for more. Secondly, although T.C.U. was an impressive team last fall, the Gators would not have gotten the same amount of credit for beating the Horned Frogs that they received for hammering Ohio State.
Since the restructuring of the conferences would have done away with the distinction, certainly officially and largely perceptually, between what we now call "B.C.S. conferences" and "mid-major conferences," Boise State would not have been as burdened with others' negative notions regarding the quality of the Broncos' competition. Finally, for those of you who favor such things, a postseason setup that automatically paired conference champions could more easily be converted to a playoff format down the road, as a ready-made first round largely would be in place already.
Nice work, Nancy, but now you've got to go play Boise State in the next round. Also, 1983 called; it wants its jacket back.
As I stated at the outset and reiterated repeatedly, my annual radical realignment proposals are not advocacy so much as they are intellectual exercises, attempts to ask what alternative courses might have been charted and to argue plausibly for what admittedly are extreme positions. It seems to me that an honest case might be made for shaking up the world of college football in the fashion I have described, even if, in the end, we would all prefer to leave things as they are.