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Just another step closer to a playoff.

Byline: Ron Bellamy / The Register-Guard

The BCMess has struck again, leaving Southern California out of the national championship game, provoking reaction ranging from sputtering outrage to righteous indignation to vitriolic sarcasm.

Isn't that wonderful?

Seriously, it is. If you think that some kind of a playoff system in Division I-A football is long overdue, then the only solution is for the Bowl Championship Series computers to keep spitting out matchups that, in public opinion, are blatantly wrong.

Southern California, No. 1 in both polls, the school of former national champions and Heisman Trophy winners - we're not talking, now, about that cute little Oregon team of 2001 that got hornswoggled out of its shot at the title but a legitimate traditional national power - won't be playing in the Sugar Bowl, the BCS championship game.

Isn't that tremendous?

Seriously, it is. Because the more people look at the way things worked this year, or didn't - at the strange chain of events that it took to keep the Trojans out of the Sugar Bowl, at the computers that spit out some rankings that just don't figure - the more they'll clamor for change.

Get this: One computer ranking, that of power-rating guru Jeff Sagarin, has the Trojans ranked behind Miami of Ohio.

"What planet is that guy on?" mused Dave Davis, executive vice president of the Tournament of Roses, as quoted by the Los Angeles Daily News. "It used to be that no one trusted the human element, now everyone's saying maybe those are the ones that really count."

Indeed, two other computer rankings have Miami of Ohio ranked No. 4. In the country, that is. Texas Christian is No. 11 in one ranking, and No. 39 in another. Five computer rankings agree that Oklahoma is still No. 1; another thinks it's only No. 5.

Odd, and you can't even blow the horn for the Trojans being done in by East Coast bias; the New York Times computer ranking has USC No. 1, and two West Coast rankings have the Trojans No. 3.

As it is, don't feel too sorry for Southern California. The Trojans still can share the national championship, if they defeat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, and it's delicious irony that, a decade ago, tradition, not the BCS, would have produced this compelling matchup.

What's the solution? Here's a modest proposal, neither gutting the current bowl system, nor giving university presidents too much to swallow:

An eight-team playoff, the teams seeded by an NCAA college football selection committee, which would consider the polls and the power ratings and, as in men's and women's basketball, come up with a bracket. Which will always be second-guessed, as is the case every March, but at least people would be using the computer rankings rather than being used by them.

Eight teams, and they'd play in four bowl games on New Year's Day, the sites to be rotated among six major bowl games - Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and, for discussion purposes, the Holiday Bowl and the Capital One (formerly Citrus) Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

So on New Year's Day, there'd be a quarterfinal game in four of the aforementioned bowls - say the Orange, Holiday, Capital One and Sugar - and the New Year's Day bowls would be important again.

A week to 10 days later, the four New Year's Day winners play a semifinal doubleheader at the Fiesta Bowl, for example, with the winners advancing to the title game a week later at the Rose Bowl.

In this plan, the remaining bowl games would continue as they do now, with some tweaking required because of the two additional bowl games brought into the title rotation. Four teams would play roughly one week longer than they currently do, and two teams would play two weeks longer. That's hardly horrible.

There'd be revenues that the NCAA could put into a fund for athletes throughout Division I-A, a national champion would be crowned, and, good grief, the Motor City Bowl and Silicon Valley Classic would still exist as we know it.

Or, we could just keep stumbling on with the BCMess.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 9, 2003
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